Editor's Note: Now that spring football practice has concluded, local football players are currently hard at work in the weight room and on the practice field preparing for the upcoming season. Each week during the summer, The Walton Tribune will take an in depth look at the state of each local football program heading into the 2021 season.
The 2020 campaign showed both sides of the coin for the Loganville High School football team.
The Red Devils had a winning record in region play, defeated county rival Monroe Area in overtime in the season opener, qualified for the state playoffs and saw some standout performances from several team members.
It all happened against the COVID-19 backdrop which caused an offseason and season itself to be anything but normal.
It was also the season that LHS alum Brad Smith returned home to guide the program. Smith, a former Red Devil player, is now eager for the 2021 season and is doing see with a different look from last fall.
“Spring practice went well,” Smith said. “For me, spring is a time when a bunch of kids come out and want to give playing football a try. By summer workouts, some don’t come back. Right now, we have around 75-80 and they are all doing a fantastic job.”
The LHS coaching staff will be revamped in 2021. Only two assistants remain from 2020.
“That part has probably been a bigger adjustment than anything,” Smith said. “Our players got a chance to get to know all of the new coaches.”
Nico Dowdell, a junior wide receiver/defensive back, had a standout spring. Smith said Dowdell has grown to 6-3 and 180 pounds and says he has the talent of a Division I-A player.
Senior Avery Hamilton (running back/defensive back) and junior Solomon Leslie (running back/linebacker) are also primed for big 2021 seasons.
A key addition has been former George Walton Academy quarterback Gavin Hall. After leading the Bulldogs to the GHSA Class A-Private state playoffs as a freshman, Hall transferred to LHS following the 2020 season and the departure of former GWA coach Shane Davis.
Smith has been very impressed not only with Hall’s athletic ability, but his leadership ability as well.
“Gavin gives us that running element at the quarterback position,” Smith said. “Our players have embraced him. He has come in wanting to learn. His teammates have responded to that. He has been learning our system and our terminology. He did not come here expecting anything. He has shown he will work for everything.”
Hall was able to work with new offensive coordinator Aaron Hill, who comes to the LHS program from Grayson High School.
The LHS coach said he credits Red Devil players for welcoming Hall into the fold. He pointed out that Cooper Kennedy, a rising senior, was slotted to take the quarterback role but has put the team first and will contribute at wide receiver.
The offensive line will be young again in 2021. Jake Taylor and Dylan Robbins both return after being in the trenches as freshmen.
“By the time those two are seniors, they will have played a lot of football,” their coach said.
Senior Connor Wolfe is expected to be a force at linebacker. Jason Muehling is the team’s new defensive coordinator after previously coaching at Apalachee High School.
Smith said some players were not able to take part in spring due to commitments with the baseball and track teams.
“Once we get everyone out there, we should be good,” the coach said.
Other new assistant coaches include Ed Russ (formerly at Discovery High School) at wide receivers, Randy Reed (formerly at Walnut Grove) at offensive line and Bernard Merriweather (formerly at Parkview) at running backs.
“Our new coaches are familiar with our program and our area,” Smith said. “We believe we can coach up every position like we need to.”