2023 High School Football Preview

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The anticipation of fall approaching brings with it the excitement of football. There is nothing quite like Friday night lights, where two teams who have been preparing for months battle it out on the field. Gwinnett County is known for being home to some of the best athletic programs and high school athletes in the country. Area high school coaches and two leaders from each team shared their outlook for the season and gave us a glimpse into who they are, their love for the sport, and advice for younger athletes.

 

Collins Hill Eagles

Coach Drew Swick

What should fans expect this upcoming season?
You can expect a team that has grown from last season. A senior-led team that is a year older and understands the expectations, as well as the culture we have set together. A team that took their licks and lost close games in the end but will fight until the last whistle blows every single game. We don’t want to repeat what we did last season, but going through it has allowed our boys to be locked in all spring/summer and has gotten us ready to have an exciting 2023 season. The bad taste still lingers, and we all want to make it right and get back to where we have been the past few years.

What are you most excited about going into this season?
I’m most excited about seeing the growth our boys have made and applying it on the field versus someone else other than ourselves. It has been a great summer and we are ready to hit someone other than each other! I’m excited to watch our offense prosper under Coach Mitchell and staff, and to see our athletes do what they do best each game this season. But the most important thing we want to see from our boys is to HAVE FUN!

What are your strengths as a team this season?
Senior leadership has taken a big step this season and has allowed our growth to accelerate. They hold everyone accountable and know what’s at stake going into this season. We all know what we are capable of, but we must execute in all three phases of the game to ensure our team’s success.

What are your goals for the season?
Our goal for this season is to be GREAT at everything we do, on and off the football field. To apply what we have learned in spring and summer and FINISH each game we play. We focus on our opponent one week at a time and preach that every game is the most important.

How would you describe your coaching style or philosophy?
My coaching style is something I’ve worked on through the years and I’ve tried to mimic from the coaches I have coached under in my career. I would describe myself as a players’ coach and want the same from my coaching staff. We have GREAT men who build relationships with every player no matter who it is, but we will always coach each kid hard. Accountability is key and helps build leaders among our team and is something we will always do throughout my career.

Are you superstitious or have any game day rituals?
I played baseball back in the day, so yes, I have a few! I will wear the same clothes each game and if we have a bad loss I may change for the next opponent. But I have certain things I do each morning to get ready for the day, as well as a few traditions I do each Friday to get mentally prepared.

When did you discover you wanted to be a football coach?
Once I graduated college and football was over for me, I knew football was something I still wanted to do in some capacity, but my wife and mother are the ones who helped me see the passion I had in both teaching and coaching!

What is your advice for aspiring football coaches?
Don’t be in a hurry to rise through the ranks. Work hard every day, be creative, and learn from the men you work under. Listen to the coaches and coach your butt off on every snap. Pour into each kid how your favorite coach did for you when you played. If you do this good things will happen and you will grow as a coach each year.

 

Chase Nash
Senior
Wide Receiver/Running Back
5’10”
175 lbs.

How did you get involved in football?
I got involved in football because I grew up watching my brothers play.

What’s your favorite memory from football?
My favorite football memory is winning the State Championship in 2021. it was a life-changing experience.

Do you have a game day ritual?
My routine is just music. It’s pretty basic but it gets the job done.

What are your plans after you graduate?
After I graduate I plan to play college football and explore the world.

Do you play more than one sport?
I also run track because it keeps me in shape and fast, which I need for football.

What professional athletes do you most admire?
A professional athlete I admire is Nathaniel “Tank” Dell of the Houston Texans because his size and speed remind me of myself.

What advice would you give to young aspiring athletes?
Always believe in yourself and always put your mental health first.

What or who motivates you to put in the effort necessary to compete at a high level?
My uncle and my parents motivate me the most

 

Courtez Hayes
Senior
Inside Linebacker
5’11”
185 lbs.

How did you get involved in football?
I got involved in football through my pops. He really loved the game and introduced it to me at a young age, causing me to love the game even more than he did.

What’s your favorite memory from football?
My favorite memories from football are honestly from little league. I loved playing with my brothers and all the fun stuff we used to do like pep rallies. It was always more than just a game to us even as kids.

Do you have a game day ritual?
My game day ritual is absolutely playing “Yung Bratz” by XXXTENTACION and watching anime. Ever since I was a kid these two things would always amp me up before a game. Why change it if it’s not broken, you know?

What are your plans after you graduate?
My plan after I graduate is to hopefully move on to playing football in college. God has a different plan for everyone, though, so if it’s not in store for me I’d love to still go and major in architecture.

Do you play more than one sport?
I play football and track. I run track for off-season conditioning for football, but I really fell in love with the sport. Now I run for real and love being able to lead in more than one sport.

What professional athletes do you most admire?
A professional athlete i admire is Marshawn Lynch. Even though he doesn’t play my position, his drive and motivation has always been inspiring to me. He has the skill and swagger that many kids would look up to on the field.

