By Chris Goltermann
There’s a definite feel of newness around Heritage School athletic programs as the 2018-19 school year creeps further into focus.
It includes a new athletic director, Tommy Amoroso who arrives from Flint River Academy, as well as new head volleyball coach James “J-Mac” McCall.
But it’s business as usual on the football field.
Heritage’s football program is further along this summer than where it was a year ago when the Hawks were going through changes of their own.
With a year under head coach Micah Alba, Heritage has been a step ahead of where they were entering the summer of 2017.
The Hawks finished 7-4 a year ago, making the state quarterfinals. It caps the most successful two-year period in program history with a 17-5 record.
With routines and expectations already well established, the Hawks are already well into preseason workouts which included a trip to Athens for 7-on-7 passing leagues.
“We’re just way further ahead than we were last year,” Alba said. “So now it’s push the envelope even further. We’re strong, well let’s get stronger. We’re fast, well let’s get faster. Let’s be in better shape than we were last year, which we are.”
This week, Heritage continued to take advantage while running practices in helmets and shoulder pads at a time when GHSA programs were still getting ready for their first allowed day in full pads on Aug. 1.
The Hawks also hosted 7-on-7 workouts with other schools in addition to some on the road.
“We were able do some more 7-on-7s that we weren’t able to do last year, so that was huge for us, and do them earlier. June last year everybody was still learning, so we really didn’t get to it until July,” Alba said. “We got more work.”
The Hawks enter 2018 going solo among county programs in the Georgia Independent School Association for the first time in seven years. A slight drop in GISA football-playing programs, which included Trinity Christian’s move to the GHSA, creates a new playoff format that has teams competing against their own region as well as a crossover region to determine six state playoff berths.
Along with first and second place finishers in each region, two wildcard teams from each of the two sectional crossovers (1 vs. 3; 2 vs. 4) will also reach the postseason.
While Heritage and the rest of Region 1-AAA find itself picking up games against a traditionally strong Region 3 alignment that includes consecutive games against Deerfield-Windsor and defending state champion Valwood, the familiarity, which includes a roster that remains largely intact and included 12 juniors last fall, are amenities.
Among that latter group is rising senior quarterback Henry Arnall, who should have a solid number of offensive weapons around him despite the graduation of running back Anthony Williams, who signed with Jacksonville University.
Heritage’s season begins on Aug. 17 with a non-region game against Terrell Academy.
Region 1-AAA includes the return of Heritage School, Loganville Christian and Holy Spirit and the addition of Creekside Christian in McDonough and Notre Dame of Duluth. Region 3 continues to include Southland, Tift Area and Brookwood among opponents in the crossover with Deerfield and Valwood.