New Brockton football coach Zack Holmes gave himself an early Christmas present. The Gamecocks’ 2020 football schedule was set a couple weeks ago.
“I think it’s huge to have all your games in and scheduled,” Holmes said. “It’s good to find people that are close in location, that are good gates and that you can compete with. There’s so much that goes into making a schedule, you know?
“It was a worry there for a couple days. I didn’t know exactly how it was going to shake out, but it all fell into place.”
New Brockton has new opponents, a new area and a new classification for next year. The Gamecocks make the jump from Class 2A to 3A. It was not a surprise to Holmes, especially when the AHSAA changed its counting formula from grades 10, 11 and 12 to grades nine, 10 and 11.
“We moved up a pretty good ways into 3A,” said Holmes, who will be going into his second season as the head coach. “When I took the job here, I knew we’d be going to 3A. There’s a new plant being built right next to the school. There are more people moving in to New Brockton.
“I told everybody when we came in our goal is to do it the best way it can possibly be done. … But we’re a 3A school and so we should be able to compete at the 3A level. It’s not like I’m bummed out that we moved up. Part of the reason I wanted to come here is that it is a growing community and growing school.”
There is a bit of downside to the jump.
“To me, the biggest challenge is just learning new opponents. We just learned a bunch of opponents this past year, and there’s not a whole bunch of carryover. That part of it’s tough,” Holmes said.
However, Holmes is excited about the Gamecocks’ home in 3A, Region 2 — a seven-team region with Daleville, Houston Academy, Providence Christian, Opp, Slocomb and Wicksburg.
“It’s kind of neat because I know Coach (Jamie) Riggs at HA pretty good,” the coach said. “Me and his son spent some time together at Huntingdon College. I’ve known him and met these other guys.
“I know Coach (Richard) Tisdale (at Slocomb). His wife and my wife went to college together at Troy. Even when I got the New Brockton job, me and Coach Tisdale talked. Then Coach (Kenny) Keith at Providence, we opened up with them this year.
“It’s a good region full of really good coaches. I’m excited about that. I’m excited that there’s not a whole bunch of travel. That’s really good. It’ll be a challenge.”
The Gamecocks faced their share of challenges last season. They opened with state powers Providence Christian, Brantley and Luverne — top 10 programs in Class 3A, 1A and 2A, respectively. It didn’t matter what class they were in.
“I think we learned this last year: elite-level good football is good football,” Holmes said. “All three of those teams were really, really good.”
New Brockton started the season 0-3 and was 1-4 through the first five games. But credit the Gamecocks for getting better and not letting that start ruin the season. They finished 4-1 and made the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season.
“Our team grew as that stretch went,” Holmes said of the season-opening gantlet.
This season will test New Brockton each time out.
“We’re going to have to bring it every week. Everybody’s going to have good players,” the coach added.
New Brockton’s non-region games include the season opener against Cottonwood, a road trip to Georgiana, a home game against W.S. Neal and a game against Northside Methodist, which is moving from the AISA to the AHSAA this season.
“Opening up with Cottonwood, I know Coach (John) Gilmore,” Holmes said. “We worked together at Eufaula. You like to open up with somebody you can trade information with, that’s going to be honest with you. We’ll both travel well, so that’s why we did that.
“Georgiana was about a road game. I think it’s important to take your team on a road trip because in the playoffs you’re going to have to do that. Georgiana and W.S. Neal, that’s kind of my vision there. We’re going to go to Georgiana this year and we’ll go to W.S. Neal the next year.
“Then Northside Methodist, the coach (Jason Hurst) called. He’s got to schedule every single game. I scheduled him because he said, ‘I’ll play you on your off week if you can do it.’ The way it worked out is good.”
Holmes said he still working on a spring game, but is happy with the schedule for 2020.
“It’s a tough schedule; it’s not brutal,” he said. “It’s not like we open up like we did last year. That was rough. But I’m excited about it — and I’m excited about being 3A.”2020 New Brockton
Aug. 21 Cottonwood H
Aug. 28 Georgiana A
Sept. 4 Opp A
Sept. 11 Daleville H
Sept. 18 Wicksburg A
Sept. 25 W.S. Neal H
Oct. 2 Slocomb H
Oct. 9 Northside Methodist A
Oct. 16 Providence Christian A
Oct. 23 Houston Academy H
Oct. 30 Open