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MDJ sports editor John Bednarowski emcees Thursday’s Pigskin Preview breakfast in east Cobb, joined by, from left, Sprayberry’s Brett Vavra, Pope’s Tab Griffin and Lassiter’s Sean Thom.

MARIETTA -- Brett Sloan may have explained it best.

The third-year Kell football coach pointed out that he, Walton's Daniel Brunner, Pope's Tab Griffin and Sprayberry's Brett Vavra all became head coaches at their current schools prior to the 2017 season, and Sloan said he feels like he has finally got control.

"The first year, I felt like I was driving someone else's truck," Sloan said. "Last year, I felt like it was my team. This year, I feel like its my program."

The results seem to back him up. Three of the four coaches saw their teams improve from Year 1 to Year 2. The only one whose team did not improve was Brunner's at Walton. However, in his first season, the Raiders went undefeated in the regular season. Last year, they fell to 9-1.

Walton, Kell and Pope each made the playoffs in both seasons. Sprayberry was beset by injuries last season, but it began to show that it was not far off. The trends should make fans start to take notice as the schools from east Cobb may be ready to take those next big steps forward.

The coaches were all part of the East Cobb Area Council's annual Pigskin Preview breakfast Thursday at Indian Hills Country Club. Joining them were east Cobb's two new coaches -- Lassiter's Sean Thom and Wheeler's Bryan Love.

Thom and Love are hopeful that they will see great improvement out of their teams this season, and Love has some good roots to pull from.

Love started his coaching career as an assistant at McEachern under longtime coach and athletic director Jimmy Dorsey. As Love continues to connect with his Wildcats at Wheeler, he has held true with one of Dorsey's biggest pieces of advice.

"Be yourself," Love said.

CLASSIC PREPARATIONS

With Kell and Walton playing the first two games of the Corky Kell Classic on Aug. 24 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, it was only natural to use their scrimmage against one another as a way to prepare for the early kickoffs. Last Saturday, the Longhorns and Raiders faced off at 10 a.m.

Kell had a 6 a.m. practice Thursday and has practiced every Saturday at 8 a.m. as the game approaches. Since the Longhorns began playing in the Classic in 2010, they have always played the 9 a.m. game.

"The biscuits-and-gravy game," Sloan said the game has been labeled.

HONORING JIM FRAZIER

Earlier this summer, the Sprayberry community lost longtime coach and athletic supporter Jim Frazier. 

Frazier was a constant with the Yellow Jackets' football and baseball programs for decades. While never filling the role of head football coach, the football stadium was named in his honor more than 20 years ago.

Vavra talked about Frazier and his wife, Wilma, and how much he would be missed. 

"He was a great supporter of our program," said Vavra, who played at Sprayberry in the late 1990s and was close with Frazier. "You could always look in the stands and see them at every football game. They had their own spot where there were two rocking chairs.

"We're going to play this year in honor to him. We're going to have his initials on our helmets. Hopefully we can win some games for him."

HAPPY AT HOME

When Griffin decided it was time to try his hand at being a head coach, there was only one job he wanted. He wanted to coach at his alma mater.

Now, entering his third season at Pope, he knows he made the right decision. 

"It's been a blast," he said. 

Griffin and his wife went as far as to purchase a house in the neighborhood he grew up in when he attended the school.

"I promise, I have no separation issues," he joked.

GLAD TO BE BACK

Thom spent two years in North Dakota as the head coach at Mayville State University, and while he enjoyed coaching college football, there was something that was not quite right.

"Every game kicks off at 1 p.m. on Saturday," Thom said. "I just missed those Friday nights in Georgia, and I needed to get back."

Thom hopes some of his enthusiasm rubs off on his new team.

"I'm a little crazy," he laughed.

To help him get a hold of what he needed to do this fall, Thom solicited the help of two former Lassiter figures to aid with the Trojans' rebuilding process -- former quarterback Hutson Mason and coach Chip Lindsey.

Lindsey, who is entering his first year as the head coach at Troy, helped Thom get settled in the position and allowed the new coach to use him as a sounding board. Mason, meanwhile, came back and coached the quarterbacks this spring.

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