Bess, Miles named Butler County Coach, Player of the Year

Published 9:39 am Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Georgiana’s football program entered 2022 coming off a winless 2021 campaign to start the Berry Bess coaching era, but the turnaround came quicker than anticipated.

Following a season where the Panthers finished 7-4 and earned a playoff spot in Class 1A, Bess finds himself sharing a spotlight with an up-and-coming sophomore superstar, Kaveon Miles, as Bess earned Coach of the Year honors in Butler County, while Miles picked up Player of the Year accolades.

“It’s a huge honor to myself, but it’s a team effort,” Bess said of the honor. “I didn’t go out there, make any tackle, throw any touchdowns, or anything like that. My kids and my coaching staff rallied around me and the things I was trying to accomplish, not necessarily trying to win Coach of the Year or anything like that, but we had goals throughout the season as far as what we wanted to get in and what we wanted to do from week-to-week.”

Bess said he can relate to the other coaches in the county who weren’t able to reach the playoffs and understands the struggles that come with it.
“We were in the same boat last year,” he said. “We went 0-10 last year, so myself, the coaching staff, and the kids, we all felt like we had something to prove because we were better than the showing we put on last year. Being able to win seven games was huge for us this year, and hopefully, it adds confidence for the future.”

The Panthers started the season 6-0, but Bess said the moment where he felt like his team had a chance to put together a special season came during a big moment of adversity for his group.

“We were down 14-0 at Kinston,” Bess said. “Kinston jumped on us 14-0 real early in that game, and I told the coaching staff on the headset we’d find out what type of team we had here, (whether) we lay down and get blown out or if we fight back – not even necessarily if we won.”

His team returned a kickoff and sparked a 30-6 run of points for the Panthers as they took control of the situation.

“That showed a lot of grit from our guys and just made it feel like we weren’t the same group of kids that we were,” Bess said. “We weren’t going to get hit in the mouth, just lay down, and take it. At halftime, we didn’t go in screaming, hollering, or doing this or that. We made adjustments coaching, and our kids locked in and played a much better second half.”

Georgiana faced a three-game stretch featuring tough losses to Brantley, Elba, and Red Level, but the Panthers secured their playoff berth by beating Pleasant Home to close out the regular season.

“We knew when the schedule was made, that was going to be a tough stretch with those two (Brantley and Elba) because they’re predominantly good football programs year-in and year-out,” Bess said. “That didn’t change this year. They were still really good football programs. I didn’t realize it because I don’t keep up with rankings or anything, but they were (No.) 1 and 2 for pretty much the whole year in 1A.”

Though Georgiana fell to eventual 1A champion Leroy, 47-12, in the first round of the playoffs, Bess said getting the postseason experience proved to be valuable for his young squad.

“I’m not going to say I was happy to be there because that’s what we worked for, but I will say making the playoffs and getting in was something we needed for our school, our community, our coaching staff – everybody. We didn’t just want to play 10 games and be done …

“For me, I looked at it as, if we don’t win state, then as many weeks as we play in the playoffs, it just gives us another week of practice. The youth of our program, it gives us another week of practice, another week to get better, another opportunity to make in-game adjustments, and have situational football. You can practice for a lot of stuff, but until it happens at the speed of the game, kids don’t really understand it. Getting the extra game under our belt was huge for me.”

Bess said the team embraces the leadership of Miles, who finished the season at wide receiver with 38 catches for 764 yards and nine touchdowns,

“The kids love his energy,” Bess said. “He’s infectious. I make sure I talk to him all the time about doing the right thing and being a good example for the rest of the guys because they feed off him.”

Miles showed modesty when asked how it felt to be named Player of the Year for the county.

“It just feels normal to me,” he said. “I’m humble, though.”

The Trifecta Tri-County Team Selection Committee chose the following 10 players as its best in Butler County for the 2022 high school football season:

1. WR: Kaveon Miles, Georgiana
2. RB: Bo Daniels, McKenzie
3. K: Alan Alvarez, Fort Dale Academy
4. TE: Austin Beck, Greenville
5. RB: Cam Miles, Georgiana
6. QB: Jacobie Morgan, Georgiana
7. OL: Jon Nolan Lawrence, Fort Dale Academy
8. DL: Jaden Stallworth, Georgiana
9. LB: Brody Stringer, Fort Dale Academy
10. ATH: Jayden McMillian, McKenzie