2021 Football Awards Show presented by 912 Sports. Congratulations to ALL our deserving Winners
By Kevin Price
Photography by Michael Brinson
The Cat Named Felix
Camden County senior running back Jamie Felix entered this season knowing he needed to prove himself all over again to the college recruiters. A four-star prospect who had scholarship offers galore going into his junior season in Kingsland, Felix realized some schools weren’t as high on him
as they once were after his 2020 season was
derailed by serious hamstring injuries that
sidelined him until late in the campaign.
“I had to prove to the college coaches that I was healthy, Felix says. “All the coaches were on edge due to the fact I was injured last year. And, I’m doing that.”
Also a big-time baseball player with major-college potential who also possibly could be drafted by a major-league outfit out of high school, Felix pulled the hamstring in his right leg during the spring of his sophomore year playing baseball. He would
also tear the hamstring in his left leg during the summer which took several weeks to heal, forcing him to the sidelines for football practices and games.
Felix, who is 5-foot-10 and 195 pounds, played in six games last fall, but only had seven carries in the Wildcats’ first two games combined. He would miss the middle of the season but returned for Camden’s three region games and its state playoff game. Admittedly nowhere near full-
speed, Felix wasn’t very effective in the team’s first two region games, carrying a combined 31 times for 72 yards.
He was much better in the final two games,
however. In the regular-season finale at Lowndes, Felix ran for 111 yards on 21 carries and scored a touchdown. Against Parkview in the first-round state playoff game, he carried 25 times for 167
yards and two scores.
“Every time I tried to explode, I felt it,” Felix said of his hamstring pulling.
To help protect his hamstring, Felix played in what he described as a diaper - a wrap that provides support for those with hip injuries, groin pulls, quad strains, hamstring tears and the like. But, he knew the risk for re-aggravating the injury was still
there at the time.
“But, I wanted to play. That’s how passionate I was about Camden,” he explains.
Felix said he played baseball for the Wildcats last spring without any further issues. Making first- team all-region as a second baseman, he batted
.356, led the region with five home runs hitting lead-off in the Camden order and drove in 23 runs while stealing 14 bases.
Felix said he hasn’t had any more hamstring
problems since returning to football in time for spring drills, either.
“I’m 100 percent,” he said.
He had to deal with a different injury, though, early on. Felix suffered a broken hand during a padded practice in July. He had to wear a big cast on that broken hand during preseason camp and
through Camden’s first three games.
Still, with the Wildcats spreading the ball around in their Wing-T offense, he managed to run for 535 yards and eight touchdowns on 71 carries in Camden’s first seven games. He was averaging 7.5 yards per attempt
when the team began Region 1- AAAAAAA play last month.
Camden head coach Jeff Herron, who returned for a second stint with the program after leading the Wildcats to three state titles when he coached the
team previously, has been high on Felix and his overall talents from the start.
“With his running and blocking, he’s a complete back,” the veteran coach says. “He’s an every- down back at the next level. He can do it all.
“He’s got speed, power, quickness. He loves to block, so he’s good in pass protection. He’s a smart kid. There’s nothing missing.”
Felix is also fond of Herron, who coached his dad who has his same name. The elder Felix graduated in 2002 and was a linebacker/defensive end for
the Wildcats in Herron’s early years with the
program after he arrived from Oconee County which he led to a state title in 1999 in his last season there.
“He used to come to our rec league games,” Felix remembers. “Everyone knew when he was there. “We ran the Wing-T back then, so we knew we were going back to the basics when he came back. I was excited for everyone. You know you’re going
to play fast and physical with Coach Herron.”
Felix especially likes the physical part. Herron
found that out on the first day of spring practice back in May.
Felix really wasn’t expected at practice as the
Camden baseball team was returning home from its state playoff series at Grayson in Gwinnett County that afternoon.
But, Felix said he hopped off the bus after it pulled into the school parking lot, went to get dressed in his football gear and trotted onto the field for the first day of spring ball with Herron back in charge.
“The first opportunity he had to hit someone, he knocked the fool out of ‘em,” Herron said, smiling still as he recalled the moment.