What advice would you give to young aspiring athletes?
Some advice I would give to young aspiring athletes is to always keep working. Do not stop. The last thing you want is the regret of wishing you did more. Another thing, just because you’re not seeing instant results doesn’t mean you aren’t acquiring any. Be the best version of yourself and not what others want you to be.

What or who motivates you to put in the effort necessary to compete at a high level?
My pops is my biggest motivator to compete at a high level. He pushes me every day to be the best I can on and off the field. I appreciate everything that he has taught me to get me to the point I’m at.


Peachtree Ridge Lions

Coach Matt Helmerich

What should fans expect this upcoming season?
I thought we made great strides throughout last year.  Now, with a true off-season under our belts with the new staff, I expect big things from this group! We have some really young, exciting players and our senior class is VERY good. Expect some fireworks!

What are you most excited about going into this season?
I’m excited for these kids. They have worked really hard in the weight room and done some really good things off the field.  They’re kids and by nature, they want to reap the benefits NOW.  They’ve been grinding since January, and I am excited to see them experience the payoff on Friday nights.

What are your strengths as a team this season?
Our strength is our team speed and length. We’ve got speed at every position. We’re not the biggest team around., but we’re long, rangy, and fast. Our kids have bought into the spring track season and we can run.  Might be the tallest team I’ve ever coached as well.

What are your goals for the season?
We’d like to win a state championship.  But we all agree we won’t give ourselves the best shot to do that unless we win our region. Obviously, we have some big games coming up at the start of the season. But all those games help us prepare to win a region championship down the road. We also want to win for our kids to give themselves a better shot at getting recruited. Many of our players want to play at the next level.  This staff is second to none when it comes to getting kids college offers.  Obviously winning and advancing through the playoffs allows our players to get more looks from college coaches.

How would you describe your coaching style or philosophy?
I’d have to write a book to describe that style! I have picked up a ton of things from my dad and some very good coaches over the last 22 years.  My staff and I value the following things: character development; empower each athlete to change and improve their best daily; team goals supersede individuality; equal time for each and every player in our program; and cultivate mental toughness If we can do these things on and off the field, our program will be successful at home, in the school building, and on Friday nights.

Are you superstitious or have any game day rituals?
My game-day ritual is to run around like a chicken with my head cut off, doing the 193 things we have to get done on a game day. Then hiding in my office prior to the game for about 20 minutes and listening to some good music. And I wouldn’t trade it for anything!

When did you discover you wanted to be a football coach?
I grew up watching my dad on Friday nights. I never really picked this profession. I just slowly discovered I didn’t want to do anything else, if that makes sense. Once I experienced a Friday night and seeing the joy and emotion on players’ faces, I knew I was right where God wanted me to be.

What is your advice for aspiring football coaches?
There are some really good and knowledgeable young coaches out there. But many want to go straight to a coordinator position or even a HC job. My advice is to trust the process and WORK. I remember working my tail off and thinking no one is watching. One year, I washed all the uniforms and hung them up for about 4-5 hours each Sunday night. Then one day at a staff meeting around week 9, the HC and others asked who was doing the laundry because they never assigned anyone to do it.  No one was watching, but the work got done.  A couple years later, I got my “big break” when I was doing some extra work on the weekend and thought no one was watching.  Someone WAS watching and I believe that helped me get to where am I today.

 

Josh Brown
Senior
Safety
6’1”
180 lbs.

How did you get involved in football?
Football has always been in my blood. My father and uncles got me involved at a young age.

What’s your favorite memory from football?
Winning the GFL championship back-to-back years as a 6- and 7-year-old.

Do you have a game day ritual?
I watch film every team meal to finalize what I plan on doing later that night in the game.

What are your plans after you graduate?
After I graduate, I plan to continue my academic and athletic career at a college that suits the needs and aspirations I have.

Do you play more than one sport?
I play baseball. Baseball has been a part of my life from a young age, too. I’ve always been able to switch back and forth between the two because the seasons don’t cross that much.

What professional athletes do you most admire?
A key player I like to follow is Minkah Fitzpatrick of the Pittsburgh Steelers. I like to watch his style and play and try to implement it in my game.

What advice would you give to young aspiring athletes?
Keep pushing. There’s a lot of things growing up that can pull you away from the sport you love. All you have to do is be firm on your dream.

Who or what motivates you to put in the effort necessary to compete at a high level?
My father and brother. They both played high-level football, so it’s only right for me to have that extra push and fight knowing where I came from.

 

Darius Wallace
Senior
Outside Linebacker/Defensive End
6’3”
219 lbs.

How did you get involved in football?
I started playing football when I was 7 years old. My mom put me in a sport because I was really hyper and I am an only child, so I picked football and ever since then I’ve loved the game!

Do you have a game day ritual?
My game day ritual is that during and after school I like to isolate myself and listen to music.

What are your plans after you graduate?
My plans after high school are obviously to see how far football takes me. But a degree in sports broadcasting or sports management and to try to find a career there is something I want to do after graduation.

