Changing a mindset is never easy and Cass Coach Steve Gates found a tough mindset to change when he took over the program two years ago. The Colonels hadn’t reached the playoffs since 2006. 

“There have been some frustrating days and a lot of ups and downs and a lot of excuses. It’s been a tough but rewarding two and a half years. Coming in, the players were used to 1-9 and 0-10 and got excited if they won three games,” Gates said. “We had to overcome a lot and get out of this mediocrity mindset. I’m sure I’ve made some people mad, but like I told my principal, no one’s expectations for this program are going to exceed my own expectations.” 

The Colonels recorded a 6-4 season in year one under Gates and reached the playoffs while going 5-6 in year two. So, while there is still plenty of work to be done, the mindset of just being middling seems to be evaporating for the Colonels. 

“That’s the fun thing about this, is that we haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of what we can do here,” Gates said. “We’re building a program where kids want to come and play instead of them leaving to go play at other area schools.” 

And while records are important, the results on the field are too. Heading into a promising season with lots of talent on the team, Gates isn’t sure the overall record will improve much given some of the competition the Colonels face. 

“I’m ok going 6-4 against the level of teams we’re going to be facing this year. What I can’t stand is playing an easier non-region schedule, going 9-1 and then losing in the first round of the payoffs,” Gates said. “Our non-region schedule is going to be brutal, but I schedule these teams to make us tougher and get the team ready to face the region schedule and ready to face tough opponents in the playoffs.” 

Cass plays Kennesaw Mountain, Drew, and ML King along with Adairsville and Rockmart before starting the region schedule this season. 

Reaching the postseason last year has given Cass renewed hope, as have several standout players who have a chance to do some special things for the Colonels this fall. 

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One such player Gates calls out is starting quarterback and safety Devin Henderson, who has started 23 consecutive games for the Colonels. 

“He is a guy who I want to have the football in his hands. He’s been a starter for us since he was a freshman and already has an offer to play safety from FAU,” Gates said. 

Sacovie White, who has picked up an offer from Georgia, has plenty of speed at wide receiver and Gates says he could end up being one of the fastest players he’s ever coached. 

Todd Gaddy, who plays safety, is one of only 13 seniors on the Colonels’ squad, and Gates sings his praises as a great player with a high football IQ. 

Gates also touts several of his linemen including center Parker Dun a two-year starter who was part of Cass’ state championship wrestling squad. “He’s a great kid and there is no one out there who is going to out-hustle or outwork him,” Gates said. 

Cass still has to face Cartersville and Calhoun in the region, but the Colonels have more confidence and experience reaching the playoffs. 

“When I came to Cass I wanted to help build something special. I passed on some chances to go to other schools where winning 10 or 11 games would have just been maintaining the programs,” Gates said. “I wanted to come in and make a difference at a program. I think we’re doing that, and I’ve been lucky to have a great coaching staff to help me.” 

A renewed sense of worth, a talented group of players growing with a solid group of coaches, and renewed vigor at a program that hasn’t seen tons of recent football success spell big things in the work for a program that has often taken a backseat in Bartow County. With Gates at the helm that mindset is most definitely changing. 

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An injury while running at Auburn ended Jim Alred’s long-shot hopes of possibly competing in the Olympics, so he turned to writing and has been crafting award-winning stories across multiple mediums ever since. Along the way he’s been chased by a grizzly bear, worked as Goofy at Walt Disney World, been nominated for two Emmys, interviewed celebrities like Tiger Woods, Bo Jackson, Bill Clinton, coaches his daughters in cross country and soccer and can often be found running with his wife, Tara, around Rome.