Semifinal coaches talk about why their teams are in the semifinals

As coaches prepare their teams for the biggest game of the year thus far, we didn’t want to take up too much of their time. So we asked them to complete this sentence:

“My team is in the semifinals because …”

Here’s what they said.

Mark Farriba, Private No. 10 Stratford Academy

“Because they have bought in. They have bought in in every way. This team has connected with each other. They’re unselfish and they stay focused, day in and day out. Very consistent.”

On how this playoff run compares to other teams he has coached (This is the third program Farriba has led to the semifinal round of the state playoffs. He has won two state titles – First Presbyterian Day, Georgia Independent Schools Association, 1985 and Stratford Academy, GISA, 2004.)

“Each team is different in its own way. This team lost a core group of guys last year, but so many guys have stepped up. Seniors have taken on leadership roles and done a great job.”

Jeff Heron, Private No. 1 Prince Avenue Christian

“Because they play with a lot of heart and a lot of character. They have done that all year.”

On his dedication to the wing-T offense, which he has ridden to an all-time record of  273-50 and four state titles (Oconee County, 1999; Camden County, 2008 and 2009).

“The thing about the Delaware wing-T is that it’s not just a group of plays. It’s a system with answers to any defense. If a defense does this, you do this. If a defense does that, then you do that. That’s why the offense has been successful for many years. Some offenses need a great quarterback in order to be productive. Some need a great running back or great receivers. In the wing-T, when you don’t have a great quarterback you can rely on your running backs more. When you don’t have a great running back, you can rely on your quarterback. Other offenses are successful, but this is the one that I know and we’ve been able to score a lot of poings and win a lot of games with it.”

Jonathan Gess, Private No. 4 Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy

“Chemistry. This team has great chemistry. And it’s not like we have a bunch of seniors. We’re still really young. We only have nine seniors. We start seven sophomores on defense. But the seniors we do have, have done a tremendous job leading the team.”

Buddy Nobles, Public No. 3 Irwin County

“In a word, because we’re blessed. We’re blessed with talent, blessed with great coaches on our staff, a great [school] administration, great support from the community. Just really blessed.”

On how his team prepares for the semifinals compared to other games (Nobles has led Irwin to the semifinals in each of the two seasons he has led the program.)

“We prepare pretty much the same way. We may not be quite as physical. We work the same way we would if we were playing in late September. But the thing is, in September, you know you have another game the next Friday. In the semifinals, you’re not promised another game the next week.”

Private Semifinals:

-- No. 1 Prince Avenue Christian (12-0) vs. No. 4 Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy (9-3)

-- No. 3 Aquinas (11-1) vs. No. 10 Stratford Academy (9-3)

Public Semifinals:

-- No. 5 Clinch County (11-1) vs. No. 9 Commerce (9-3)

-- No. 2 ECI (11-1) vs. No. 3 Irwin County (9-2-1)