Do you play more than one sport?
Yes I also play basketball and used to play baseball. I play more than one sport to help me stay in shape and stay active when football season ends. I have been playing basketball since I was 5 years old.

What professional athletes do you most admire?
A few professional athletes I admire are Isaiah Simmons, Micah Parsons, Chase Young, T.J. Watt, and LeBron James. I admire LeBron because he is a really good athlete and I believe the best at what he does. He is also a great man off the court. Micah Parsons, Chase Young, and T.J. Watt are inspiring to me because I can learn different moves and tips from them as they are some of the best in the league at the edge rusher position. Isaiah Simmons reminds me of myself a little bit; he can kind of do everything on the field and I love watching his highlights.

What advice would you give to young aspiring athletes?
Some advice I would give to young athletes would be to wait your turn and not everyone is going to have the same success at the same time. Also, if you keep working your work will pay off. Don’t let anyone tell you that it won’t or you can’t do something

What or who motivates you to put in the effort necessary to compete at a high level?
I would say my mom motivates me to push harder every day. She motivates me because she is a single mother who has been working really hard to keep us out of what we came from. She is a very determined, loving, caring, and hard-working person and does everything she can plus more to try to make sure that I am OK. So I definitely try to go hard to make it for her.


 

Buford High School

Coach Bryant Appling

What should fans expect this upcoming season?
I think they should expect a focused team. You know, it’s a long way from last time we got on the field as an official game. We played Nocross in spring and we’ve had camps, but the kids are ready to get back out there where it really means something. I always tell them that the first couple of games don’t really mean anything to your playoff status, but every time we take the field, we want to bring pride and give the community something to be proud of.

So our kids feel the pressure and they feel the heat as far as us getting back to what we used to do and how we used to do it. We play football that is physical and fast and in your face on both sides of the ball and on special teams. You will see a determined football team is really focused on what they need to do.

What are you most excited about going into this season?
The growth of these seniors and juniors right now. We had a bunch of sophomores and juniors playing last year. They’re a year older, so just to see what they look like as far as having a year against the top competition in the state on a week-in and  week-out basis, seeing them come back this next year, I think they’re going to be a lot better than they were. So I’m excited to see that development.

What are your strengths as a team this season?
I think they’re a close unit. They hang out a lot together. They’re with each other a lot, obviously because we’re practicing throughout the summer, but even on the weekend I see them hanging out, working out together, things like that. So I think we’ll be a close-knit uni. It’s good and bad, sometimes you get tired of each other but they’re not at that point yet. So we’ll try to keep it as fresh as we can and keep them happy. I hope they aren’t afraid to police each other. You know, if somebody’s having a bad day, somebody else can jump in and help them out. But they’re going to be a tight unit and focused on the same goal.

What are your goals for the season?
The goal every day around Buford, Georgia, is we just go 1-0. If you focus on the end result too early, something in the middle, you know, between here and then is going to trip you up. So we focus on doing one thing at a time and then doing it as best we can, and if it wasn’t as good as we could have, then we come back the next time and do it better. But, you know, everybody has similar goals every season. It may be cliche for me to sit here and say, man, but we, we really legit. Around our halls and our locker room, we talk about going 1-0 each day and bringing our best that day.

How would you describe your coaching style or philosophy?
I guess I would say full speed. Relentless. We try to put pressure on the other team. I try to put pressure on my kids. I hold them accountable. I even put pressure on my coaches and try to get them to have an edge every day and to every drill. They have to be tough. We have to be the toughest team on the field on any Friday night. If I coached any other way, I don’t think I would get that product back for my kids. So I would say my coaching style is full speed and relentless.

Are you superstitious or do you have any game day rituals?
I do — probably too many in the name. I’ve been superstitious. I played sports all my life and baseball was one of my main sports when I was young. So all the little things you pick up from there, like wearing the same shorts every game or walking over to the foul foul line —  stuff like that. Whenever we get to the stadium, I always want the stadium the same way. Then I go find a quiet spot in the locker room, whether we’re at home or on the road, I find a quiet spot with my headphones in and I review my play sheet, situations, and things like that. I always ride in the same seat when I’m on the bus. If I’m in a truck, I ride in the same truck in the same seat.

When did you discover you wanted to be a football coach?
My mom was a PE teacher and coach. Once she had me and my brother, she went to elementary school and she stopped coaching, but she always coached us in youth leagues and my dad coached me growing up. I always loved sports. I went to school, played at Lehigh University. I was a middle linebacker. I majored in business and went to the business world for about a year and I was like, I gotta do something athletically, you know what I mean? I started training a little bit and I went back to my old school, Lithonia High School, and I trained some kids and he’s like, we need another coaching. They said they needed a coach, and I thought about doing it, so I went out and tried it out for about a week and I was like, I feel like I need to be doing this for the rest of my life. So I kind of fell into it, you know, sideways and I didn’t want to lift anymore.

