4 Questions with Archer head coach Dante Williams

Archer players gather in a huddle before a home game. (Jason Getz/Special)

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Archer players gather in a huddle before a home game. (Jason Getz/Special)

Today’s interviewee is Archer coach Dante Williams, whose team defeated then-No. 7 Parkview 28-27 last week. Williams is in his second year at Archer. He is a former Duluth and Samford quarterback who was the offensive coordinator on Class 7A championship teams at Grayson (2016) and Collins Hill (2021). Archer is 4-3 after a 2-8 finish last season and is tied with fifth-ranked Newton (7-0, 2-0) for the Region 4-7A lead.

1. What was the key in the game Friday night? “I just think it was our team mindset. I had preached to the kids all week that the way we’re going to win this game is playing like a team and playing 11 as one in all three phases because that’s what gives us a chance. In terms of stars and offers and all that jazz, we don’t have that. We’re a young football team. We’ve got five sophomore starters on offense and three or four on defense and a multitude of juniors. Our kicker is a freshman. But like we’ve noticed since February in our offseason, this team cares about one another, they play for one another, and they play for something bigger than themselves. That’s what we’ve been preaching. As long as we have that as the apex of our belief, the season will take care of itself.”

2. What was the single biggest play in the game? “The biggest play, and you probably won’t believe it, but it was probably the punt that got blocked and Parkview scored a touchdown [to go up 17-12]. I say that because when it happened, and it was right before half, the feeling and the communication with our players was so positive. Some of the players responsible owned it, and everything was forward-thinking. They were saying this is what we’ve got to do in the second half to overcome it and win this football game. That was telling to me. I’ve been fortunate to win championships at other schools, and I know what it looks like, and that’s a main piece of it. I was pleasantly shocked because I hadn’t seen that, and then bang, there it was. I told my coaches we’d be fine. We’d be in a position to win this in the fourth quarter.”

3. What has been the single most important thing that you and your staff or the players have done that’s responsible for getting you where you are? “First and foremost, it starts with developing culture and an identity in the offseason. When I was hired from Collins Hill [in February of 2022], the county didn’t approve full transfers, so from March to May, I was still doing half days, going back and forth between schools, trying to hire staff and run offseason workouts, and then there’s spring installation of the offense, defense and special teams. Looking back, I don’t know how I got that stuff done. Fast forward to this February and all the staff is here, the booster club is intact, we can have ‘red dawn’ 5:30 workouts every Friday morning in the month of March. We have offseason character-building activities and leadership council, all these things that have to be done before X’s and O’s. There’s so much more behind the scenes. In year one, we were not able to do that because I wasn’t here. Since I’ve been here, I’ve been able to infuse the DNA and culture of what we wanted to be.”

4. You’ve got a rich coaching history as an assistant. Who and what have been the biggest influences on you as a coach and how you coach? “I’m like a sponge. I’ve stolen stuff from all my mentors starting from Kevin Reach, who gave me my first opportunity at Collins Hill the first time, just working with freshmen kids. I didn’t know I wanted to coach but got the itch, and the rest is history. I learned from Sean Calhoun about how to call an offense, and then from Grayson under the great Mickey Conn, I was learning how to compete. There’s maybe no greater competitor alive than Mickey. He wants to win at everything on and off the field. I carry that with me today. Jeff Herron, he was an absolute wizard. He taught me about details and how to run a program and leaving nothing unturned. Christian Hunnicutt took over for Coach Herron at Grayson, and we we’re able to win another region championship together. Coach Hunnicutt has been a coach all over this state and always shared great perspective and lessons he learned. This helped me tremendously as a young coach. Lenny Gregory, he was probably my greatest mentor those three years at Collins Hill. He showed me the stuff that goes on behind the doors of a football program by allowing me to come to booster club meetings. He knew that I was going to be a head coach and showed me how to deal with parents in certain situations all while running a football team with many different personalities and having a lot of success with it. I’ve taken stuff from all those incredible coaches and then sprinkled a little bit of my own DNA in what I’m doing at Archer. Hopefully we’re on the right step of turning things around.”

[GHSF Daily also asked Williams about his most famous former Collins Hill player, Travis Hunter, and his reaction to the outstanding season Hunter is having at Colorado. Williams said, “Everyone asks me that. It’s not a shock to me because I saw it for those three years I coached him. Travis is different. He’s got a football IQ that’s out of this world and a motor that can go all day long. He can never come off the field and be OK. It’s God-given. He was put on this earth to do that. And he’s a phenomenal young man. People might think otherwise, but we never had any trouble with Travis Hunter on the field or in the school. All he wants to do is play football, go fishing and hang out with his younger brother and friends. I’m glad to see him back out there. The injury was kind of scary. He made me look better as a coach than I am. I’m fortunate to spend that little bit of time with him.’’]

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