?New kids on the block' have room for optimism

By Doug Gorman

Mundy's Mill, Luella and Dutchtown high schools are so new the paint inside the hallways has barely had time to dry.

The three new high schools are still trying to establish traditions?that includes on the football field where the goal is to build competitive programs as quickly as possible.

Mundy's Mill might have a leg up on the two other Southern Crescent high schools, but not by much.

Mundy's Mill, the lone Clayton County school among the trio of newcomers, opened its doors three years ago, Luella rang the school bell last fall, and Dutchtown, the baby of the group, began classes in August.

All three schools are giving their football fans reasons for optimism.

Mundy's Mill is 1-2-1, Luella has played well despite a 0-4 record against some traditional state powers and Dutchtown nearly a month into the high school season is 1-3.

"I have been very pleased with the way things have gone. We are about eight points away from being an undefeated football team," said Mundy's Mill head coach Chad Estes.

The Tigers tied Jonesboro in the first game, lost to Mt. Zion by a mere TD, beat up on a more established Morrow team and then battled Riverdale to a double overtime loss last week.

After competing as a junior varsity squad the first year, and then playing a non-region slate last season, the Tigers jumped into the fire this year as a member of Region 4-AAAAA.

Friday night the squad plays its first-ever region contest at East Coweta, one of the yearly powers in Georgia high school football.

From there, Mundy's Mill also plays perennial powers Newnan and Starr's Mill over the next two weeks.

Estes knows his team is going to have to play some of its best football in the program's young history if it hopes to win, and even though he is not going to go out on a limb by predicting victories, Estes promises his Tigers will battle to the end in every one of their region games.

"I think everybody looks at us as a patsy, but I think we are proving we aren't about to roll over against anybody," Estes said.

Luella played a partial non-region and junior varsity schedule last year, but elected to jump right into the fire this season as it competes for the Region 3-AAAA title.

Lions' head coach Paul Burgdorf elected to play a tough non-region schedule, including games against Lowndes and Warner Robins to open the 2004 season.

Luella hasn't won this year, but the team has displayed an ability to put points on the scoreboard, including a 21-point performance against Lowndes on the road in Valdosta.

Burgdorf knew scheduling such a tough non-region slate might not translate into wins, but he is convinced it has made the Lions better as they get ready to move into the region half of their schedule.

"We are a better football team," he said. "I think we have improved in some intangible areas. I think it has also shown us the need to keep working in the weight room to get bigger and stronger. Our players see by playing these more established programs the benefits of working out in the weight room."

Dutchtown is also showing its ability to compete in its inaugural season under the guidance of Mike Creasman, their enthusiastic head coach.

"Coaching here at Dutchtown has given me a chance to rejuvenate my career," he said. "I have been in the coaching and teaching business for 28 years and to get this chance, somewhat late in my career is exciting."

Despite fielding a team of only freshmen and sophomores, the Bulldogs have played hard in every game.

"We have matched up with our opponents every time we have played, but have played hard and have competed hard," said Creasman. "That's what all of our fall sports program have done."

Union Grove is a prime example of football programs quickly establishing a tradition. The Wolverines began playing football in 2000 and after two years of playing a non-region schedule, head coach Scott Mason's club won a region title in 2002. They also made it to the playoffs in 2003.

This year after jumping from Class AA to Class AAAAA the Wolverines are off to a 3-1 start as the squad attempts to make the playoffs for the third straight year.