How many years have you been coaching now?
23 years

What is your advice for aspiring football coaches?
Don’t be afraid to do the dirty work. Nowadays you see the young 33-year-old head coach or the 32-year-old defense coordinator in college and everybody thinks that needs to be their story. I was just trying to be a sponge every day. I showed up and outworked everybody on the staff and those are the guys that really grow into what they want to be later on. Sometimes the guy jumps out at you early and doesn’t know anything, so he has to backtrack and it takes years to get back to where he wants to be. A lot of coaches come in nowadays thinking they’re the next best thing and they don’t want to do the small things that we had to do back in the day. Things like laundry, picking up trash, and just doing small things that everybody says, well that’s a G.A.’s job. Well, honestly, every high school coach is a G A. You do all the little things that a G.A. does in a college. We don’t have all those guys running around to help us out, so you have to do it. Don’t be afraid of doing the dirty work or coach in a different position. You might want to be a linebacker guy, but they need you at corners of safety, so learn that position. I’m a firm believer that if you’re a defensive coach, you’re a better coach if you’ve coached the other side of the ball at some point in your career because you see it from the other side. All the things that people don’t want to do be, be a master of those things and your career will be great.

Anything else that you want to share with our readers? There’s been a lot of discussion around Buford, especially this year with Quarterback Dylan Raiola coming in.
I mean, Dylan is a great kid and he’s fitting in really well. We’ve got a bunch of good players and good kids on the team and he fits that mold. Usually around Buford, Georgia, if you don’t want to work hard and you don’t want to be part of a family and part of a true group of people versus just being yourself, then you stick out and none of our kids at this point stick out. They’re all about each other and they’re all about grinding together to become the best — the best team, best quarterback, the best linebacker — whatever they can be.

 

Bryson Banks
Senior
Linebacker
5’9”
220 lbs.

How did you get involved in football?
It started at a young age. My dad just kind of threw me in there, then when I turned 9 it’s all I really wanted to take it serious, so it just carried on from then on.

What is your favorite memory from football?
Last year, I caught a big sixer in the first game of the season. The whole crowd went crazy.

Do you have a game day ritual?
Yes. I stretch in the morning and then the whole day I won’t really talk. I stay locked in the whole day and after school is over with, I just go sit in the corner by myself and just visualize what’s about to happen and what I gotta take care of.

Do you have plans after you graduate?
Go to college and play at James Madison University. I’m going to play and get an engineering degree. Their engineering program is one of the top in the country.

Do you play more than one sport?
I run track. I started my freshman year.  never really took track seriously until I got to my freshman year because I realized it helped in so many ways.

What professional athletes do you most admire?
I would say Lavonte David (linebacker) of the Buccaneers. Fred Warner, he played linebacker for the 49ers, and Nick Bolton for the Chiefs — he’s my height so I just visualized myself in any situation at how he played against people bigger than him.

What advice would you give to young aspiring athletes?
As you get older, you’re going to see some things that you don’t agree with dealing with recruiting. You just gotta keep your head up and keep grinding every day. You’re going to get yours, you just have to stay focused and not listen to the outside noise.

Who motivates you to put in the effort necessary to compete at a high level?
It would be my dad. He always pushes me. He played at West Georgia. He’s from a small town, Toccoa, Georgia. , I looked at him more than anybody because of how he carried himself outside of, you know, being a father. I go back and watch his tapes as well and just watch him play.

Do you have a favorite football movie or show?
“Hard Knocks”

 

Tyshun White
Senior
Safety
6’
185 lbs.

How did you get involved in football?
Growing up, all my brothers and I, we always played football together in the backyard and youth football and stuff like that. So definitely my family.

What is your favorite memory from football?
I want to say it would probably be my first touchdown. It was probably little league and I played quarterback growing up, so probably like quarterback sneak or a quarterback run.

Do you have a game day ritual?
I would say music.

Do you have a favorite song you listen to?
I would say Lil Baby’s “Freestyle.” That’s probably my favorite song.

What are your plans after you graduate?
After I graduate I plan to attend the University of North Carolina and play football there. Hopefully I’ll make it to the NFL

Do you play any other sport?
I ran track in high school. I played basketball. I played a little baseball growing up, but now I focus on football.

What professional athletes do you most admire?
I would say LeBron James because of all he does outside of his sport and what he does for the community of Akron, Ohio.

What advice would you give to young aspiring athletes?
Listen to everything — to all the people that are trying to teach you, listen to them. They are not trying to tell you anything wrong, but to give you advice, take the advice that you can use for the rest of your life outside of football.

Who motivates you to put in the effort necessary to compete at a high level.
My mom for sure. I want to make sure my mom never has to work again. She’s one of my biggest reasons why I play football and why I play so hard.

Is there anything else you’d like to add about this season?
This is a big season. It’s my senior season this year, so I definitely want to turn it into a leadership role and be a better leader going to college. I just want to enjoy the process and not take anything for granted this year. I want to take everything step by step and hopefully get a state championship at the end of the year.


North Gwinnett Bulldogs

Coach Eric Godfree

What should fans expect this upcoming season?
A very good Defensive Line and an explosive quarterback who will be fun to watch. We are young across the board and that will create some challenges early in the season, but we have great kids who work hard to be prepared and do well for our community.