“You don’t really see skill kids who like that
physicality like he does, and that’s really what
separates him from others as far as I’m
Camden planned to start playing Felix more on defense, too, during the region schedule and the playoffs, using him to chase down the ball as a linebacker. He played limited snaps on defense in an early-season game at Marietta and instantly made his presence felt, notching six tackles, two
tackles for loss and forcing a fumble.
“I’m down with it,” Felix said of playing linebacker. “I played all over the place growing up. I could easily be playing safety or linebacker. That’s all I know is how to hit.”
Felix said he plans to finish out the entire school year in Kingsland, largely because he will play his final year of high-school baseball in the spring.
In the meantime, he hopes several of these
scholarship offers will come his way in the form of letters of intent for him to sign to play college football with a good program. He wants to give baseball a try in college also.
Per Rivals, Felix has 20 football offers with his top interests being Florida, Oregon, Georgia Tech, Florida State and Central Florida where he worked out this summer during a visit to the school.
Felix wants to sign on the dotted line and then have his number called in the huddle next fall.
“I feel like at this stage of the game, whoever gets me is getting a steal,” he said.
By Kevin Price
Photography by Jennifer Johnson
Henry Bates figures to be kicking a football for a college team next fall. There’s a good chance the Ware County kicker/punter won’t go to school on a football
That’s not because he isn’t good enough to
receive a scholarship offer from someone. The senior standout and All-State performer for the Gators definitely is.
When it comes to kickers, though, many are
invited to a team as a preferred walk-on and a scholarship comes down the line once they’re already on the team and contributing
between the lines. For example, that was the case with former University of Georgia kicker Rodrigo Blakenship who is now in his second season with the Indianapolis Colts.
That is also what happened with current
Georgia kicker Jack Podlesny who played for
Glynn Academy and went to Georgia as a
walk-on after graduating from Glynn in 2018.
He won the starting place-kicking job prior to
the start of last season and was put on
scholarship after making the game-winning
kick in the Peach Bowl.
Bates understands how it works with kickers
and colleges, but the good news for him is
that he doesn’t really need athletic money to
offset college expenses. He is guaranteed
academic money as a Zell Miller Scholarship
recipient as long as he goes to school in state. Should he attend a college in another state, there is still a good chance Bates can be awarded academic money there, too, based on his accomplishments in high school.
“I’m open to anything,” he says. “I just want a
chance. “But academics will be a major part of the decision as to where I go.”
Bates is the featured Scholar-Athlete for this
issue of the magazine. He holds a 4.0 grade-
point average and scored a 1,310 on the SAT.
A member of the National Honor Society and
Beta Club, Bates is a Georgia Certificate of
Merit recipient and a Slash Pine EMC
He also earned the distinction of Ware County Plantinum Senior, an honor presented to select seniors at the school who have earned all-around high marks during their previous three years at the school going into their senior year.
Bates has held the highest GPA on the Gators football team among those in his class since his freshman year. Last year, he had the highest GPA on the varsity team and was presented the Academic Award at the team’s postseason banquet.
Bates said he has made straight A’s
throughout high school and has actually made all A’s going all the way back to kindergarten.
“My parents want me to have good grades,
but really it’s something I do on my own,” he
points out. “I want to have good grades,
Bates notes that making all A’s hasn’t always
been easy. “Last year, I took two different math classes at the same time. I had to study and work a little harder, taking two at the same time,” he said.
Bates was taking Pre-Calculus and college
Algebra first semester and Calculus and
Statistics during the second term.
He said the hardest class he has taken at
Ware County was the Advance Placement
Psychology class he took as a sophomore. He
remembers it requiring a lot of studying.
“It was a lot of memorization, so it was really
time-consuming,” Bates says.
His favorite subject is math. He gave a simple
reason for that. “I like to have an answer,” Bates said.
Bates has a lot of interests, and therefore, he
isn’t exactly sure what he might like to major
in while in college. He thinks, though, he may
be end up pursuing a degree in business
He is definitely interested in playing college
football while furthering his education. That,
he does know.
