GHSF Daily's Four Questions feature historically poses the same questions to a different Georgia head coach each issue. This season, head coaches are being asked Four Questions tailored to current events. Today's interviewee is Warner Robins head coach Mike Chastain, whose team defeated Rome 45-28 in the Class AAAAA semifinals last week. Warner Robins had lost to Rome 38-0 in the state-championship game last year.
Mike Chastain, Warner Robins head coach
1. What was the difference this year against Rome? "Last year was the first time in a state championship for our players and our coaches. We were kind of young at it. This year, our guys were ready to be in that atmosphere. They were more experienced and mature. We didn't make plays last year. I don't know what to blame that on, but this year, the focus was a lot better. And our defense played really well because Rome's offense is phenomenal. They scored 28 points, and two or three of their touchdowns were trick plays, which they do a good job of dialing up. But our defense played much better. They were focused and ready every play."
2. When you took over at Warner Robins, the program had gone through some mediocre years by school standards, and you opened by losing to Northside 55-3, and it got worse, as you started 1-6 and finished 3-8. Did you ever doubt yourself that first season, and what are the biggest reasons for the turnaround? "That first year was really tough. It was hard on me, the coaching staff, our families. It was a tough year for a lot of people. We played a lot of really good teams. Northside and Coffee and Houston County were senior-loaded that year. I think eight of the 11 teams we played made the playoffs. I knew in my mind it was a tough schedule, but when you go 3-8, it's not good enough for Warner Robins football. But all along I felt that God had blessed me and didn't put us here to continue to do that and would get us out of the storm. Having a full offseason in the program and full year to teach our scheme made a difference. Coach Bryan Way's [previous head coach] teams were in the gun and running wing-T plays, and we were throwing it a bunch. So you have to have a good offseason throwing the ball and teaching them about coverages to make that transition. And you have to have that guy at quarterback. I coached Dylan Fromm since the seventh grade. He's been doing this offense for a long time. He knows this system as well as any quarterback I've ever coached." [Chastain was the offensive coordinator at Houston County during Jake Fromm's time there. Dylan Fromm transferred to Warner Robins last season and became the Class AAAAA offensive player of the year in his first season as a starter. Chastain's original quarterback, Dalton Hedden, was a 255-pound former lineman. He made first-team all-region the next year as a defensive tackle.]
3. Fromm and Marcayll Jones are setting passing and receiving records. What are the outstanding skill sets behind those two players' successes? "Dylan's skill set is his mind and how he processes things, and his work ethic is like no other. His leadership is phenomenal. He's a coach on the field, directing traffic, making sure we're lined up right. We give him a lot of freedom to put us in the right play. For Marcayll [pronounced Mar-KELL], it's his speed and route-running and ability to judge the ball in the air. We can back-shoulder a good 2, 3 yards away and he's quick enough to get off that coverage and go back and get it. He's only about a 5-9 guy, but we throw the 50-50 ball to him more than any 6-3 guy I've ever had. He just has a great knack for the ball, and he's super strong. He's a hard worker in the weight room. [Fromm has thrown for 7,608 yards and 79 touchdowns in two seasons at Warner Robins. Jones has a state-record 1,876 yards receiving this season.]
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4. Warner Robins defeated Bainbridge 38-0 in the regular season. Does that game require some discussion with your players to make sure they are in the right frame of mind for the rematch? "Yeah, it does. We talked to the guys today about it. We used the example of Middle Tennessee beating UAB in the last game of the regular season 27-3 and then UAB beat them 27-25 in the championship last weekend. You've got to stay humble. It's not the same Bainbridge team. It's a hot Bainbridge team that has beaten a lot of good teams [four straight top-10 opponents in the playoffs, in fact] and is playing with confidence. We also played them right after Hurricane Michael, and they were two weeks without school. On game day, there were still players that didn't have power in their houses. Then they had to drive three hours up to play us. So yeah, they're a good football team. They've got a lot of speed and athletic ability."
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