What are you most excited about going into this season?
It’s a new community for me and I’m excited to add to this already great place. I’m hoping to create even more energy and love of North Gwinnett for our players, school, and community.

What are your strengths as a team this season?
Our strengths this season is our Defensive Line. It’s the best DL that I have ever had the opportunity to coach.

What are your goals for the season?
We have three goals: win every home game, win the region, and win the State Championship.  Our mission goes way beyond the goals of winning as we will add value to our players’ lives and see them grow into good citizens who learn how to handle toughness and adversity with great maturity.

How would you describe your coaching style or philosophy?
A calculated risk. The decisions we make on the field are to allow athletes to make plays within our system, but to also give them freedom to use their strengths to help our team win. To gain an advantage using calculated risk, it takes a lot of time in preparation from film, skill development, practice, etc.

Are you superstitious or have any game day rituals?
I am not superstitious, but I am very routine oriented as we will follow the same game day routine every Friday after school. I believe kids play with more confidence when they know their coach believes in them and trusts them.  So one of my rituals is to go through the locker room and during warmups and look at individual players in the eyes and give them a vision for themselves for this game and let them know I believe they can make it happen.

When did you discover you wanted to be a football coach?
I knew as a freshman in high school that I wanted to coach football and teach math. It was a combination of math being about the only subject I was really good at and I loved the game of football. Coach Robert Hill was my freshman math teacher and football coach. He was inspiring to me and his passion for football and math confirmed to me that I wanted to do the same. Also, my father coached me and my brothers all through rec ball, and I always enjoyed learning the entire game and trying to help him as I tried to be a coach on the field.

What is your advice for aspiring football coaches?
Do everything with passion and love, on the field and in the classroom. Try your best to not let parents’ ruin it for you. Teach the kids to work hard and be respectful and you will have done a great service for that child and their parents.

 

Cole Funderburk
Junior
Defensive End
6’4”
230 lbs.

How did you get involved in football?
I got involved in football as young as 5 years old playing flag football. My dad played football in college and professionally and it influenced me as a young kid.

What’s your favorite memory from football?
My favorite memory of football is my sophomore year when I was walking on the Mercedes Benz Stadium field in Corky Kell for the first time. It didn’t feel real and I realized I finally accomplished the goal I’ve always worked for.

Do you have a game day ritual?
A game day ritual for me is finding a quiet spot and time to sit and imagine what I expect to happen and what I want to happen in the game.

What are your plans after you graduate?
My plans for after I graduate are to go play football in college and pursue a degree in business.

Do you play more than one sport?
As for the sports I play, I only play one. This is because of the amount of time football requires. For me to be the greatest player I can be, I must put all my time and effort into football.

What professional athletes do you most admire?
The athletes that I admire most are Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan. This is because their standard of greatness is something I would want to emulate. They demand nothing but the best from themselves.

What advice would you give to young aspiring athletes?
Some advice I’d give to young athletes is to never take a moment for granted — time is free but it’s priceless and you can’t get it back, so enjoy any moment in sports you have. I’d do anything to go back and play in a GFL football game.

What or who motivates you to put in the effort necessary to compete at a high level?
Someone who motivates me to put in effort to compete at a high level is God. Him being there for me always watching over me really gives me the motivation to be the best player I can be for him.

 

Jaden Brock
Senior
Defensive End
6’4”
230 lbs.

How did you get involved in football?
I got involved in football around 4th grade. The reason I joined was because I liked watching it on TV and wanted to try it out. It stuck with me and I’ve loved it ever since.

What’s your favorite memory from football?
My favorite memory is when we won the region championship last year against Norcross. I remember celebrating with my team and family. It’s something that’ll stick with me for years to come.

Do you have a game day ritual?
No, I don’t really have a ritual, but pregame I always listen to music to get me mentally ready, and I always pray right before we tear through the banner and take the field.

What are your plans after you graduate?
My goal is to make it to one of the highest levels of football and compete at the college level and maybe even the NFL. I also want to study to become an engineer.

Do you play more than one sport?
Yes, I’ve always played football and basketball, mostly because it helps keep me active in the off season. It has helped me become more explosive and conditioned, along with allowing me to play another game I’ve loved since I was a kid.

What professional athletes do you most admire?
A player I admire the most would probably be Aaron Donald. I love his game and motor. His game is definitely something I would hope to be able to achieve one day.

What advice would you give to young aspiring athletes?
I would tell them to never back down and never give up no matter what obstacles they might be facing. The only failure is giving up, so whatever dreams and aspirations they have they need to work for it and never slow up because there’s always someone else who’s working for the exact same thing.

Who motivates you to put in the effort necessary to compete at a high level?
My family motivates me the most to put in the effort because they have put in so much time and energy into the things I love, and the best way to pay them back is by making them proud and achieving my goals.


 

Georgia Force Blue Knights

 

Coach Steve Riley

What should fans expect this upcoming season?
Fans should expect the same high energy play from our players, and hopefully some good wins.

