|Photo courtesy of Rob Saye|
The Tucker Tigers begin a new era as two-time state champion Franklin Stephens left to pursue a coaching opportunity at Lamar County. Outsiders may view this as a major drop off for the Tiger program. However, a familiar face from that 2008 championship winning team is back to help the Tigers seek a second straight title and the first in the newly-reclassified AAAAA.
Bryan Lamar is the new man in charge, but he is no stranger to the Tucker program. Lamar began his journey with the Tigers in 2004 when he was the head coach of the middle school football team. Lamar worked his way up to the defensive coordinator position during Stephens' reign. Under Stephens, Lamar's defense was key in leading the Tigers to three Region 6-AAAA titles, four semifinal appearances and the aforementioned state title over Marist in 2008.
Lamar returns to Tucker from a year at Stockbridge High School as the school's basketball coach. Along with being the football coach at Tucker, Lamar will also work as a math teacher in Tucker's mathematics department.
"I've only been gone from Tucker for a year," Lamar said. "Everybody knows me except for maybe the freshman class. When Coach Stephens decided to leave, the kids wanted me back. They understand my expectations. I am going to push them and make them work hard. They also understand I am going to get them where they need to be physically and mentally; I think we have a relationship built already."
The Tigers face a bear of a region in Region 6-AAAAA. The region includes the likes of M.L. King, Stephenson, and Southwest DeKalb. Those three programs combined for 29 victories last season.
"I think you just got to go in every week and practice hard," Lamar said. "We start this week with our offseason training program. I think it's going to be tough, but we need to work hard to be better prepared for the playoffs."
The Tigers have some familiarity with ML King and Stephenson as the Tigers have scrimmaged against them in the preseason the last few years.
"We are familiar with those programs and we know they are very talented," said Lamar. "We like to think we can compete with everybody, it will be one of those deals that will keep us on our toes."
As for the 2012 Tigers, Lamar believes the team has a solid nucleus to make a deep playoff run.
"Of course we have Yusuf Minor, Juwaan Williams," said Lamar. "Defensively, we have guys all over the place who will be juniors this year. Solomon James, a returning starter and a defensive end, is going to have great year this year; Elijah Shaw, a nose guard, is 6-foot-5, probably about 300-pounds, will have a great year for us. Dominic Sanders, who will play safety for us; We have to get stronger and faster, but I think we have some good talent with those guys."
Tucker's first scrimmage will be Aug. 24 at 7:30 p.m. against Cedar Grove. The Tigers' first regular season game and Region 6-AAAAA game will be on the road against North Atlanta at Grady Stadium Sept. 7 at 7:30 p.m.