Ware head coach Jason Strickland, now in his
third season with the Gators, fully expects
Bates to get that opportunity.
“He’s an incredible kid and also one of the
most competitive kids you will ever be
around,” Strickland said. “It doesn’t matter
what it is, he wants to beat you. He’s super,
super competitive and wants to be as good as he can be at what he does.”
Bates also plays soccer at Ware. He played
that well before he fell in love with kicking a
football. But Strickland found out his first
season with the Gators that Bates considered himself a football player first and foremost.
A sophomore then, Bates hurt a hip early in
the season and Strickland figured he should
just stay sidelined and get ready for soccer
rather than trying to return to action too soon for football and risking further injury. Bates wasn’t having that.
“He told me he was a football guy,” the coach
Bates has worked hard to make himself a
college football prospect. He handles the
kicking and punting duties for Ware, but most colleges are looking at him as a punter.
He was named a Max Preps All-American as a punter last season and also voted all-region and all-state as a punter. Going into this season, he made the state’s Top 100 Players by Georgia High School Football Daily and was named Preseason All-State by Recruit Georgia. Bates was the punter for the All-912 Sports Preseason team as well.
Bates first took an interest in kicking as an 8-
year-old after kicking off a tee at a friends’
house. He asked his parents to buy him one of his own so he could kick his football at home.
“I had one of those orange tees and kicked in
the front yard all the time,” he said. “If I got in
trouble, my parents would take it away for a
few days. I kicked every day.”
He vividly remembers his first field goal.
“I kicked it through my dad’s hands. It was the greatest thing in the world,” he said.
Some of his earliest instruction came from
Jimmy McClelland who used to work with him on Sunday afternoons after church. Jimmy Mac, as Bates called him, was a former Waycross High great who played for Wally Butts at Georgia.
While in high school, Bates has attended
numerous kicking camps offered by Kohl’s
Kicking. This past summer, he was invited to
visit several major schools including Georgia
Tech, Clemson, Georgia, Central Florida,
Southern Miss and Mississippi State.
He has already been asked to come to
Charleston Southern as a preferred walk-on.
“He’s an incredibly positive kid and will be
successful at whatever he does,” Strickland said.
The St. Louis Cardinals’ pitcher talks with 912 Sports‘ Kevin Price
Posted 2/22/2021 at 12:45 pm
By Kevin Price
Update: Camden County has officially hired former head football coach Jeff Herron as the new coach of the Wildcats football program.
Camden County schools released a news bulletin mid-morning Monday announcing Herron as the football program’s next head coach. The news of Herron’s pending hire was first reported by 912 Sports Connection early Monday morning.
Multiple sources close to the situation told 912 Sports over the weekend that Herron had accepted the Wildcats’ post on Friday. We talked with several of them about Herron’s return for our earlier story which can be read in its entirety below. Herron said he would discuss Camden football with 912 after the new coach had been named.
Camden principal Steve Loden said the school is honored to have Herron return.
“Coach Herron has an enduring legacy of building football programs that produce not only state champions but also student-athletes who are defined by their outstanding character and sportsmanship. We are excited for this next chapter in Camden County football and look forward to seeing our community turn out to support the Wildcats under the lights of Chris Gilman Stadium this fall.”
Posted 2/22/2021 at 08:00 am
By Kevin Price
The Camden County Wildcats plan to make an official announcement regarding a new head football coach this week which will end weeks of speculation regarding this important issue in a community where high school football is a big deal. And based on what 912 Sports Connection has learned in recent weeks, this upcoming announcement will most likely create a fervor
unlike any other inside the county lines and also places well beyond because of who the next coach will be for the Wildcats which compete in Class AAAAAAA in the Georgia High School Association.
Multiple sources have confirmed to 912 Sports that former Camden head coach Jeff Herron has accepted an offer to return as head coach of the Wildcats which have been looking for a new coach since Bob
Sphire resigned as the team’s head coach on Feb. 4.
“It’s going to be like a revival,” said Allen Rassi, former president of the Camden Wildcat Quarterback Club who remains an active supporter of the football program. “I’m excited for Camden County. I
believe our administration and our school system have handled this in a first-class manner.”
