INTO THE SUNSET: Bulldogs send Seagraves out on top

May 9—Georgia High School Association bylaw 2.51 on "Qualifications to Coach" states, in part: "An athletic coach must be a professional teacher ... or hold a four-year degree while also employed in a teaching or administrative position."

That rule strikes community coach Bobby Jaworski from officially holding the title as GMC Prep head boys soccer head coach, although he's been driving the ship for over a decade now — running practices, making personnel decisions, and serving as the program's chief strategist.

But for the Bulldog soccer program to operate by the letter of the law, a school faculty member must own the moniker of head coach and be there to supervise any community coaches on the staff.

For the past four years, that role has belonged to a man who has worn many hats over his three-decade tenure at GMC Prep. In addition to having taught thousands of pupils inside his classroom, Scott Seagraves before 2021 had coached football, baseball, softball and cross country at the middle and high school levels. Sitting on the bench inside Mercer's Five Star Stadium after the Bulldogs' championship win over Atkinson County Tuesday, he said it was around year 20 that he first resigned himself to the fact he wasn't going to get to coach the school he loved to a state title.

Then the boys soccer program came calling in the 2020-21 academic year. A soccer program that had won its first state championship only two years prior and was robbed of a possible second by COVID-19 in 2020. Despite his lack of knowledge of the game, Seagraves saw it as another avenue to mold young minds with retirement on the horizon.

"I didn't know the first thing about soccer, but I didn't dislike it either," Seagraves said on why he accepted the job. "What I loved were the boys. I knew them and wanted what was best for them. I just felt like they needed somebody that could be an encourager and someone that loved on them when they needed that or get in their ear when they needed somebody to get in their ear. Somebody they trusted. I think they trusted me. They trust Bobby and the process, but I think they trust me to have their best interest at heart."

A very talented GMC team won the state championship in Seagraves' first season at the helm in '21, avenging two regular season losses to then-rival ACE Charter of Macon. The Bulldogs were a Final Four team in 2022 and state runner-up in '23.

Then came the '24 campaign, one that was to be Seagraves' last with his retirement set for the end of the school year. With an emotional end in sight, his dedication to the boys' soccer team remained consistent. Sometimes that was exhibited by simply showing up to practices and running the clock for drills, other times it was during games where he would go to bat for his players and let officials know he was unhappy with a call.

"It's been really cool to see his transformation as an American football guru and coach to all of a sudden loving real football," said Jaworski, taking a jab at fans of the oblong brown football everywhere. "He knows sport and he knows how to compete. He can read the players. He can read the moment. He always dials in and knows what to say, but he doesn't try to take the limelight. The moment he needs to say something, he delivers it and it's an emotional charge to everyone."

One of those moments came in the lead-up to the 2024 state playoffs. The Bulldogs played only one match over the course of almost a month due to spring break and earning a first round bye. It was the perfect storm that could have sent the team into the postseason flat.

The Bulldogs became the storm instead thanks in part to inspiration from Seagraves. One day while addressing the team, he read a quote from American essayist Henry Louis Mencken, "Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats."

No, the longtime educator wasn't advocating for his players to bring knives out onto the soccer pitch. He recognized that four games sat between them and the ultimate prize, one that eluded the team by a single goal last season. He wanted the players to cut loose, find another gear and leave it all out on the field.

"Scott is an amazing leader of young men and an inspirational guy," Jaworski said. "He felt like we needed something a little deeper to fight for and give us an edge. It was timed perfectly. When he said it, it was almost like a chill went through the entire team."

Suddenly a black pirate flag started flying behind the Bulldog bench during games as a reminder of that message. Hitting the high seas of the playoffs under a new banner, the team dominated the first two rounds with wins of 10-0 and 10-2. Then came a more credible test in the semis at Christian Heritage, the team that had defeated the 'Dogs for last year's championship. The GMC boys were up to that challenge as well, winning 4-2 with a barrage of goals that hit the host Lions like cannon fire in less than 12 minutes' time.

All that was left between the Bulldogs and their beloved treasure was Tuesday's championship against Atkinson County in Macon. It turned out to be less of a contest and more of a coronation as GMC was up 3-0 by halftime. Not long after the clock hit all zeroes and the score went final, chants of "We love Seagraves" rang out from the Bulldog student section.

"It's a dream," Seagraves said from the Five Star Stadium bench. "Four years ago I took this job and thought it would be fun. I never thought I'd win a state championship. I feel like I don't deserve it, but I'm glad it happened.

"I think this team got it done first of all because they were diligent. They did not want to be denied. Last week at Christian Heritage when Owen McCabe took that beautiful pass from Brian (Sherwood), if you could've seen his face, you knew he was going to score. I think that was descriptive of this team."

The two-time state champion was asked if he could retain only one lasting image from Tuesday night's victory, what it would be. To what will likely be no one's surprise, it had nothing to do with him.

"The last horn, and the sheer joy in these kids' eyes," he said. "The sheer joy from those people over there (pointing toward the bleachers) — their mamas, daddies, and classmates."

With another incredible memory made, it's now the retirement life for Seagraves and his wife/camping buddy/fellow GMC retiree Karen. Off they go sailing into the sunset, black flag and all.