Today, our Four Questions feature is answered by Jim Hughes, who retired from Colquitt County after the 1999 season with a record of 247-102-5. He won state titles at Thomasville (1973-74) and Colquitt County (1994).
1. What is the most memorable game you’ve been a part of as a player or coach? “In 1991, our Colquitt County team came out of nowhere and on the basis of a couple of overtime football games, the second one in Marietta in the semifinals, we qualified for the state championship and hosted it in Moultrie. Unfortunately, we had to play 13 seconds too long, and LaGrange won the game [17-16 on a late field goal], and they were named national champions. It was probably the most brutal loss that I can ever remember for one of our teams, and our son [Parks] was our quarterback, which intensified everything. This was a little before everything was televised, and I can tell you that for the community we lived in to have a live televised broadcast with ‘Coming to you live from Mack Tharpe Stadium in Moultrie, Georgia’ was quite an event. It was a great game. We had no business being in it, and we played very well. A few years later, we hosted again and won it in ’94, but the ’91 game and ’91 team were very special for us.”
2. Which high school coach would you want your son to play for, and why? “In our structure, my assistant coaches did a lot more of the coaching of my son than I did. I was fortunate to have assistants like Brent Brock, who’s now at Middle Tennessee, and Tim Kelshaw and Darrell Funderburk. They spent a lot of time with our quarterbacks and my son in particular, and I could not have been more pleased with the way he was coached and with his development. As far as other coaches, the guy who gave me my chance was Lee Forehand [at Manchester and Thomasville]. He would’ve been good for my son. And the guy I played for in high school in Cordele, Bill Trussell. He was the classiest guy you could possibly know.”
3. What is your pet peeve as a coach or favorite saying/motto? “My wife is kind of laughing. Nothing you could print. No, I think the attitude that we tried very hard to develop in Thomasville and then in Moultrie was simply expect to win. We played in a very competitive region at the time, and when I became a head coach [at Thomasville in 1970], I was in Region 1 with Valdosta and Tifton and Moultrie, and every game was a region game, and only one team advanced to the playoffs. It was an entirely different world than the one we enjoy now in terms of playoff participation. In particular in Region 1, you had to go through Valdosta, and we played them on every level and every grade and became very competitive over the years. We just developed the attitude that we expected to win, and I think we did it with a fair amount of class and not too much arrogance. If I taught kids anything, I hope it was that you have to live your life that way. Expect to be successful.”
4. Which GHSA policy or high school football rule would you most like to see changed? “Two things. One that disturbs me is how easy it is to transfer from one school to another and the business of changing schools so that you can be with the hotter coaching prospect or with a better cluster of players. I came out of South Georgia. I was 17 years in Thomasville and 17 years in Colquitt County. Our premise was that you grew your own players. You didn’t entice them to come to you. I think it’s entirely too easy to move from school to school. I think that’s cancerous where high school athletics are concerned.
“And the other thing is that teams that qualify for state championships deserve to host those championships in their own communities. There is nothing neutral about a five- or six-hour bus ride for the privilege of playing in the Georgia Dome. The community that supports you year-round deserves the opportunity to host a championship game. You owe it to that guy who buys season tickets year after year. We used to have guys like [the late Valdosta coach] Nick Hyder and others who would fight that fight with me, and I feel more and more on my own now. But my attitude on that hasn’t changed for 40 years.”
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