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Cedar Shoals gets back to old ways

POSTED: June 4, 2014 12:00 p.m.

The Cedar Shoals Jaguars have fallen under hard times in the last six years under three different head coaches. Since the start of the 2008 season, Cedar Shoals has finished with a losing record four times, a winning record once and an even 5-5 record just once in that time to tally an overall 26-36 record.

The Jags’ last losing season prior to 2008 was in 1989, the year before the Jaguars would hire legendary Jeff Herron as their coach for an immensely successful four-year stint.

In 1994, Scott Wilkins came in and spent 14 seasons leading Cedar Shoals. In that span of 157 games, Wilkins led the Jaguars to 10 postseason appearances and a 106-50-1 record without a single losing season.

Since losing Wilkins prior to the 2008 season, though, Cedar Shoals has struggled to retain the prominence in high school football they once held. There was a time when Cedar Shoals was a threat for the region championship year-in and year-out, but they have failed to live up to that proud legacy since Wilkins’ departure.

So, with that obvious smudge on their record, the Jaguars figured that the best course of action was just to bring back the coach who once had Cedar Shoals in contention.

Former Jaguars coach Wilkins will return to Cedar Shoals in 2014 and they hope winning seasons will return with him.

"It’s very exciting. I had a great experience here before," former and future Cedar Shoals football coach Scott Wilkins said on his unique opportunity. "When you get a chance to return somewhere your entire head coaching career has been, it’s a humbling experience and one that we’re looking real forward to."

Wilkins is walking back into a situation where he has to live up to his own legacy. For five games in this new season, Wilkins will coach a team in a stadium that is partially named after him.

"It’s daunting. I don’t know. What’s past is past. We are who we are and we do what we do, and one of the things that I think we can work on and improve is our expectations of success and developing a good rapport and a good relationship with our kids in the community," Wilkins commented. "We expect to be successful. We have a very large senior class. There is some talent here, and we just need to develop a belief and an expectation of success, and I think you do that by being competitive within your program and learning how to compete against one another.

"I don’t know anything about the last six years other than we have struggled, but we’re going to do things that have been good for us in the past, and that starts with playing great defense," Wilkins mused. "If you can play great defense and be sound in the kicking game, the offensive stuff will take care of itself."

Perhaps one of Wilkins’ greatest legacies is that he is the only coach in Cedar Shoals history to have a winning record against Clarke Central. After 14 years, Wilkins finished his first run with the Jaguars with a 9-8 career mark, including a five-year winning streak, the longest in Cedar Shoals’ favor.

"You always want to win your rival games. That’s everybody’s goal, or it should be everybody’s goal in the program," Wilkins stated. "Those things never change."

Cedar Shoals has twice had longer losing streaks, with a 13-game losing streak that extended from 1979 to a one-point loss in 1988. The Jaguars would shed that streak with a 3-0 victory in the 1988 region semifinal for Region 8-AAAA Division A before losing to Brookwood 9-0 in the region final.

Their second-worst losing streak was the current six-year stretch. In fact, the last time Cedar Shoals defeated Clarke Central, Wilkins was the head coach.

"I think the Battle of Athens is one of the neatest…high school rivals east of the Mississippi River. You’re playing for bragging rights and job security for the next year, and the kids see each other at the mall and a lot of them go to church together, and it gives them a sense of, ‘Hey, we did it this year,’" Wilkins notes.

"We’ll be no different about it. It’s the second game of the season…so there aren’t any cupcakes on our schedule.

"It’s always a priority. You ask people at Clarke Central, beating Cedar’s a priority. It always is. That’s the way it’s always been, and I kind of think that’s the way it’s going to be for quite a while," Wilkins added.

More than half of Cedar Shoals’ all-time wins over the rival Gladiators have been under Wilkins.

Although Wilkins did compile a winning record against Cedar Shoals’ most hated rival, but his teams did not fare as well in the postseason. In his 10 postseason appearances, a Wilkins-coached Cedar Shoals football team only won seven games. Four of those wins came during the 1995 season in which his team made it all the way to the finals where they lost to Josey 13-6.

"It gets frustrating after a while, but when you get to the postseason, you’ve got to be ready to go," Wilkins said. "There’s only going to be one team in every classification that wins that last game of the year, and that’s your seven that win state championships.

"We’ve won our fair share, but you’ve got to give your hats off to that other guy, because they’re going to do their best."

Oddly enough, that Josey team was coached by Salem’s John Starr, one of a few coaches Wilkins will be meeting again in the 2014 football season. With Wilkins’ several-year absence from what is now Region 8-AAAAA, there is a strange blend of new faces and old that the coach looks forward to meeting.

"It’s going to be exciting. You look at the teams that have been at the top of our region in Gainesville, Flowery Branch and Clarke Central, holy cow. That’s a tough group right there, and every Friday night, it’s going to be a battle," Wilkins mused. "We’ve got a new school coming in with Lanier over in Gwinnett and and you won’t have to go very far into the season before you run against somebody who’s going to try to take you out. You've got to be ready for Freddy, because Freddy'll be ready for you."

Although Cedar Shoals will be getting the same person back on the sidelines, Wilkins is quick to say that the Jaguars will not be getting the same man that they had before as he has learned quite a few valuable lessons in his six years as an assistant at Athens Academy.

"I’m six years older and six years wiser," Wilkins admitted, saying that he believes Cedar Shoals is getting a better coach now than they did the first time around. "With age comes experience.

"I don’t know if you can ever be too prepared," Wilkins said. "One thing is to understand how to get the right person in the right position. Utilizing your personnel to put them in their greatest opportunity to succeed is very important."

After 14 years as the head coach of a successful Cedar Shoals football team, Wilkins believed that he had done all he could do with the program, so he stepped back and took an assistant coaching job at Athens Academy.

"It was a great chance for me to go back to school and learn," Wilkins said of his time at Athens Academy. "How you evaluate and how you prepare are probably two things that have stood out that I take away from my last six years."

About halfway through his tenure with the Spartans, Wilkins knew it was time to get back to coaching. Although he was willing to go back to the head spot, he had no idea it would be back where his head coaching career had started back in 1994.

Now, he’s back with the Jaguars, and he hopes more than ever to help them once again become a prominent team in GHSA football.

"The biggest need for Cedar Shoals is success," Wilkins explained. "How you do that is anybody’s guess. This time of year, you get in the weight room and you train. You need to go outside and you need to run. You need to be used to working in the heat. You need to be used to working to succeed.

"Ideally you'd win 15 games every year, but that's not going to happen. But, if you reach for perfection, you may attain excellence."



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