What are you most excited about going into this season?
I am most excited to see how our kids from last year have grown and gotten better, and how the new players coming in acclimate and compete playing on for the Knights.

What are your strengths as a team this season?
We always have good speed, and some good size, and I’m hoping we can put that together with our athleticism and be successful.

What are your goals for the season?
My goals are to help these young men reach their potential and achieve their goals through the sport of football as well as off the field. I want to help young men grow their faith, and grow them to be Godly leaders in their community, and if we win a few games, that would be great as well.

How would you describe your coaching style/philosophy?
I am a high challenge/high reward kind of coach. I like to set expectations high and watch the kids reach and climb over that bar. Seeing the kids succeed and really get it is an amazing feeling.

Are you superstitious or have any game day rituals?
I am not superstitious.

When did you discover you wanted to be a football coach?
While in college, I was playing football and I really loved the game. I decided I wanted to coach at the collegiate level. I was blessed to be able to fulfill that dream for two years, and then made a move to Georgia where I got into high school coaching, and I haven’t looked back.

What is your advice for aspiring football coaches?
Don’t take the game so seriously that you forget to enjoy the little things about the game that made you love it when you first got involved.

 

Buddy Self
Senior
DT/DE
6’3″
315 lbs.

How did you get involved in football?
As long as I can remember I’ve LOVED football, but I really didn’t start playing it until my dad saw this advertisement for a football camp. After the camp was over, the head football coach came up to me and asked if I wanted to play for his program. This program did not have a middle school or elementary school team so there I was, an 8-year-old, on a practice squad, going against varsity football players, getting tossed around like a rag doll, and loving every second of it!

What’s your favorite memory from football?
Winning a National Championship in 2020 as a high school freshman.

Do you have a game day ritual?
Every time before a game, about 30 minutes before we warm up, I’ll walk around the field at least three times while I listen to my music, get hyped up, and take claim of the field.

What are your plans after you graduate?
To play college football and to keep playing as long as God wants me to play.

Do you play more than one sport?
I used to play baseball and basketball in middle school, but once I reached the varsity level, those seasons are training time for football.

What professional athletes do you most admire?
JJ Watt is my favorite because I grew up watching this dude dominate year in and year out. He is one of the main reasons why I love defense

What advice would you give to young aspiring athletes?
Anybody can play football, but only a few can be a football player. The difference is in attitude, toughness, grit, and never submitting to defeat. I would also pass along advice I’ve received from my coaches to cherish the moments and get 1% better every day.

What or who motivates you to put in the effort necessary to compete at a high level?
One of my motivations for giving my all is to get to the next level and play football as long as I possibly can. Other motivations are the people who are helping me get there: God, my family, my coaches, and my friends. I just thank them so much for everything and for always pulling the best out of me every day.

Quinn Avello
Senior
Quarterback
6’1”
190 lbs

How did you get involved in football?
Growing up, I’ve always had a football in my hands. It’s something I always knew I wanted to play. While I’ve only played two years of organized football, I spent my entire childhood playing flag football and loved how it prepared me for playing in high school.

What’s your favorite memory from football?
My favorite memory was playing in and winning our local Flag Football U12 championship. We played this game on the field at Liberty University. This is something I really enjoyed doing and experiencing.

Do you have a game-day ritual?
The night before every game I eat sushi. Always have… always will!

What are your plans after you graduate?
I would love to continue playing quarterback for a college team. In addition, I plan to major in Business Administration and/or Sports Management.

Do you play more than one sport?
All of my focus and passion is on football. As a hobby, I enjoy golfing.

What professional athletes do you most admire?
Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes. I appreciate their mental toughness, skill, and ability to create space and improvise on the run.

What advice would you give to young aspiring athletes?
The best thing I can share from experience is “Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something. Put in the effort and work hard to get what you want.”

What or who motivates you to put in the effort necessary to compete at a high level?
The “what” is to win the NHFA National Football Championship. The “who” is easy… my team and coaches are my motivating factor to be the best version of myself possible.


 

Greater Atlanta Christian Spartans

Coach Tim Hardy

What should fans expect this upcoming season?
We’re really excited for this season. We’ve got a large portion of our team returning from last year. So we have 20 of 22 starters returning. So we’ve got some experience and a lot of guys coming back. We have an outstanding senior class, a group of guys who really love each other and love to play. They’re great representatives, not only of our school, but also of our program, so it’ll be an exciting season. We’re looking forward to getting out on the field.

What are you most excited about going into the season?
I think just seeing the progress. What motivates me as a coach is to see growth in young men and a lot of that is off the field growth, but certainly on the field, and this group of players have worked really hard.  I’m excited to see that hard work turn into success. So for them, I’m excited to see them perform and do things they haven’t done before.

What are your strengths as a team this season?
The first I would say is our senior class; we have a really good group. They work hard, they lead well, and then we have really good skill positions on the field. They’re really good at the offensive skill positions and the defensive skill positions in the back half. We run well. We have good depth to a lot of those positions and I think that puts us in position to be successful for the games.

