Today's interviewee is Savannah Country Day coach Jim Collis, whose team defeated Johnson County 47-42 last week to win the Region 3-A championship. The region title and 10-0 regular-season finish are firsts for Savannah Country Day since 1980. The Hornets are tentatively seeded No. 1 in the Class A private-school playoffs. Collis became head coach this season after spending four years on Westminster's staff. Collis previously had been head coach at Columbus Academy in Ohio, where his team won a state title in 2005.
Jim Collis, Savannah Country Day head coach
1. What was the atmosphere like at the Johnson County game, and what spelled the difference in the end? "My hat's off to Johnson County. They've got some good players. Their team speed really showed up and surprised me. I didn't see it that much in the third game of the regular season [when Savannah Country Day won 25-22]. They're well-coached. They had a tragedy happen with their assistant coach and his young daughter [assistant coach Shawn Linder died in a car crash two weeks ago], and I'm sure they were playing for a lot of reasons that we can't control, but they were tough, man. That's a good football team. It came down to the last play just like it did when we played them before. They threw the ball up in the end zone, and their guy went up over the top and thought he had it, and Logan Ziegler ended up ripping it out. It was a great throw by the quarterback because he was getting pressured and a great play by Logan. It certainly could've gone either way."
2. What's been the response of the school and community to the team's first region title since 1980? "The student body has been great. They stormed the field after the game. It was a great opportunity for your guys to connect with the community and share that experience. The school and the community have been unbelievable in terms of support. We won a fifth-sixth grade fall championship on Thursday and followed that up with a regional championship on Friday. We're excited on campus with where the program is headed."
3. What brought you to Georgia, and after a stint at Westminster, what prompted you to become a head coach again and head to Savannah Country Day? "I spent 19 years in Ohio and felt it was time for a change. I was offered a job in Florida, but it paid less. A college teammate of mine was Gerry Romberg, the head coach at Westminster. He had an offensive coordinator job open, and I went with him and spent four years there. I woke up one morning and thought if I'm 60, if I'm going to do this head coaching thing again, I'd better do it soon. This job was posted. I'd always wanted to get to the coast somewhere. I probably wouldn't have taken it had it been inland. I'd probably still be at Westminster. I had a chance to come down and interview. I like smaller schools and communities. It ended up being a great fit, and the rest is history."
4. What do you feel that you and your staff did that was most important to taking the program to another level this season? "The first thing I wanted to do was hire really good offensive and defensive coordinators. I was really fortunate to get Nic Keene as defensive coordinator and Ty Ward as offensive coordinator. They're younger guys, but they'd been in the college game. Nick was at Yale, and Springfield College before that. Ty was at Lehigh. Both have vast experience at that level and brought ideas down here from the collegiate game. That's the first thing I wanted to do, have a staff that could relate to kids. They're younger and relate really well. Secondly, you have to find ways to bring in your own philosophy and culture, and the kids bought into it - offense and defense, how we're running the offseason weight training and conditioning. There have been a lot of lessons along the way. We've had some kids who had to take a look at themselves in the mirror, and they've done that. We've had our speed bumps, but the guys have found a way to win each week."
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