4 Questions with Hughes head coach Daniel Williams

The exterior of Langston Hughes High School is seen on Friday, Dec. 13, 2019, in Atlanta. (Elijah Nouvelage for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Today’s interviewee is Hughes coach Daniel Williams, whose team is 4-0 for the first time since the south Fulton County school opened in 2009. Hughes is playing sixth-ranked Westlake in a Region 4-6A game tonight. These schools, which are 7.5 miles apart, are playing each other for the first time since 2017.

Daniel Williams, Hughes head coach

1. What has spurred Hughes' turnaround from a 2-8 season last year? “The kids are buying into our model, and that’s what’s paying off. They’re invested in practice, they’re invested in games, and they’re invested in the fourth quarter, locked in all the way. We’ve adopted that motto and put it on the back of our jackets – fully invested. My staff is also the reason for our success. I gave them my philosophy and what I want to do as a program and structuring kids. It’s bigger than football. Players will run through a wall for you when they know the coaches really care for them, and I think that’s where our kids are now.”

2. What does Hughes do well as a football team? “We’re a balanced team. We’ve thrown five touchdown passes. Last week we had five rushing touchdowns. We have a good running back [four-star recruit Antonio Martin] and a good offensive line, so teams are going to put nine in the box. We have a quarterback who can move around and help us out, and he can throw the ball. Defensively, we play a 40 front and attack and fly around the ball. We’re aggressive and physical.”

3. What does Westlake do well as a football team? “Westlake is a very athletic team. This might be the most athletic team we’ll face this year. It may be the most athletic Westlake team in a while. They pass well. The quarterback can get out of the pocket and extend plays. They play a lot of man-to-man defense, and you hardly ever see them get beat deep.”

4. What is the nature of the rivalry, and why is it a big game? “This is a very, very significant rivalry. I’m a graduate of Creekside, so before Hughes, it was Creekside and Westlake. Hughes pulls students from Creekside and Westlake. That in itself is enough for a crosstown rivalry. But here we’re are in the same region again. We’re 4-0, and they’re 3-1 and the No. 6 team in the state. Our kids have played each other growing up, and some of them were playing on the same team together, so there’s familiarity.”

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