SHANNON FAGAN: How was your summer?

So, how was your summer? Mine was absolutely fantastic.

I got to see the Atlanta Braves’ 2021 World Series trophy in Gadsden in June. I have to admit I never thought I’d get that close to one.

I also got to spend some quality time with the lovely Bethany Garmon much of the summer, including to see the aforementioned World Series trophy. She’s a Braves fan too, so that’s a plus.

Last month, we spent a few days in Santa Rosa Beach, Fla., which culminated in my asking her to marry me. She said yes! Our big day will be next October, and the wedding planning has already begun.

Speaking of planning, I did some of that this summer for the 2022 high school football season too. From shooting a few practices, talking to coaches and players, figuring out schedules (Are you playing Thursday or Friday? No, really, are you sure?), and writing previews, these past few weeks have been one big blur.

But it’s all been worth it.

Tonight, the season officially kicks off, and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate than with a battle between two Cherokee County rivals, Sand Rock and Spring Garden. Then, we have the rest of the county teams in action tomorrow night.

Yes, football is back, and so too is this weekly pigskin prognostication column of “What In The World Is Shannon Fagan Thinking?”

So without further ado, here are this week’s picks.


Sand Rock at Spring Garden

This was one of last season’s best games to witness. Sand Rock jumped out to an early 14-0 lead, but then Spring Garden quarterback Chapel Pope began to settle into a rhythm, and Cooper Austin was, well, Cooper Austin.

Austin ran in a 2-point conversion on a reverse in the third quarter to give Spring Garden the lead, but it was his leaping interception with 53.7 seconds remaining that sealed the Panthers’ 29-28 victory. The win also secured the Class 2A, Region 6 championship for Spring Garden.

A lot has changed since that game. Both teams have lost playmakers, and Spring Garden has moved back down to Class 1A.

I think it’s going to be another knock-down, drag-out battle tonight, but I’m going with the home team, especially since it’s the Panthers’ first game on the newly-named Jason Howard Field. I think that’s motivation enough.

The pick: Spring Garden.


West End at Gaylesville

This game marks just the fourth time in history these two teams will meet on the football field. Their last meeting was 1979.

There’s no doubt Brian Knapp has the Trojans headed in the right direction. If they stay healthy, this should be another playoff team.

However, most of Gaylesville’s players still have to play both ways. I’ve been told most of Class 2A West End’s players focus mostly on just one side of the ball. I know the Trojans put a big emphasis on conditioning, but I think the Patriots have just a little too much depth for Gaylesville to overcome.

The pick: West End.


Winterboro at Cedar Bluff

Alan Beckett is quite familiar with the Bulldogs. He coached them from 2013-19 and is the program’s all-time winningest coach with 34 wins.

When speaking of Winterboro, Beckett said the Bulldogs always have great speed and this team has size to go along with that. That combination might be a little too much for the Tigers to overcome, especially since they have a lot of new faces in new places, including quarterback Bucky Leek.

The pick: Winterboro.


Cherokee County at Model (Ga.)

I was impressed with the Warriors’ defense and running game in their 28-14 scrimmage win last week over Trion, Ga. The defense forced five turnovers, while the running back duo of Tae Diamond and Jacob Cornejo provided the offense.

If the Warriors can get another performance like that, I like their chances against Model, which is coming off a 3-7 season. Here’s thinking Coach Jacob Kelley’s crew can conjure up another successful game plan.

The pick: Cherokee County.

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