Herron coached the Wildcats for 13 seasons from 2000-2012 and won three state championships with the program during that time.
Herron declined comment with 912 Sports on Sunday night but said he would comment on the Camden coaching search when a new coach is named.
Sources close to the search have told 912 Sports that an official announcement from Camden County Schools regarding the hiring of
Herron will likely be made this week and could be forthcoming as early as today.
School officials would not confirm the hiring of Herron over the weekend, but Camden athletic director and former head football coach Welton Coffey did respond in a text message to 912 Sports that an announcement will be made soon. 912 Sports plans to be in Kingsland Monday to report on Herron’s
return as head coach. His hiring is still pending approval by the Camden County Board of Education.
We will provide updates on this story as it develops.
Please be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for any breaking news as it happens. We will continue to provide the latest information on 912Sports.Net as well.
We have been following the Camden coaching search since Sphire submitted his resignation earlier this month. 912 Sports was aware that Sphire could be leaving the program following Camden’s 2020 season even before the Wildcats lost in overtime at Parkview in the opening round of the state playoffs in late November. Sphire is returning to Kentucky, where he grew up and also previously coached, to become head coach at Highland High School in Fort Thomas.
He won a state championship with Lexington (Ky.) Catholic in 2005 prior to coming to Georgia and becoming head coach at North Gwinnett which he established as a state power before coming to Camden prior to the 2017 season. Sphire was 23-20 in his four years at Camden, taking the Wildcats to the Class AAAAAAA state playoffs the last two years. This past season, Camden finished with a 5-6 record.
Herron is currently an assistant coach at Tennessee Tech, where he once served as a graduate assistant coach at the outset of his career.
The Golden Eagles opened their spring season Sunday at home against Austin Peay after not playing this fall due to concerns about Covid-19. Tennessee Tech won 27-21.
912 Sports learned Friday night that Herron had agreed to return to Camden for a second stint as the Wildcats coach. He also requested Camden not make his acceptance public any earlier than Monday so
that he could wait until after Tennessee Tech’s game on Sunday to inform his position players of his decision in hopes of not creating a distraction for the team prior to the game. It is believed that Herron plans to finish out his commitment with the Eagles and remain with the team for the remainder of the spring
season. He could still get his offseason program installed with the Wildcats while doing so by having chosen assistants handling the day- to-day operations within the program until he can be in Camden again
on a daily basis. His son Major Herron is a middle-school coach in Camden while former assistants under Herron are still employed by Camden including offensive line coach Greg Slattery who also has been a head
Herron is the most successful coach in Camden football history as he led the Wildcats to three state championships while establishing the program as a state power in Georgia’s largest classification and making it one of the elite prep football programs in the nation. The Wildcats were 154-18 in 13 seasons under Herron and made the playoffs every season during his previous tenure. The Wildcats also played in several nationally televised games during his time with the program.
Herron’s overall record as a head coach is 312-54. He has never had a losing season in 29 years as a head coach.
“He cultivates a culture of belief,” Rassi said. “Look at where he’s been - Oconee County, Camden County, Prince Avenue Christian, Grayson and T.L. Hanna, and now coming back to Camden. Everybody has to buy in on it, and you want to be a part of it. No matter what your role is, even if you’re just sitting in the stands ringing that cowbell, you want to be a part of it.”
Herron is currently tied for the best overall winning percentage all-time among head coaches in Georgia with the legendary Larry Campbell who was the longtime coach at Lincoln County and has the most wins
all-time by any coach in Georgia with 477 career victories during a head-coaching career with the Red Devils that spanned four decades.
Both Herron and Campbell own an .847 winning percentage as a head coach in the state. Herron has 287 victories as a head coach in Georgia which puts him in the top-15 for most wins all-time in state history.
