WOODSTOCK — Cedarwood Tavern will not be found on any Google listings for a dining establishment in Cherokee County, but multiple links can be found to a group of men who in a few short years have become the “Who’s Who” when it comes to high school football in the area.
Three years ago, with the sole intention to give better exposure to high school football in Cherokee County, Von Brown and Micky Eubanks began the project that would become known as Cedarwood Tavern. Out of the basement of Brown’s home — bearing the same name — they spawned the idea to broadcast pregame and postgame shows for local high school football games.
Each Friday night during the season, fans can see Brown and Eubanks set up for an on-site pregame show and follow them to a postgame show at one of several local establishments around Cherokee County. Using the Periscope app to broadcast over Twitter, Brown and Eubanks interview coaches, players and fans while also breaking down the matchups on the field.
Now entering their fourth season, Brown and Eubanks say the relationships built with the football community make all their efforts worth the time.
“For us, getting to know the coaches and the players in a way we otherwise wouldn’t is what we enjoy the most,” Brown said. “Every year, you get to know a new set of kids and then they move on and you get to follow their college careers.”
This season, local radio station WLJA 101.1 FM will simulcast the Cedarwood Tavern shows at 6:30 p.m., and again at the completion of the games. The ease at which the pair banter back and forth is a chemistry that has been a work in progress, according to Eubanks.
“I’ll never forget, after we did our first show, we thought we recorded for about an hour,” he said. “It was six minutes.”
Eubanks said the team, which includes a behind-the-scenes crew of Keith Foley and Jeff Wells, has improved with every recording. The project may never have gotten off the ground, however, had it not been for the warm reception from local coaches.
“Man, the first year was a struggle,” Brown said. “We already knew a couple of guys like coach (Brent) Budde at Woodstock, Jeremy Adams — the athletic director at Cherokee — and (Cherokee girls basketball coach) Matt Cates. Thank goodness when we started sending emails we had people like Jeremy and Matt to vouch for us.”
Even with those connections, the pair said when they started showing up at Friday night football games, they were not sure how they would be received. According to Eubanks, the show itself turned out differently that he initially expected.
“We didn’t know if the ADs and coaches wanted us there that first season, so we weren’t on-site as much,” Eubanks said. “I guess we’re the typical armchair quarterbacks. We thought we were gonna be on the air and have to be the bad guys questioning all the coaching decisions. But, once we started meeting the coaches, we realized how hard they all work and how a lot of the time the circumstances are out of their control.”
In three seasons, the crew has built a following and gained recognition to the point where they are now welcomed as soon as arrive. Wednesday night at Marlow’s Tavern on in Woodstock, the Cedarwood Tavern team held its second Kickoff Show. In the same fashion that they broadcast the Friday night productions, Brown and Eubanks previewed the upcoming football season complete with interviews from players and coaches from five of the six Cherokee County high schools.
For the players involved, seeing the crew set up on the field before a game gives the atmosphere another level of excitement.
“It makes it more exciting, for sure,” Sequoyah senior offensive lineman Connor Johnson said. “Being interviewed by these guys is kind of an accolade you get to put up there for yourself.”
Cedarwood Tavern is not strictly business. The team has organized several philanthropic operations over the past few years, including a school supply drive and winter coat drive, and they have a goal to organize a playground equipment drive later this season.
With everything Cedarwood Tavern has done, they have some had fun with it, too. The pregame broadcasts include segments where they will test food from each school’s concession stand, and another segment where Eubanks will attempt to catch a punt from one of the team’s kickers.
Brown and Eubanks agreed that while the show is serious when it comes to football, they try not to view themselves in the same light.
“We don’t want it to get too big and stuffy,” Eubanks said. “We want to keep having fun. We love it, we really do. It’s easy to pour into it when you enjoy it as much as we do.”
Josh Shaw, who is entering his eighth season as the football coach at Cherokee, the illumination of high school football offered by Cedarwood Tavern is something Cherokee County has never seen.
“I think it’s awesome,” Shaw said. “When they got started, I knew their heart was in the right place, and there really wasn’t anything like it. They’re really in-depth with all the players and teams, and they also do a great job of being unbiased with regards to the six high schools. The first thing I do when I get home on a Friday night, before I even watch any game film, is listen to their broadcast.
“You know, Cherokee County has always kind of been the red-headed stepchild to Cobb County when it comes to football. Their platform has allowed Cherokee County football to grow, and they’ve actually become really good friends. I think they do a phenomenal job.”