Kevin Saunders, Pebblebrook
1. What is the real difference-maker in winning and losing in Georgia high school football? “I am relatively new to Georgia football. This is starting my fourth year here in this state. I feel the real difference-maker in winning in Georgia is the level of commitment the program gets from the community. If the community wants to win, they will have an administration that makes winning important, a booster club, a coaching staff and the parents who are committed to doing what it takes to win.”
2. Which player that you’ve coached is memorable mostly for his character or inspiration? “Adam ‘Smurf’ Wharton. It was at J.J. Kelly High School, which is located in the coalfields of Virginia. Adam was on the first team that I coached there. The team had been 4-36 before I got there, and my first year, we went 6-4 and beat the defending state champions (40-some-game winning streak). Adam played offensive tackle for me in a wing-T offense. He was undersized and not real ideal to be an offensive lineman, but he wanted to play. Through his toughness and dedication to the goals of a team, he sacrificed his dreams of playing other positions to make the team better. He was a leader on and off the field. He has gone on to become an incredible strength coach at Pickens County, Georgia, and a very good husband and man. He exemplifies a leader and what playing high school football is all about.”
3. What is the best atmosphere for a high school game that you’ve experienced away from home? “I have been in many big-game atmospheres, but since my time thus far has been brief in Georgia, I would have to say the two state championships I coached in Virginia. We went back-to-back years, losing one and winning one. Just the community of Gretna being there and being wild and so supportive made it a tremendous feeling.”
4. As a player or coach at any level, which game do you wish you could play again? “This one is easy. It was my first state championship game I coached in Virginia versus Gate City High School. We were heavily favored to win, and my son was also playing for me. We were physically beat up and got beat. Lost 17-14. It really bothered me because we had won four state titles in six years before that year, and it left a bad taste in my mouth because I clearly got out-coached.”
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