Bulldog head coach Richie Marsh talks about the summer and the 2018 season

The Bulldogs participate in a summer OTA

The Toombs County Bulldog football team opened summer workouts on June 4. The Dawgs have been lifting weights, working on their conditioning, practicing as a team without pads and participating in several OTA’s with their pads on. Now, the start of the 2018 season is edging closer. The Bulldogs will do five days of mandatory GHSA conditioning days beginning Monday, July 30th and running through Friday, August 3rd.

On Monday, August 6th the Bulldogs will put on the pads and then on Friday, August 10th TCHS will travel over to the Savannah State campus to scrimmage the Benedictine Cadets beginning at 7:30 p.m. The game will be broadcast live on Y-101 Radio and will be streamed on Mixlr.

The regular season will open up in Booster Stadium with Twiggs County on Friday, August 17 with a 7:30 kickoff.

Head coach Richie Marsh is back for his third season with the Bulldogs after leading them to two trips to the playoffs with records of 6-5 and 10-2. Those 16 wins are the most ever for a Toombs County head coach after his first two seasons and ties Jacky Jones who won 16 games in his first two seasons coaching the Lyons Senior Bulldogs in 1969-70. Coach Marsh will have five new coaches on his staff.

This will be a transitional season at TCHS. The Bulldogs lost their entire offensive backfield to graduation plus all but one offensive lineman. On defense, most of the line and linebackers have moved on as have both the starting kicker and punter.

Coach Marsh discusses the summer and upcoming season.

1. How have the Bulldogs handles all the challenges you and the coaching staff have given them this summer both on the field and in the weight room?

Were young, we know what we are suppose to be doing right now, but there’s nothing like the experience of getting out there on a Friday night. So, I just really believe we’re going to have to get a couple of games under it under our belts to understand all the things we have been working towards and how they come together. The plan is once all that starts to come and mature we can start to become the kind of football team we want to be.

2. How well have the Bulldogs competed in their OTA’s this summer?

We’ve had several OTA’s this summer And the thing this year is we have so many kids playing both ways we’ve had to limit the number of reps a kid gets, so we didn’t get as many live reps as we would have and that’s okay. I just want to make sure that we’re healthy to start next week and when the games start. These next two weeks are crucial. We’ve got to be focused on being crazy organized and very simple. The kids have got to be focused on what they are asked to do. There’s been no game plan, so the kids go into the OTA’s just taking a big gulp of the ocean. You might see I teams, Wing-T teams and one team is spread and another double tight. So, that is a lot to swallow when you’re not really comfortable with what you’re asked to do. Once we get past the scrimmage with Benedictine will be able to game plan and hopefully that allows us to simplify things and be more able to do what we have to do. If f we can be mature as a team and focus on those things we should be able to go out on a Friday night and compete at our best.

3. You lost so many experienced players and physically mature players on the line of scrimmage. Who is stepping up to take over those positions this summer?

Really, I don’t think we’re to the point. where we can say somebody has stepped up yet. I think there have been a lot who have been trying to step up, but there is going to be a lot expected out of them. Ashlee Ashley is going to have a huge load of responsibility on him and he’s got to embrace that. Demetrius Owens is going to have that same kind of responsibility and he’s got to embrace that. He’s not the 10th guy on the team anymore, he’s in a new role. Trey Cloud at the quarterback position has got to do that. I’ve enjoyed coaching him this summer. I mean I’m not the quarterback coach Michael Owens is. I’ve enjoyed watching him compete. I think he has really embraced what he has been asked to do. Now we just have to go and put it together in a game. Chandler Lynn, even being a sophomore, has to understand the responsibility he has and then you have Tyler Smith. Trayvon Wiggins, he’s never been in that situation. He’s was a chubby kid in the back of the pack for the first couple of years and now. he’s the kid who’s put the work in in the weight room. He’s got to respond and that’s the big question- these guys are going to have all this responsibility and are they going to enjoy that? Not all kids enjoy that, but I can tell you with this team it definitely is what it is, they got to for us to go out and be a team. They’ve got to do it. and we’re about to see how they are going to respond to what they are being asked to do.

