4 Questions with Collins Hill head coach Drew Swick

Collins Hill head coach Drew Swick calls a play during the second half of the game Friday, Nov. 10, 2023 at North Cobb High School. (Daniel Varnado/For the AJC)

Credit: Daniel Varnado

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Collins Hill head coach Drew Swick calls a play during the second half of the game Friday, Nov. 10, 2023 at North Cobb High School. (Daniel Varnado/For the AJC)

Credit: Daniel Varnado

Today’s interviewee is Collins Hill coach Drew Swick, whose team defeated ninth-ranked North Cobb 45-14 in the Class 7A first round and will face 10th-ranked Milton on Friday. Swick is a Collins Hill alumnus who has coached entirely at his alma mater, starting with the 2015 season. He was the defensive coordinator on the Eagles’ 2021 Class 7A championship team and was promoted to head coach this season.

1. What did your team do so well that won the North Cobb game in such a decisive way? “We have been underdogs all year, and our team has taken on that mentality. We talk about being perfect at everything we do, and by doing that, a winning attitude will emerge. All year long we were in every game until the fourth quarter, and a self-inflicted wound would prevent us from closing the game out in the end. Our boys have learned to be selfless and celebrate for others’ success and the team’s success, and it has created a family atmosphere that everyone gives their all for each other every play. That has been the difference at the end of the season. Togetherness has been the key factor for this team, and we expect to continue and make a deep run in playoffs.”

2. Your team is playing much better the second half of the season. Was there a turning point? Did the coaches make any changes? “The turning point would be the success we had in Mountain View [winning 22-14 after the team started 1-5] and Mill Creek [losing 24-18 the next week to the No. 1-ranked team]. The Mill Creek game showed our boys we can compete with anyone out there as long as we play physical, and our schedule proved that all year. There were only two games I would say we did not execute all year long, and that was Westlake and Buford. After Mill Creek, our boys and coaching staff made a pact that we would outwork our opponents every day and give our all for The Hill. We did make a few changes on defense and offense that have made execution better on both ends. We have moved a few guys around in the secondary to ensure our tackling in the back end, and on offense we have been creative in our game plans to ensure we are using the strengths of our playmakers.”

3. Your next opponent is Milton, the team that you opened against [and lost 27-13]. What makes them difficult to beat, and what must you do differently this time around? “Milton was a great opponent to start our season off in the Freedom Bowl, and we are very thankful that we have been allowed to play in the bowl game the past three years. Coach Ben Reaves and his staff do a great job in all three phases of the game and will have their kids ready against us for Friday, just like our kids will be ready for them and juiced up for round two. Coach Reaves and his offense are a high-powered system that he has been running for years, and they do a lot of very strategic things to prick their opponents each week. If you are not aligned well in the secondary, they will take what you give them based on your alignment and can hurt you with their athletes on the outside as well. Their quarterback [Luke Nickel] is a true leader and a great competitor, which also makes them very good offensively. On defense, they pursue the ball and are very physical, which we will have to match on our end.

“This time around we have to finish our drives when we get to the red zone on offense and prevent self-inflicted wounds on both sides of the ball. By doing this and playing our brand of football, the sky is the limit for our team, and my coaches, players and I are excited and juiced for a second shot at Milton!”

4. Who are some of your coaching mentors over the years, and what did each teach you? “I have been blessed in my coaching career here at Collins Hill and have had a lot of great men as mentors in the past nine years. I was hired in 2015 by Coach Kevin Reach, and he had a huge impact on my career and my development as a leader. I am very thankful for the opportunity he gave me and for the trust he had in me as a young coach coming out of college, and that is something I will never forget. Coach Larry Massey was the defensive coordinator I learned under in my first two years at Collins Hill, and he taught me how to view the game from a different perspective, and to this day I still do a lot of the same things he taught me to prepare throughout the week and on Fridays. Coach Rob Patton came in a few years later under Coach Lenny Gregory, and he was an unbelievable person. He is a players coach, and his players loved playing for him. This was something I valued a lot while coaching under him as his assistant OLB coach and something as a head coach I try to mimic today. Patton would always ensure his assistants were all right throughout the week, always knew when something was wrong emotionally and tried to always do his best to make everyone smile. I learned a lot from him in the secondary and prep he did throughout the week and also leading up to Friday’s game.

“Lastly, Coach Lenny Gregory has been the most influential coach I’ve been blessed to coach under in my coaching career. He taught me to be hard-nosed and how to get your players physically and mentally tough on the defensive side of the ball, which ultimately carries over into all three phases of the game. In 2020, Coach Gregory put a lot of trust in me and made me his defensive coordinator, which is something I will also never forget. I will always remember the two years we made a run for the state championship in 2020 and when we won the state championship in 2021. I grew tremendously as a defensive coach under him as well as the defensive assistants he brought in 2020, who are my best friends today and still a part of my coaching staff today.”

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