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Six degrees of separation: Move to 6-AAAA gives Dawgs new slate of foes
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The schedule looks a lot different for Forsyth Central this fall, but coach Chris Bennett says the Bulldogs' focus is the same. With spring drills in the rearview now, Central is just a few months away from returning to Region 6-AAAA, where the Dawgs competed before spending the last two seasons in Class AAAAA.

"As far as the new region [goes], it doesn't matter who we play. We have to take care of ourselves first and foremost," Bennett said. "We feel that if we do that, then we have a chance to be successful, and all we need is a chance."

Central is coming off consecutive three-win seasons in Region 7-AAAAA, and was originally slated to play there again this fall. However, the school won an appeal to the Georgia High School Association showing that its latest enrollment numbers made it better suited to Class AAAA, and was allowed to make the drop in classification.

Spring practice, held earlier this month, brought a chance for the Bulldogs to start preparing for what they hope will be a successful fall campaign.

"Spring was very successful. We spent a great deal of time working on fundamentals and getting kids in the right place," Bennett said. "We had some minor injuries, but for the most part it was a great two weeks. Our kids came out everyday excited and enthusiastic and gave great effort the entire time. That is all we can ask for as coaches."

For the second year in a row, Central also let some Bulldog moms in on the action, letting 50 team mothers in on an X's and O's session and a summer workout one afternoon.

Bennett seemed impressed with the dedication he saw out of the Bulldog moms.

"I believe if we had the mothers the entire two weeks of spring practice, we would be ready to challenge someone in a game," he said.

The actual Bulldogs will get only a small taste of intra-county rivalry action this year, traveling to South Forsyth for a preseason scrimmage on Aug. 22.

The Bulldogs officially open the season the following Friday in Peachtree City, taking on McIntosh. Then comes a nine-game run through region play with home games against Lithonia, Stone Mountain, Miller Grove, Chamblee and North Springs, as well as four trips to DeKalb County, with dates at Southwest DeKalb, Marist, Lakeside and Tucker.

Central will get a shot at weekend football twice during the schedule, with the Southwest DeKalb and Lakeside games both scheduled for Saturday.

"We feel that the Saturday games will be a nice change-up for our players and our fans," Bennett said, before adding, "It really doesn't matter when we play. We just have to take care of business."

Bennett, entering his third year as head coach at Central, said the team is encouraging strong competition between players in preseason drills, a principle that continues throughout the season.

Not all of the focus is on what happens on the field or in the weightroom, though. In fact, to hear Bennett tell it, that's not even the main focus for the team right now.

"At this time of the year, the number one focus is on academics and our players taking care of business in the classroom. If they don't do that, then we can't be successful."

Whether the work is physical or academic, what happens during spring practice is just a continuation of offseason competition and conditioning. Jim Bishop, Central's conditioning coach, has entered the team in three Olympic weightlifting meets. In one event, the Bulldogs finished third in the state, according to Bennett.

At this time of year, any evidence that players have adopted the mindset to stay competitive and commit to improvement are good signs.

"Our coaching staff does an amazing job in the weightroom and it is starting to show," Bennett said. "Any way that we can get our kids to compete is a good thing."