John Small, East Coweta
What is the real difference-maker in winning and losing in Georgia high school football? “Obviously, you need to have some good players, but chemistry on a team is vital to team success. You can be loaded with talent, but if there is not unity on the team you’re going to have issues. Team chemistry is a huge component to winning, in my opinion. We try and go by the saying ‘I love my teammates,’ and we encourage them to remember that in every decision they make and how they take care of one another. In today’s sports, there is too much of a ‘me’ mentality, and the challenge is making it all about the ‘us’ mentality, and getting them to buy into that during the good times and the bad times is a challenge. At the end of the day, football is just a game we play, but the life lessons we can all learn from it are life-changing.”
Which player that you’ve coached is memorable mostly for his character or inspiration? “I am blessed to say I have had the chance to coach a lot of great young men, but if I had to pick one that embodied everything we were trying to implement daily it would have to be Arquevious ‘Q’ Crane. He was a tremendous talent as a player and suffered an injury that has left him in a wheelchair. He has faced this challenge head on with an attitude like no other and has handled adversity better than anyone I have ever seen in my life. He has gone on to graduate from high school and college and is now sharing his message as an inspirational speaker. He has had a profound impact on me as a coach and a person, and he will continue to impact thousands more!” [Crane was a JV player for South Gwinnett in 2007, when he was injured after catching a pass. He was paralyzed from the chest down. In 2014, Crane graduated from Georgia Gwinnett College with a degree in political science.]
What is the best atmosphere for a high school game that you’ve experienced away from home? “I would have to say playing Lowndes on the road. They do a great job of supporting their program and filling up the stadium. It makes it tough if you travel there to play.”
As a player or coach at any level, which game do you wish you could play again? “Oh my, that’s a tough question, but I would have to say the Mill Creek game in 2010 in the second round of the playoffs [while Small was head coach at South Gwinnett]. Not taking anything away from Mill Creek, because they had a tremendous team, and coach Shannon Jarvis is one of the best around, but we didn’t think we played our best that night to give ourselves a chance to win and we felt we had a pretty special team that year. We got knocked out of the playoffs and the season was over.” [That South Gwinnett team averaged 40 points per game and finished 9-3.]
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