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I’ve heard this question over and over this offseason, “Is Central Coosa going to have a football team?”

On the latest episodes of Inside the Lines Podcast preview series, Caleb Turrentine and I attempt to answer that and so many more questions as we talk about Horseshoe Bend and Central Coosa.

After Reeltown on Wednesday, we picked up with the Generals on Thursday.

For the past two years, Horseshoe Bend has struggled to put wins on the board. The Generals have not finished .500 or better since 2016, but this year, they’re ushering in a new coach who brings a ton of energy and an old-school football mentality to the table that could be a game changer for HBS.

Although Jeremy Phillips is a young guy — he graduated from Clay County in 2010 — he played for former Benjamin Russell coach and Hall of Famer Danny Horn, who has an old-school mentality. Under Horn, Phillips learned running the ball comes first and there’s no need to make football a fancier game than it should be.

Phillips’ young age may also work to his favor, as he’s not that far removed from playing high school football. He’s been in the kids’ shoes fairly recently, and he knows the struggles they are going through better than a coach who may have more experience on the gridiron.

Either way, I got a chance to catch up with Phillips on Thursday’s episode of Inside the Lines Podcast and was happy to hear things have been working out for him so far. Horseshoe Bend has been through three coaches in four years, so it can be tough to adjust but things are looking up around the Bend.

“The kids are really excited about the year coming up,” Phillips said. “They’ve worked really hard this summer and they’ve definitely put in the work. They’re excited about the scheme that we’re implementing and I think the coaches are excited as well. Everybody has really bought in to what I’ve been trying to bring to the table.”

Simplifying things for the Generals will be Phillips’ aim but he’s also looking to turn up the intensity and the physicality. Horseshoe Bend certainly has a few athletes, and it did in past years also. But one thing that was a real big Achilles’ heel was special teams, so Phillips is going to put a special focus there.

“If you go back and kinda watch some of the games from last year, there were a lot of times that they gave up a special teams touchdown,” Phillips said. “Or whether it be a big return, that can be a big momentum switch in a game. That’s something we’re going to be hounding on this year.” 

As for Central Coosa, which had its preview podcast released Friday, yes, the Cougars will field a football team. How many will be on the roster and what is the outlook is for Coosa? That’s harder to say. 

But one big topic of discussion for Caleb and I was the fact Coosa does have athletes. When you’ve got a guy like Donta Daniel, who could probably outrun the horses in the Kentucky Derby, your ship is never completely sunk. Teams can’t take the Cougars lightly; they are the definition of an underdog, and if a team thinks it can take the night off against Coosa, it should think again.

I also made it a point to praise the guys who are there. Will the outcome be good for Coosa? Most likely. Is there a good chance the Cougars will go winless again this year? Yes. But somehow, someway, there are still guys out there. It was nearing 100 degrees Wednesday when I stopped by practice, and I commend every single one of those 12 guys who was pouring sweat and hoping to put together a successful team.

Next week, we will head back to Elmore County for a few days before stopping in with Dadeville as our Inside the Lines Preview Podcast continues every weekday.

The remaining schedule is as follows: 

Monday, Aug. 12 — Holtville Bulldogs preview

Tuesday, Aug. 13 — Elmore County Panthers preview

Wednesday, Aug. 14 —Dadeville Tigers preview

Thursday, Aug. 15 — Tallassee Tigers preview

Friday, Aug. 16 — Stanhope Elmore Mustangs preview

Monday, Aug. 19 — Wetumpka Indians preview

Tuesday, Aug. 20 — Benjamin Russell Wildcats preview

That will lead us directly into our Week 0 preview which will be released Wednesday, Aug. 21 in conjunction with our Gridiron Guides.

To listen to the full interviews with Free and Shaw and the rest of the preview podcasts, visit us online. We are also available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. If you have any questions for us or special guests, feel free to reach out and we’ll get those answered for you as well.

Lizi Arbogast is the sports editor at Tallapoosa Publishers, Inc.