4 Questions with Collins Hill coach Lenny Gregory

December 11, 2021 - Atlanta, Ga: Collins Hill head coach Lenny Gregory is shown on the sideline during their game against Milton in the Class 7A state title football game at Georgia State Center Parc Stadium Saturday, December 11, 2021, Atlanta. JASON GETZ FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

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December 11, 2021 - Atlanta, Ga: Collins Hill head coach Lenny Gregory is shown on the sideline during their game against Milton in the Class 7A state title football game at Georgia State Center Parc Stadium Saturday, December 11, 2021, Atlanta. JASON GETZ FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

Today’s interviewee is Collins Hill coach Lenny Gregory, whose team is the defending Class 7A champion after winning the school’s first state title in 2021. The Eagles return three starters on offense and two on defense and its place-kicker. Graduated are all-state QB Sam Horn (now at Missouri), WR/CB Travis Hunter (Jackson State) and DE Asani Redwood (West Virginia). Collins Hill opens Aug. 20 against Life Christian of Virginia in the Freedom Bowl at Milton.

Lenny Gregory, Collins Hill head coach

1. With some months to reflect on your state championship, what is the legacy of your 2021 team? “It was an accumulation of really great kids who were close and grew up together. They were a tight-knit group, man. That was the first class that came in as freshmen and really bought into the weight room and how we practice and the structure. It was very evident that they were something special when they stepped onto campus their ninth-grade year.”

2. Given its record and dominance, was the 2021 team perhaps the best Georgia team in your time in the state? “There’s obviously been some great teams in Georgia. Just looking at the stats, defensively we allowed 5.8 points per game and scored 40 points a game and beat every team by more than 14 points. That’s the first time that was done [in the highest classification] since 1971. So stat-wise, it’s hard to argue [that it wasn’t the best.] Top to bottom, it was the best team that I ever coached.”

3. What about the 2022 team? How will it be different in terms of style? What are your prospects? “I’m excited about the new team. They’ve waited their turn. Our JV went undefeated last season. Our ninth-grade team went undefeated. They understand the culture and expectation, so it’s a matter of growing up and whether they’re mature enough to handle the adversity. It reminds me a lot of the 2019 team where we had a lot of younger guys playing. The ‘19 team, that’s when last year’s senior class was sophomores. I look at it the same way. It’s a good group. They’re going to have to step in and play and be young, but we won’t lack the talent. The future is bright.” [Gregory said he likely would not name a starting quarterback to replace Horn until after an Aug. 12 scrimmage against North Cobb. Competing for the position are senior Mike Sheehan, who’s good at extending plays with his running skills, and sophomore T.J. Wilcox, who Gregory says has a stronger arm than Horn did.]

4. How do you feel about the reshuffled Class 7A and your new region, which includes Mill Creek again but also 2021 Class 6A champion Buford? “We’ve never had an easy region, so once again, it’s going to be a challenge. [As far as the battle of champions with Buford] I’m not a guy who plays into that kind of stuff. It’s great to play new teams, so there’s excitement there, but we don’t make a big deal about who we’re playing. It’s always about how we’re playing. We’ve got to focus on us and not worry about the opponent. One of the best things I did in 2018 was schedule an extremely hard non-region schedule to get our kids to understand that we’re going to play the very best. It’s an expectation around here that Collins Hill is going to play tough teams. We’ve just got to find a way to go 1-0.” [The 2018 team, which included Horn and Hunter as freshmen, was Gregory’s second at Collins Hill and his first opportunity to set the schedule. The Eagles went 0-4 in pre-region games but made the playoffs.]

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