Herron has won five state titles and is the only coach in the history of Georgia high school football to win state championships as a head coach with three different schools. He also won state championships
at Oconee County and Grayson in addition to the three he won at Camden. During his first stint with the Wildcats, Herron led them to 12 consecutive region championships. Camden once won 28 straight games and also won a Georgia-record 58 consecutive games in the regular season. The USA Today ranked the Wildcats in its Super 25 poll in six of Herron’s final eight seasons with the team. Camden was named Georgia’s team of the decade for 2000-2010 for its success on the field.
“The biggest thing I can say about Coach Herron coming back is that he knows what to expect from us and we know what to expect from him,” said Artie Jones Jr., who is on the board of directors for the Camden quarterback club. “We know him, and he knows us, and he
can hit the ground running.
“By far, he’s the most successful coach in Camden County football history. I know I like his coaching style. He brings out the best in all of his athletes. He doesn’t hold them back. He doesn’t care whether the
score is 0-0 or 50-0, he wants you to play your hardest and do your best.”
Camden won its first state championship in 2003, beating the Valdosta Wildcats 21-7 in the final game at storied Cleveland Field before it was
renovated and then named Bazemore-Hyder Stadium at Cleveland Field to carry the names of Valdosta’s most-known head coaches in their illustrious history.
Camden won back-to-back state crowns under Herron in 2008 and 2009. The Wildcats defeated Peachtree Ridge in the 2008 title game and prowled past Northside-Warner Robins in the 2009 state final.
Herron became Camden’s head coach the first time following a state-championship season at Oconee County in 1999 which was his third
season with the Warriors who went 33-6 in his time with the program. Oconee, which fell to Pierce County in this year’s Class AAA state final, had only won eight games in the previous four seasons
combined prior to Herron’s arrival.
Herron left Camden following the 2012 season and coached at Prince Avenue Christian in Bogart for three seasons, going to the quarterfinals and semifinals in those three years while compiling a 31-
6 record in his three years with the school.
He coached at Grayson in 2016 and led the Rams to a 14-1 record and a state championship in his only season with the Gwinnett power which won this year’s state championship in Class AAAAAAA under
Adam Carter. Carter hails from Herron’s coaching tree along with Franklin Stephens who has won several state titles as a head coach. Stephens coached several seasons at Ware County and is now head
coach at McEachern in Cobb County.
Herron left Georgia following his only season at Grayson to coach at T.L. Hanna in Anderson, S.C. He led Hanna to records of 11-1 and 14-1 in the 2017 and 2018 seasons with his 2018 team playing for a state championship. His two Hanna teams won region championships
and the 2018 team also won the Upstate championship before losing in the state final.
Jones said there might be critics out there who don’t think Herron can rekindle the magic again at Camden, but he believes the Wildcats are
making a smart choice in turning to Herron again as they look to again contend for state championships.
“In this world, you’re not gonna get 100 percent agreement on anything,” Jones said. “We could bring in the coach who just won the Super Bowl, and there would be critics. “Football is big business, and our program has been the heart of Camden County. It brought us together as a community when he was
here. We had 4,500 or 5,000 people following our team when we went on the road, and the other team liked to see us coming because we generated a lot of revenue for them.
“Camden has been losing a lot lately. When you only have 400 or 500 people following the team, that is pretty bad. I want to see our stands
full again, and the only way we are gonna be full again is to start winning. We want a winner and we can win. We have the kids here to do it. We are gonna have to build it up again, get that spirit going again.”
Of course, Herron is the one who created that buzz around the Wildcats for all those years.
He actually retired from coaching after his second season at Hanna and sat out the 2019 season before joining the staff at Tennessee
Tech in early 2020 prior to the postponement of the fall season due to concerns related to the Covid19 pandemic.
Carter, who led Grayson to that aforementioned state crown this past season, believes Herron will be successful again in Camden.
“He will make an immediate impact on those guys,” Carter said. “It won’t take long. He’ll be in the dogfight in Region 1 this year, they’ll be in the mix. He’s the best there is at what he does.” Carter said an older Herron is as good as the Herron that arrived at
Camden back at the turn of the century.
“He’s got a lot left in the tank. He’s not going into it washed up I promise you.” Carter said. “They’ll be ready. You can take that to the bank.”
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