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Andrews reflects/then and now

By Mike Williams

Introspection gives you access to understanding yourself, self reflection lets you process what you learn, and insights are the answers you come up with that you can act upon. With the Tigers going to the state championship after 22 years, we reached out to Brandon Andrews, principal at Swainsboro High to get some comments on being a part of that championship team and what it means to him to now be the head Tiger at his Alma Mater.

Question; What are some of your fondest memories from the 2000 championship season?

Answer; Interestingly enough, the 2000 season begin much earlier than the year 2000. In 1997, a collective group of 8th graders had a set expectations placed upon them like no other group/class to ever come through Swainsboro schools. However, fast-forward to the beginning of this group of 8th graders senior, the 2000-2001 academic school year. The 2000 year was absolutely amazing. I believe when you reflect back upon such a wonderful time, you truly realize how gracious, supportive, and kind-hearted people were. Beginning the season with Fall Camp at Magnolia Springs, practicing three times a day in 95 plus degree temperatures. The fondest memories of Camp was our nightly devotion, where for many of us, it allowed the only opportunity build a relationship with Christ. Life lessons that many of us carry with us today, 22 years later. Before every game, we would have devotion in the weight room, typically led by Coach Teague and Coach Fred Ricks. We would be in the locker room, Coach Teague would come in and speak, the he would call us into our groups, Defense-1st, Offense-2nd, Seniors, Juniors, Sophomores, and Freshmen. We would enter the weight room with “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor playing, booming over the speakers with either Coach Fred or Teague speaking. Each coach would speak at different home games as well as Seniors. Progressing through the year, the community support was absolutely astounding. People wanting to be a part of something special. Games began at 7:30, yet, the stands were packed (literally) by 6:30. Swainsboro High School hallways wore spirit inside and outside. Truthfully, you could not walk and drive anywhere on or off campus and not see a Tiger Head, “Go Tigers” sign, Black or Gold colors. Primary and Elementary schools kids would write us letters telling us how much they love us, who their favorite player was, even telling us how they hope to be just like us one day. Our away games would be just as intense with fan support as our home games. During the 2000 season, we were in the Savannah region (primarily traveling south on I-16). The first game of the season against Statesboro High (who played for the AAAA State Championship that year) was definitely the test we needed. The most intense regular season game that year, undoubtedly, was Appling Co. Our community put up signs beginning at I-16 on Hwy. 1, “Welcome to Tiger Country”, “Welcome to the Jungle”. Pretty much, from the time Appling Co. passed under 1-16, every 25 ft. was a Tiger Sign. The atmosphere that night was amazing. The “Pain Train” (nicknamed by Coach Rusty Brown) and the “Wrecking Crew” (nicknamed by Coach Robby Robinson) that night showed up and showed out. After winning that night, we finished the regular season tied for first place with playoff seeding being deciding by a coin toss placing Swainsboro as the #2 seed (a nightmare for all #1 seeds). Whew, that playoff run beginning with Thomasville High, then Lagrange, undoubtedly the worst playing conditions anyone could have ever played. The following week we were on the road to Hart Co. Now Hart Co. put us out in the Quarterfinals of 1999, so needless to say we had a chip on our shoulder for that game. Lord Have Mercy, the only words to describe our performance that night was “Total Domination”. From beginning to end, we beat Hart Co. up and down the field. We left the field that night winning 48-20 headed to the Georgia Dome to play arch-rival Washington Co. The opportunity to play in the Georgia Dome for many was amazing. I mean, the bright lights, the way the buses traveled in to park practically under the Georgia Dome. You almost felt like one of the Falcons players (the Dan Reeves days) getting off the bus walking inside the stadium. Nevertheless, running out of the tunnel, playing on the turf (which gave us a lot of carpet burns), once again the atmosphere was absolutely unreal. Then, onto the State Championship game. OMG, the week of that game. Churches, Community organizations, Booster club, people just feeding, supporting, offering words of encouragement, community pep rallies. The night of the Fitzgerald game. We pull up to the stadium and literally could not walk into the stadium for so many people hugging and squeezing each of us telling all players how proud of us they were. I had a guy who smelled like he had been drinking from the time his feet hit floor hug me crying saying I made his dream come true seeing Swainsboro play for a State Championship in football. Needless to say, winning the game was just a surreal moment. I honestly, blacked out at the conclusion of the game, but the one thing I remember is hugging my mother while crying telling her Thank You for everything and shaking my father’s hand as he simply said “Good Job Boy”. That night still is just as clear in my head as it was 22 years ago.

