Since moving up to Class AAAAAA for the 2012 and 2013 seasons, the Lions have only played Henry County and Dutchtown, and have not played a county team in region competition since 2009. But Luella is now a member of Region 4-AAAAA and will meet five county teams.
“We’re really excited, especially for the kids, to be able to play in county,” Luella coach Nic Vasilchek said. “When we were playing in 6A we [were] kind of on our own island, playing a lot of teams nobody was familiar with around here so [there] wasn’t always a lot of interest.”
The Lions will visit Stockbridge, Dutchtown and Woodland, and host Union Grove and Ola.
“It’s exciting to play other Henry schools,” Vasilchek said. “Have those rivalries going and the kids can have bragging rights against guys they know. I’m really excited for the kids getting to be a part of this really good football county.”
This also means Vasilchek will be across the field from successful counterparts such as Stockbridge’s Kevin Whitley and Union Grove’s Paul Burgdorf, who started the program at Luella.
“The level of play has gone up in Henry County,” Vasilchek said. “It went from a place where people used to schedule Henry schools to now people want to stay away from us so coaching wise I think it adds pressure because you want to be one of the better teams in the county. It definitely adds some stress but it adds some excitement as well.”
One positive the Lions can take from their time in Class AAAAAA is their playoff appearance last season which ended a four-year postseason drought.
“We worked for four years to get to that point,” Vasilchek said. “It has been a really huge confidence booster for them. It hasn’t made the coaches’ jobs easier but it’s made it easier for the players to believe in what we are doing. We’re using it as a real shot in the arm and a boost of energy for everybody to go in this year and do even more.”