Franklin Pridgen, Wesleyan
1. What is the real difference-maker in winning and losing in Georgia high school football? “Of course, I acknowledge the importance of the obvious answers – talent, community and administrative support, great facilities – but to me the most important factor a program needs is the proper mission. A program that doesn’t have its priorities straight is missing a powerful opportunity to impact young men in a positive way. For us at Wesleyan, winning is very important of course, but it is not our god. We embrace the chance football gives us to build positive relationships with our kids through Jesus Christ. Football is a ministry to us, and we talk openly and unapologetically about it that way. That’s how we define success, how many young men saw Jesus in us today.”
2. Which player that you’ve coached is memorable mostly for his character or inspiration? “It’s really tough for me to single anyone out. I have been blessed to know so many incredible people in this job over the last 25 years. Of course, the best-known players from our program, guys like Chad Hall, David Andrews, Kyle Karempelis, Merritt Hall, they are great men besides being great players. Andrew Frerking played for us here and now coaches QBs. I love having him on the staff. Maybe the guys I feel best answer this question, however, actually come from my first coaching job in the early ’90s at Athens Academy. Lige Gillis, Greg Ashley and Josh Todd were all players when I was just starting out. We had a Monday night Bible study together and built a great relationship with each other. I don’t see them much nowadays, but when I do it strikes me what great men they are – personally and professionally. Makes me so proud. I was a kid coaching kids back then.”
3. What is the best atmosphere for a high school game that you’ve experienced away from home? “The Georgia Dome in 2008 for the state finals was pretty fun. And the Granite Bowl in Elberton has to be on my list. We won there in 2010 on a last-second field goal. We brought a big crowd. Their side was packed, of course. I’ve never seen another high school stadium like it. It just epitomizes the pageantry and tradition of great high school football in this state. Really cool place.”
4. As a player or coach at any level, which game do you wish you could play again? “In 2015 we went over to Greater Atlanta Christian for the region championship game. Incredible atmosphere. Two neighboring schools playing for the region title. The game went back and forth all night. We ran a surprise onside kick and successfully faked both a punt and a field goal. Left no bullets in the gun, so to speak, and were up 31-28 with GACS at midfield with 12 seconds to play. They ran double posts, and Davis Mills made the most beautiful throw I have ever seen. Our kid had good coverage and the window was small, but Davis put it in the perfect spot for the game-winning touchdown. Not sure what we would’ve done differently, but I wish somehow we had that one back if for no other reason than to see if he could make that same throw again.”
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