Football programs have spent the previous months debating how to adjust to changes within the sports landscape. Deerfield-Windsor School’s football program, in particular, faces an additional change — it will now compete at a new and higher level.
The 2020 season will be the first time Deerfield-Windsor will play in the GHSA after participating in the GISA for 55 years. Deerfield-Windsor was a former top team in the GISA, and posted a winning record 17 of the last 18 seasons and won GISA state titles in 2002, 2008, 2010 and 2012.
It will now join GHSA as a Class A Private school in Region 1, which includes fellow private schools like First Presbyterian, Mount de Sales Academy, Stratford Academy and Tattnall Square Academy. At the state level, Class A Private features powers like Eagle’s Landing Christian, Athens Academy, George Walton Academy, Prince Avenue Christian and Wesleyan.
Head coach Jake McCrae said the move won’t change how he approaches his first season at Deerfield-Windsor, or how he prepares his team.
“You teach your team to go 1-0 every week,” McCrae said. “We’re working regardless of who we have to play to be the best Deerfield-Windsor we can be.”
Deerfield-Windsor moving from GISA to GHSA may change outside perspective revolving around the program, and could give it more credibility. McCrae explained that entering a competitive division hasn’t influenced his own expectations and mindset.
“It does bring more stability to the state view in terms of how the program will be looked at,” said McCrae. “But, it doesn’t matter to kids winning individual games. You’re playing who you’re playing, and you have to work hard to win the game.”
McCrae brings both experience and results to Deerfield-Windsor. He replaces Allen Lowe, the Deerfield-Windsor head coach from 1987-94 and from 2001-2019, who still remains the athletic director.
Before moving to Albany, McCrae previously spent two years as offensive coordinator at Providence Christian School in Jacksonville, Fla. McCrae wrapped up his career at Providence with an 8-2 record and a conference championship. He also spent a season at the University of Florida under head coach Jim McElwain as the Director of External Relations.
His goals at Deerfield-Windsor include setting the program’s trajectory on a continual positive slope while pushing his players to become 10% better every time they play. Warning his players about the competitive programs they will face doesn’t concern him.
“There’s a strong foundation here,” said McCrae. “There’s no lack of understanding of what it means to try and hang a banner in the gym.”
Despite impacts from COVID-19, McCrae has been able to connect with his new team. GHSA released guidelines that groups of 50 can practice together, but can’t play 7-on-7 or engage fully. His players still use this as an opportunity to work with a ball, and McCrae can begin instilling his philosophies.
McCrae said that while the move from GISA to GHSA has not intimidated his players, he can feel the buzz that it has created.
“They know that there’s a little something different coming,” said McCrae. “They’re excited about the opportunity and the challenge. They understand what comes with it, and they’re trying to rise.”