Question; Are there any outstanding plays from the year that stand out?

Answer; Whew, I am not quite sure how to go about responding to this question. A million plays stick out in my head about that season. I believe the end of the year highlight dvd was probably an hour long.

Question; Playing and having to win on the road during the playoffs was very challenging, how did the coaches prepare the team each week to go into a hostile environment and block out all the distractions?

Answer; We would come in on Sundays for game planning installment. The one thing our coaching staff did that year was teach us how to watch film from a coaches’ eye. Often times, your best coaches are found in the stands telling the coach what he should or should not do or seeing players in the community and trying to coach them, yet they have never watched film, been to practice, or set foot in a study room. We also spent a great deal of time doing devotion. Coach Teague was very adamant about implementing Jesus Christ in our lives through devotion, how our coaches coached us, and how we played. Whew, you want to talk about the amount of food available to us. People do not understand how critical it is to ensure student-athletes are fed, but not only fed, but fed properly. Our coaches made us aware of those distractions that were out there. Unfortunately, some of those distractions were a few individuals from our community. One of the things that made it is easy for us to go into a hostile environment, is the type of intensity we practiced with daily was 2nd nature to us when we entering a game atmosphere. Our most adverse distraction would always be self-inflicted. Our key word was “FOCUS” (instilled in us by Coach Dewayne & Dewitt Davis). Coach Fred Ricks kept many of us focused on what was most important by providing us with three focal points: 1. God 2. Family 3. Focus on the 1st two and everything else will take care of itself.

Question; What can you tell us about your personal preparation for each game?

Answer; My personal preparation was different than the average athlete. I was always a very routine preparation kind of kid. In my locker, I kept a large index card taped above my locker with scriptures written on them that mother, one night while I was sleep, slid under my pillow. Each day I would read one scripture from that card. Before each weight training workout, I would eat peanut butter crackers. I often times would pray 2-3 times before the game. Each game, I would spray paint my cleats glossy black, eventually everyone begin doing so to the point where it became mandatory. As we would walk on the field to bust out the sign made by the cheerleaders, Charles Silas, Titus Peebles, and myself would bump arms with each other and be the last ones to enter the field.

Question;The championship game in Fitzgerald was very exciting, what are some moments you remember from the game?

Answer; As stated previously, the crowd was amazing. I swear, if there was one night to rob every business and home in Swainsboro, that would have been the night. There were people everywhere. I am sure they stop letting people come in to the stadium an hour before game time. The team busses pulled up and could barely get inside the stadium. I remember Brian Mason with the final pass breakup on 4th down to secure the win for us. The way the people rushed the field, community members crying, and just an overwhelming feeling of having 8K-10K people happy, joyful by such an accomplishment.

Question; As a student at SHS during those years did you ever imagine that you would one day serve as the principal here?

Answer; WOW!!! I use to always dream of being the Head Football Coach at Swainsboro High School and winning multiple state championships. However, as my life progressed, I realize my calling was to serve Swainsboro in a position with much more responsibility and opportunity to impact so many more people. The Swainsboro community, Tiger Trail (even when it was not Tiger Trail), Emanuel County Schools raised me. One of my mother’s favorite quotes was “It takes a Village to Raise A Child”. My picture would be stacked right beside that quote. I will forever be indebted to the Emanuel Co. Retired Educator Association, Swainsboro community, Twin City community, and Emanuel County Schools for who I am today. Often times, you read, see, or in this day and age, watch movies about these type of stories, but for me…it’s not a story or some script, it’s a life that I truly and unselfishly love each and every day.