Camden County, the No. 1-ranked team in Class AAAAA, plays at home Friday against Central of Miami, the second-ranked team nationally by USA Today.
GHSF Daily spoke with Camden County coach Jeff Herron on Tuesday. Here are our best five questions and his answers.
How does Miami Central compare to other out-of-state opponents you might’ve played such as Hoover or Aiken? Is it the same, or are you more anxious?
“We’re certainly more anxious. I don’t think there’s any question that this might be the most talented team we’ve ever played in state or out of state. They’ve got seven or eight kids already committed D-I. They’re scary good. On offense, they’ve got a running back [Devonta Freeman] who’s going to Florida State, a quarterback [Rakeem Cato] who is committed to Florida International, two or three receivers who are committed, a couple of linemen. It’s one of those teams where you hold your breath on every play. Then you turn around on defense, I’d say Grayson’s defense last year was very similar [with four Division I-A signees], but [Grayson was] maybe not as fast.”
[GHSF Daily: Cato led Dade County in passing in 2009 and transferred to Miami Central along with his top receiver. Herron tells us that Central's kicking was weak last year, but another transfer, 15-year-old Emilio Nadelman, had six touchbacks and a 47-yard field goal in a scrimmage last week.]
Which coach other than yourself would you have wanted your son, Major, to play for, or which one do you respect the most in terms of knowing the game will come down to players, that you won’t out-coach the other sideline?
“There’s a million guys I wouldn’t have minded [Major] playing for and very few I’d say I don’t want him to play for, but I wouldn’t mind him playing for Jimmy [Dorsey, retired McEachern coach], just knowing the kind of person he is. Every parent wants his kid to play for not just a good coach but a good person. He had a way of getting the most out of kids. I see [Rich] McWhorter do that too [at Charlton County]. Kids love him to death. He’s got talent, but he gets the most out of those not so talented. As far as coaches that I knew we weren’t going to out-coach them, I’ll start with Lowndes. They’re always going to be fundamentally sound. Grayson last year was another. It wasn’t going to come down to coaching. North Gwinnett is the same way, extremely well-coached.”
[GHSF Daily: Herron's son, Major, a quarterback, scored three touchdowns in a 59-20 victory for Lenoir-Rhyne over Cowart last week with his father in attendance.]
If you could choose, would you play in Region 3 or Region 1?
“If you were asking me personally, I’d say Region 1, but if you were asking me as a member of the Camden County staff, I’ve got to say Region 3. We can’t survive in all that travel in all the other sports. What’s best for football is not what’s best for the school all the time. But it’s not my decision, and we don’t have any input. We play who they tell us to.”
[Region 1-AAAAA consists of Lowndes and Valdosta, among others. Region 3, outside of Camden, is one of the state's weakest.]
Does playing in Region 3 help because of the greater chance of getting a No. 1 seed and home-field advantage in the playoffs, or does it hurt because it keeps you from staying sharp?
“I see both sides of it. I’ve used the example of Florida State in their absolute heyday. When they were winning national championships, the ACC was not very good. They had to win the tough games with Florida and Miami and be ready for a bowl. That’s a formula that’s worked for us. There’s a couple to be up for, and we survive the others. That’s helped us in that respect, no question. Last year, it gave us a chance to mature as a football team. On the flipside, when we’ve had a talented team, it’s hard to keep them motivated and moving forward. Sometimes, I’ve felt like we’ve gotten worse not having a challenge week in, week out. We’d had to adapt our coaching style. Sometimes we’re getting better on a Tuesday instead of a Friday night.”
What’s the best team you’ve faced as a head coach?
“I’d pick two, one being the 2004 Lowndes team. I’m not sure they were the absolute best, but they were itching to get at us [having lost to Camden twice the previous year], and they had a great team. They beat us 30-0 in a semifinal. I don’t know if we’ve ever had another physical beating like that. They ran it down our throats, and we couldn’t move it an inch. The other might be my second year at Cedar Shoals . We went to Valdosta and got beat 35-0. We were not a great team at Cedar, but they still beat us and made us like it. It was a very intimidating atmosphere in Valdosta in those days. I remember when we got there, their kids were running around the field. It looked like they were having a full-fledged flag football Super Bowl. It didn’t slow them down a bit. They put their uniforms on and wore us down. We were done before halftime.”