Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Mountain View head football coach Doug Giacone leads practice besides Isiah Peek (40) in Lawrenceville on Wednesday.
Mountain View's Doug Giacone will admit he's been a little awestruck at times this year.
You can't blame him, though.
When you're a first-year head coach playing in one of the best areas for high school football in the Southeast, it's a little hard not to get caught up in the moment.
"I kind of pinched myself when you're playing Norcross and North Gwinnett and our scrimmage against South when you're the one leading them out on the field," Giacone said.
Shiloh's Troy Hobbs can relate.
Both men are in their first season as head football coaches. The longtime coaches are learning to make the transition from assistant to head man.
"I just dealt with my position and now I have to oversee it all," Hobbs said.
The duo have the daunting task of trying to build a program in highly competitive Gwinnett County, which has produced six state champions in the highest classification since 2000 and five runner-ups.
"The No. 1 difference is the balance you strike between the actual football and overseeing the logistics of the program," Giacone said. "In the past you're worrying about executing the defense and stopping the opponent and now you're talking about the year-end banquet. Things like that, not being able to focus on the day-to-day operations of football. That's the biggest challenge to me."
Being a head coach is more than just giving a pre-game pep talk, drawing up plays or talking to reporters. It means overseeing more than 100 players and coaches, checking on grades, going to booster club meetings, developing a youth league, having a presence in the community and being a part of school functions.
"The biggest difference is the overall program," Hobbs said. "As an assistant you would have certain things and your position players. As the head coach, it's your program. It's your fingerprint on the program."
Giacone and Hobbs have adjusted to balancing the X's and O's and the off the field stuff thanks to so many years as assistants.
Giacone was was an assistant for 12 years, including three years at Grayson in the mid-2000s when the program was becoming a state power.
"I was able to see Mickey (Conn) take Grayson and get them past the corner," Giacone said. "I got to see program struggle to compete to making the turn."
Hobbs tutored under Bob Sphire at North and in Kentucky for 16 years.
"I had a good mentor in Bob," Hobbs said. "He gave us responsibilities, so if we ever got the opportunity we knew what to do."
Giacone and Hobbs face similar struggles with their programs. Mountain View is in just its fourth year of existence, so Giacone is still trying to build depth on the team and develop a sense of community.
It's the same thing at Shiloh where Hobbs is the third head coach in as many years.
To make things tougher, Hobbs is in the same region that has produced the last two state champions in the highest classification. Giacone is in a region that has put a team in the state finals three of the last six years.
"I knew the challenges," Giacone said. "I've seen them since Day 1. There's some challenges starting a program in Gwinnett County."
Giacone installed a new offense over the summer and the Bears are still adapting to the system. Mountain View has just a pair of wins this season, but has a chance to double that in the final three weeks of the season.
"I'm not trying to dwell on uncertainties," Giacone said. "If you do, it will eat you up."
Hobbs took the Shiloh job in May and had just a few months to get the team ready. He installed a new offense and a new defense. The Generals began the year 3-0 for the first time since 1991. They have a chance to snap an eight-year losing streak if they can win the last two games and go 5-5.
"We want to finish strong. We want to win the next few ball games. We're going to continue to play hard. We may not win, but we'll play with effort," Hobbs said. "We don't want to be known for just football, but also have a presence in the classroom and the community. We want to compete in this region. We're taking baby steps to get to our goal."
One thing that has made the transition easier from assistant to head coach has been the support from opposing head coaches. The group of 17 Gwinnett head coaches in Class AAAAAA is a special fraternity that helps one another.
"The head coaches in this region and this county are awesome," Giacone said. "They all have offered advice. People in Gwinnett don't know how lucky they are to have men like them running these programs. I feel blessed to part of it. It's really an honor."
Now Giacone and Hobbs have become a part of that special group, a position they never imagined a decade ago.
"You always think about what would be the next challenge," Hobbs said. "For a long time, I thought I'd be an assistant forever. That's not a bad thing, I know guys that have been assistants for 20 years, but I had this opportunity."