4. How are the experienced players in the defensive secondary doing this summer?

That experience is Ashley and Tyler and Tyler is starting to understand a little more. Last year we were so vanilla because he didn’t play as a freshman so last year was his first year and probably the first two months of the summer I’ve probably given them too much. Everything needs to be simplified going in to Monday so he can play at a high level. We just need to simply things a little more and be more detailed with our coaching so they can play fast. We’ve got to be able to play fast. We are not doing that right now. That’s the goal in two weeks is to be able to play fast.

5. There has been some movement in your coaching staff. Who are your five new coaches?

As I am thinking about our big staff meeting going in to Sunday as we get ready to jump in full bore. We have got to be a better coaching staff. I’ve got to be a better coach. The way I have coached in the past, I don’t know if it is going to cut it with these guys. These guys are showing up everyday and are working hard, but what I think what they respond to is different than some other teams and I say that in a good way. Obviously, if I learn to be a better coach that is going to be a good thing. So, I think right now at the beginning of the season, the emphasis has got to be on what kind of coaches we are.

To get done what I said needs to get done the Lord has blessed us with guys that can do that. Starting with our quarterback. Coach Hamlin has been handling the quarterback duties and since day one we have said he is such a great offensive line coach that we wanted that detailed quarterback coach. The Lord allowed us to hire Mike Owens and he was offered so many other jobs. It is humbling that he chose us. He was the head coach at Fort Walton Beach forever and Eufaula, Alabama and he just came from Thomas County Central. Really excited about having him on the offensive side of the ball and I know coach Hamlin is too and also over there is Chris Branham. He was the head coach at Okeechobee High School. I knew him from recruiting when I was at Southeastern and coach Hamlin competed against him when they were in the same district when he was a head coach in Florida. He is going to coordinate our special teams and everything is so important to him he totally understands the responsibility to coach. He is also going to coach our receivers.

We have added coach Hartley, who is our outside linebacker coach and he has been a defensive coordinator in West Virginia for a couple of very successful programs so he understands what it takes to win and he understands what it takes to be committed. He gets it and he has already been a huge addition to us defensively.

Telvin Thomas is going to be out boys head basketball coach and he is also going to be coaching in the secondary. He played for coach Odum down at Coffee County when they did a million different things in the secondary when he was a player. Having him out there to simplify things is huge.

Wesley Bratton played for coach Mark Stroud and having him is so refreshing in that he understands the Toombs County tradition. He has been a part of that and is very proud of that. He is so excited to be back. He is a worker and is always looking for the next thing to do. It just good to have him back so the kids can see there is a tradition here at Toombs County. He exemplifies that in everything he does. We have the right five guys. It’s on me to be more organized, more simplified with exactly what we are asking this team to do and how we are coaching them to do that and if we get that down, I think the kids will follow.

New assistant coaches

Mike Owens- Head coach for 15 years at Fort Walton Beach High School. He went 81-76 with four district titles and ten playoff appearances. He was also the offensive coordinator for the 1995 FWBHS State Championship team. Also, was a head coach at Dixie High School and Eufaula High in Alabama. Most recently he was an assistant coach at Thomas County Central. 

Coach Owens is a native of Niceville and a graduate of Niceville High School. He played college football at Austin Peay State University and was a 4-year letterman at quarterback and defensive back. He received a Master’s degree from Florida State University in 1991 after serving as a graduate assistant coach for the Seminoles for the 1989-1990 seasons.

Chris Branham- Head coach at Okeechobee High school for two stints. He went 22-19 from 2005-08 and led the team to two straight playoff appearances. He returned in 2012 and went 23-37 including an 8-2 season in 2016.

Telvin Thomas- He wore number 9 for Coffee County in his senior season in 2007. The Trojans went 11-3 that year and 10-3 during his junior season. He was the Coffee Middle School head basketball coach.

Wesley Bratton- The former Toombs County Bulldog was the head coach of Montgomery County’s Middle School football team in 2017.