Ed Koester, South Paulding
1. What is the real difference-maker in winning and losing in Georgia high school football? “The difference-maker is an accumulation of several elements. Players help. Big players help. Fast players help. Lots of players help. Yes! Talent is very important. More good players make good coaches than coaches make good players. Total program strength is dependent on facilitating administration, dedicated financial support, parents that tell kids the same thing you tell them, a wife that gets it, and did I say good players?”
2. Which player that you’ve coached is memorable mostly for his character or inspiration? “Several players come to mind. Over 40 years, recalling all names is tough. I coached my own sons. All three had great qualities I’m sure they got from their mom. Kyle had a heart issue but deep-snapped his senior year. Kurtis is in the Cherokee County Hall of Fame. Klay played his last game with a separated jaw. Each had the qualities mentioned. Royce Walker, Texhoma, Oklahoma, class of 1983. Royce’s parents were missing most of the time. In fact, dad was shot and killed on Main Street. Royce showed up every day, worked as hard or harder than anyone and never made an excuse. Timmy Harland, Texhoma class of 1984, quarterback, great kid, great family. Played the last two games his junior year with a torn ACL. Jackie Hood, Bixby, Oklahoma, class of 1986, one of the quietest, easy-going kids, whose play and work ethic commanded everyone’s respect. Never had two cents to rub together but never had an excuse, just worked, played and excelled. All-state, All-American JC, All-American D-II. Justin Kelly, FW Arlington Heights, Texas. Straight A’s, all-state linebacker, led North Texas Region in tackles, super person. Garrison Ushery, South Cobb, Georgia. Guard. Great kid would do anything to help any person. All-region, All-American at West Georgia. Chandler Burks, South Paulding, all-state, POY in Paulding County and Region 5-5A, starts now for Kennesaw State. Jake Oglesby and Tanner Holcomb, a quarterback/center combination, best friends, great students, players, and people. There are others. These only scratch the surface. I’ve been blessed.”
3. What is the best atmosphere for a high school game that you’ve experienced away from home? “There are some good ones. Texas Tech vs. Texas in Lubbock 1973 as a player. FW Arlington Heights vs. Stephenville in Weatherford, Texas, 1992, as a coach. Art Briles was the Stephenville head coach. They were notorious for offense and the loudest fans with 1,000 cans filled with ball bearings. Of course, we had to try to outdo that, so the noise was ear-shattering. (He beat us on the last play of the game.) South Paulding in 2013 and 2014. Any home game. It was high school football at its best.”
4. As a player or coach at any level, which game do you wish you could play again? “There are a couple I’d like over. Mark Keppel High School vs. Alhambra High School, California, 1971, at MKHS. Arlington Heights vs. Stephenville,1995. South Paulding vs. Mays 2015, cold as a polar bear’s toe. The game went back and forth, Jake Oglesby scrambled to the 1 with 1:20 left in the game. Mays is called offside after we scored (don’t ask me how) but no TD, so we’re on the half-yard line now. QB sneak. Guard forgets to block down (don’t ask me how), Jake gets thrown for a loss. A stuffed run and two incompletes later the game is over. We lose by seven. Bixby Oklahoma vs. Lawton MacArthur 1988. They had a great OU-bound running back by the name of Fisher. We held him in check most all night. With less than a minute we have driven to the 10. A field goal wins it. Duane Hughes hadn’t missed from here all year. Kick goes up hits the right upright. Lawton wins by two. Never cared to play a winning game over. Just put it in your pocket and keep moving.”
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