What are your goals for the season?
It may be cliche, but every year the goal is to maximize our potential, and you don’t always know what that is on the front end. So for us, it’s the case and we’re a playoff team. We want to do well in our region and our goal would be to win the region and then get in the playoffs and make a deep run. But ultimately, the goal is to maximize who we are, and you always know that there are some bumps in the road, there are twists and turns that you don’t see coming. But to navigate that well. I want our players to have an unbelievable experience. I want them to look back at the 2023 season and say that was some of the best times of my life. I had great meaningful relationships and fun together and awesome memories. I want to create that atmosphere for them so it can be a special year.

How would you describe your coaching style or philosophy?
I think for us, we’re really trying to pour into our players in a way that they can grow and develop and be different, and some of that is physical, but so much of it is mental, emotional, social. You have to learn to be a good teammate. So for me, the role of the coach is to develop the player. So if you think about the change between age 14 and age 18, I mean, if you grasp that it would be almost a vertical line, right? Do you think about the mental and emotional growth and change and sort of partner with our young men where they are and see them grow? So we’ve got young men who were in eighth grade last year, and we’ve got guys who will be in college next year. I think that growth requires a lot of purpose and a lot of intentionality. So I think probably one of the ways I characterize our coaching staff is intentional. How can we grab those moments that are there? A lot of people say that athletics teaches you lessons, I don’t think it teaches you anything. I think athletics presents a lot of opportunities to teach you things. So I think the job of the coach and the family is to take those moments and to do something with them. I love to see that growth show up on a Friday night, but even more than that show up 15, 20 years down the road.

When did you discover you wanted to be a football coach?
I had some really influential coaches, specifically my college football coach who was super influential. I was graduating college and I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I worked in the business world and I coached on the side and pretty quickly I realized that one got me a little more fired up. The opportunity to partner with young people to be around them, they keep you young, which is fun. There’s so much energy and excitement as you grow and pursue a goal.

What is your advice for aspiring football coaches?
I think I would say it’s to be about the players. You can be about the players, but that doesn’t mean the program is run by the players. I care enough about you that I’m going to give you this discipline, I’m going to give you this correction. I’m going to give you this coaching, but it’s gotta be about them. So it’s not about us, you know? It’s not about the coach creating an opportunity for himself. It’s about pouring into these young men. It really means a lot to me and it means everything to these seniors and these juniors. That’s what I say to our players all the time — this time next year, guys, I’ll be doing the same thing and you’re not. So to realize how you can pour into players in ways that’s going to make a difference today and in the future and create just awesome experiences for them and great memories that will last a lifetime.

 

Bryce Izundu
Senior
Defensive End
6’1”
230 lbs.

How did you get involved in football?
It was actually my brother. I was in fourth grade and we used to be just a basketball family, but he convinced my parents to let him play tackle ball and then later that year, my school actually opened up a youth league and then I convinced them to let me play as well.

What’s your favorite memory from football?
My favorite memory has to be the sophomore year homecoming game against Westminster. It was our first one of the season — blackout game senior night. It was a whole bunch of energy.

Do you have a game-day ritual?
I’m not too big on rituals, but I do listen to the same album before every game, Wunna by Gunna. So I play that and then we actually go up to the cross before every game and touch it. I say the same prayer up there and then come down and I touch the doorpost walking out.

What are your plans after you graduate?
I plan to play at the next level. Where that is, I don’t know yet. I’m still trying to decide. I’m thankful for the opportunities that I have so far, but it’s still open.

Do you play more than one sport?
I do track — shot put, discus. The coach is trying to get me to do the 100.

What professional athletes do you most admire?
I will go with Lamar Jackson, the Baltimore Ravens quarterback. I just like his demeanor and the way he carries himself. He doesn’t care about the media or the outside hate. He just focuses on his game, improves his craft, and it’s like he doesn’t let outside influence affect his performance.

What advice would you give to young aspiring athletes?
I would say consistency is key. If you set a goal, do not waiver in it. Just stick to it. Make sure you have people around you who can hold you accountable, that way you can achieve that goal. It makes you a better person because like you stuck to your plan — you didn’t change it and you got it done.

What or who motivates you to put in the effort necessary to compete at a high level?
I would say my brother. Just watching my brother because he played before me and watching his dedication, his love for the game. It just made me want to be like him. He actually got hurt before his senior year. So I got to see the struggle that he went through and how he overcame it and was able to come back and still play. So he’s kind of like my role model. It just makes me want to go harder and be like him.

 

Jack Stanton
Senior
Quarterback
6’3”
215 lbs.

How did you get involved in football?
My family has always been involved. My dad played college football at Clemson. So since a young age, football has been a huge part of my life. We’ve been going to Clemson games since I was little and it’s always been on TV. So I just sort of fell in love with it. I started playing in second grade and I’ve been playing ever since.

