4 Questions with Lanier County head coach Kurt Williams

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Today’s interviewee is Lanier County coach Kurt Williams, whose team defeated Miller County 14-13 last week. That was the Bulldogs’ first playoff victory since starting football in 1997. Lanier County was 1-9 in each of the four seasons before hiring Williams and 0-10 in Williams’ first season, but his teams have since gone 3-7, 3-6, 3-7 and now 6-5. Lanier County is between Lowndes and Clinch counties near the Florida border. Williams grew up nearby in Berrien County.

1. What happened in the game? How did it play out? “Our game with Miller was an old-fashioned defensive struggle, classic playoff game. The team stats were almost identical in every category but turnovers, which was the difference in the game. Our defense forced a turnover every time we needed one. We intercepted a ball [junior Trevon Small] and returned it to the 2-yard line to punch it in [touchdown by Jamir Glenn] to go up 14-7 with five minutes left. Miller responded and drove it down to score with three minutes left and elected to go for two, which we were able to stop a half foot short. They pinned us deep on the ensuing kickoff, and we were unable to convert a first down to run the clock out, so we had to ask our defense to go back out there and win the game for us with Miller in excellent field position. They got down to around our 20-yard line, and a ball got deflected up in the air and we were able to secure another interception [by B.J. Jones, his fifth of the season] to seal the game.”

2. What does the victory mean to the team and the school? “It was huge. We had a goal of getting in the playoffs at the beginning of the year. We have lost some close games over the past couple of years that would have got us close to getting in, so for us to win such a close one to get our first-ever playoff victory in school history just made it even sweeter. Our team, school and community are excited about being in a spot we have never been before. Our school has really tried to emphasize school spirit this year for all sports, and I’m hoping this just gives our school body another reason to support one another.”

3. When you got the job, there was no tradition. Why did you take it on, and what are the things that you and your staff did that have made the most difference? “I always wanted to be a head coach. I knew as a young coach that I would more than likely have to take a job at a school that hadn’t had much success and build it up. My wife and I really prayed about the situation here in Lakeland. I knew before even interviewing and meeting the great people I work with now that God wanted me to be here. I had talked to a few coaches that thought it could be an underrated job because there were athletes here as well. They had a good group coming up from the feeder program, and if given enough time could be a really good group. Those kids are now currently freshmen and sophomores, and several are currently starting for us this year.

“The biggest thing that my staff and I have done is consistency. Our first year we didn’t win a game on the varsity or middle-school level, but we believed in what we were doing. I’ve been blessed to hire some great coaches that, for the majority of the staff, have been with me since year one or two. We’re still practicing, lifting and doing a lot of the same stuff we were doing when we were everybody’s stat game five years ago. I’m so thankful for a great place to give us time to build a program in a day and age when people want immediate success.”

4. What is Lanier County like, both the school and the county? “Our school is a great place to work. We have a great administration and teachers that support our kids in the classroom and on the field. Mrs. Reada Hamm, our principal, and coach Scott Ray, our athletic director who hired me, have given me the best support a coach can ask for.

“Lanier County is a very small county in rural south Georgia where agriculture leads the way in our economy. Everybody knows everybody here, but one thing is for sure, when there is a ball game going on regardless of the sport, our county is going to show up and support our kids to the fullest. We have each other’s back. My family and I love this community. They have taken us in since day one and it has become our home.”

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