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Revamped Metter Tigers set for second year under Hill
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Coach Hill

Metter head coach Clay Hill talks about competing in Class AA and the team's future reclassification.
    METTER — When coach Clay Hill arrived in Metter before the start of the 2006 season, it wasn’t a matter of rebuilding — it was more like starting from scratch.
    “They had 38 on the team before us,” said the second-year Tiger coach, “and 21 of them were seniors, so we only had about 17 kids. Six of them went to the private school during the transition, which left me about 10, and three of them decided they weren’t going to play. That left me about seven ball players returning, and only four of them had ever played a down.”
    Now there are 56 players on the squad, and the three-year plan the coaching staff envisioned is underway. The team is more experienced after Hill’s first season in Metter, and although they were blanked in 2006, the Tigers are optimistic. Hill has instilled in his team a positive attitude and has the kids at MHS excited about playing football again — step one of the three-year plan.
    “Coach attitude first,” said Hill, “and everything will take care of itself.”
    The plan, says Hill, will end when Metter is re-classified back into Class A where Hill and most of Metter’s fans feel they belong. He feels that this will likely happen in 2008.
    Along with the Hill’s rebuilding plan comes his pass-heavy offense. Called the “FTS” (feed the studs) offense, the goal is to play from the team’s strengths. Without the bigger linemen needed to block in a smash-mouth system, the goal is to get the ball into the hands of the team’s playmakers.
    “Obviously, if I had big, strong linemen,” said Hill, “I’d line it up and just run it at you. I’d love to do that. I’ve never been able to.”
    The “FTS” offense, much like the option offenses of the veer and Wing-T, is designed as an equalizer.
    Hill used to run the option when he coached at Crisp County High in Cordele but was forced to make some changes after his option quarterback broke his leg the first game of the 2001 season. The team started off 0-3 after it lost the ability to run the ball, and the change turned out to be a pleasant surprise. Hill turned to an old friend for help in designing his new offense.
    “(First-year Georgia Southern head coach) Chris Hatcher is a good friend of mine,” Hill said. “In fact, his daddy coached me and he was the waterboy, so I’ve known him for 100 years — a long time.
    “I called him when I was at Cordele — Valdosta (State, where Hatcher was coaching at the time) is right down the road — and I said, ‘Chris, I need your help. This is what I got, I don’t have the linemen and I want to throw the ball a little bit. That’s the only way we can move it right now.’
    “I put in about four plays I got from (Hatcher) and I think we won the next seven (games).”
    Hill hopes his past success with the offense will translate into success for the Tigers. What Metter’s offense lacks on the o-line, it makes up for in its skill positions. Hill feels his quarterback, receivers and backs will match up well with the teams on the schedule, and as the team continues to work, it will become more and more competitive.
    Another strength of Metter’s will be on the defensive side of the ball. While still lacking in the trenches, the Tiger linebacker group may be the most experienced and talented on the team.
    “Our linebacking corps right now looks really good,” said Hill. “The three linebackers we’ll be using, they’re all seniors. Our secondary looks good. Our skill guys match up pretty good with who we play, it’s just interior linemen where we really get mismatched.”
    The re-energized team will take the field on Aug. 24 in a scrimmage against Portal in Metter at 7:30 p.m. The regular season kicks off at home against Emanuel County Institute on Aug. 31.

    Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9404.