What’s your favorite memory from football?
My favorite memory from football is actually this past year. We were playing Lovett at home. It was our first home game of the season and we were down by, I think, four with two minutes left in the game. We had the ball, we had 85 yards to go, and one time out. We took it down and as the clock expired, I threw a pass and our receiver caught. It was so fun.

Do you have a game day ritual?
I usually try to eat about four hours before the game. We’ll go to our field house depending if it’s a home or away game, you have like an hour to just hang out and get rest. During that time I try to watch a little bit of film just to go over everything, and then I’ll try to take a 20 minute power nap. After that, I go out, walk the field, and just envision everything I’m going to do that game and then go back, get taped, get ready, go out about an hour and a half before the game and start getting loose.

Do you have plans after you graduate?
I plan on playing football and studying business in college.

Do you play more than one sport?
I played baseball for my entire life, but I actually stopped playing this past year to focus on football.

What professional athletes do you most admire?
Right now, one of my favorite athletes is Joe Burrow of the Cincinnati Bengals. I love the way he plays. I sort of see myself in him. My favorite part about him is his quiet confidence. He’s not too boastful about everything, but you can tell by how he carries himself that he knows he’s the guy. I just enjoy watching him go through everything and try to sort of follow how he does a lot of stuff just because he’s such a great quarterback and player.

What advice would you give to young aspiring athletes?
I would say follow your path, everyone’s going to have a different journey. So with timing, just keep focused, stay working. Also just don’t believe everything you see. There’s going to be a lot of fake stuff in this world that will try to bring you down, but just stick to your path and stay focused because God’s going to have a plan for you and you just gotta trust that.

What or who motivates you to put in the effort necessary to compete at a high level?
I would say my competitiveness. I love to win and so if someone’s out there doing something, you gotta do it better than them. You have to work harder. It’s not timing, but it’s just you have to do everything to the best of your ability.


 

Lanier Longhorns

Coach Tyler Maloof

What should fans expect this upcoming season?
Fans should expect to see a fast, physical team that loves to play together. We have a good returning core of players from last season that have truly bought in to what we as coaches have been working to instill.

What are you most excited about going into this season?
I am most excited to see the growth of our team throughout the season.  As a group they have grown so much since January, when we started our off-season workouts. They have come together as a group and are hungry for success.

What are your strengths as a team this season?
We return a lot of skill players with significant Varsity experience. We will have to lean on those guys along with our returning QB Preston Ratliff.

What are your goals for the season?
Along with the obvious goals of winning a Region Championship and making a run in the playoffs, the biggest goal for our team is to be consistent and play to their abilities.  If we take care of those little things, a lot of the bigger goals tend to take care of themselves.

How would you describe your coaching style or philosophy?
From a coaching philosophy perspective, I think we as coaches must be great teachers of the game and effective communicators. I want to make sure that every play in our program understands their role and are coached up to perform to the best of their ability.  I believe when you work hard and treat people the right way, good things happen.

Are you superstitious or have any game day rituals?
Not really, no.

When did you discover you wanted to be a football coach?
Growing up in a family full of high school football coaches, it was always in the back of my mind as I entered college. Along with seeing what kind of impact they had on student-athletes and staying around the game of football, it was an easy decision to get into teaching and coaching.

What is your advice for aspiring football coaches?
Build relationships, work hard, and treat people the right way.

 

Tayo Ashadele
Senior
Running Back
5’10”
195

How did you get involved in football?
I joined football in 7th grade in the GFL.

What’s your favorite memory from football?
In 8th grade, I had 100 yards rushing and two touchdowns in my first ever game playing running back.

Do you have a game day ritual?
Not really, just anything that gets me relaxed.

What are your plans after you graduate?
Play in college and get a degree.

Do you play more than one sport?
I also run track so I can get faster.

What professional athletes do you most admire?
Nick Chubb of the Cleveland Browns and Alvin Kamara of the New Orleans Saints. I try to model my game after them.

What advice would you give to young aspiring athletes?
To just work as hard as they can and do their best

Who or what motivates you to put in the effort necessary to compete at a high level?
My family. They have been saying I was going to have success in football. Also, my own goals to play at the next level and then hopefully the pros.

 

Chase Jameson
Senior
Wide Receiver
6’1
185

How did you get involved in football?
I started playing football in first grade with GFL.

What’s your favorite memory from football?
When we had 10 seconds to win the game against North Gwinnett to go to the playoffs and I scored as the clock ran out.

Do you have a game day ritual?
I listen to my music and go out to the field just a little bit before everyone to relax my mind.

What are your plans after you graduate?
To play college football.

Do you play more than one sport?
Yes, baseball.

What professional athletes do you most admire?
Cooper Kupp of the Los Angeles Rams because he is a great route runner.

What advice would you give to young aspiring athletes?
Don’t take it for granted because it goes by way too fast and enjoy every battle with your family.

Who or what motivates you to put in the effort necessary to compete at a high level?
My parent because they have put in so much to make me a great athlete, whether it be time or money or even to just sit and talk to me. I just want to give it all back to them and be able to provide for them in the future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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