4 Questions with Marist head coach Alan Chadwick

Marist coach Alan Chadwick watches his players as they warm up prior to Friday's game at Lovett. (John Amis/Special)

Marist coach Alan Chadwick watches his players as they warm up prior to Friday's game at Lovett. (John Amis/Special)

Today’s interviewee is Marist coach Alan Chadwick, whose team defeated Roswell 48-21 in the Class 6A quarterfinals last week. Marist will play Thomas County Central at home Friday in what will be coach Alan Chadwick’s 17th semifinal game since he became Marist’s head coach in 1985. Marist and Thomas Central played four times in semifinals between 1996 and 2003 in games that were decided by an average of 5.5 points, Thomas County Central won three of those four.

1. Did you feel in preseason that this was the kind of team that could break through and get to the semifinals? “My biggest concern was just the quality and depth of really good football teams in 6A and wondering how far we could actually advance in the playoffs with all those great teams. We knew we were going to have a decent football team. We had good experience on defense, but we had to start over on the offensive line completely with players who did not have much experience. The fact we had our quarterback back in Jack Euart was a plus. We felt we had really good skill-position players at receiver, running back and defensive back. We felt we could kick the ball pretty well. It was just a matter of putting it all together and getting better. The work that coach Dan Perez has done on the offensive line has been exceptional. That’s two years in a row he’s had to start completely over on the O-line. The kids have responded well to his aggressive coaching style and teaching technique, and I’m very pleased with that.”

2. You have run a similar option offense since becoming head coach in 1985. Can you explain how it has evolved? What did it look like in the 1980s vs. now? “We’ve been referred to as a team that runs a cave-man offense, and I’ve been referred to as a dinosaur, but it seems to have worked out well for us for many years. Our offense has evolved considerably from where we were in the ‘80s and ‘70s. We used to be very simplistic with formations and never went to the shotgun. If we threw if five times, that was a lot. Now we might have games where we throw it 15 or 17 times. We only threw it six times Friday night, but we were 4-of-6, and two were for touchdowns. We’ve adapted to what we’re seeing defensively and trying to take advantage of that with timely play-action passes. That’s probably the biggest adjustment.” Chadwick was asked if the offense has a name: “I still refer to it as wishbone. I’m just old-school that way, but when you look at us, we’re not lined up in a true wishbone. We’re more of a double slot option-type team.”

3. You’re meeting Thomas County Central in the semifinals. For those who need a history lesson, can you explain how big that rivalry was in the 1990s? What was your most memorable Marist-TCC moment or game? Many people have fond memories of those games. “That doesn’t include me [laughs]. It was a classic battle from the start. Every game was relatively low scoring and close. Both teams were well-prepared for the other and played hard, physical ball games. Back in those days, they ran a split-back veer with backs coming downhill right at you, moving the chains play after play. Trying to stop Guyton [quarterback Leonard Guyton, now Pelham’s head coach] and Burns [running back Joe Burns, who went on to star at Georgia Tech] was not an easy chore. We had some classic ones. They got the better of us about five times before we finally won in the semifinals at the old Georgia Dome with our 2003 team that had McVay at quarterback [Sean McVay, now the Los Angeles’ Rams’ head coach] That was the most memorable game for me because we won. It got us over the hump as far as playing Thomas County Central. We had one particular play late in the third quarter where the quarterback scrambles to the left and a defensive lineman is chasing him from behind and strips him. The ball is on the ground, and Chris Ashkouti picks it up and goes 45 yards for a scoop-and-score. That’s the one that broke their back.” [Marist won 35-21 and went on to claim the Class 3A championship. Chadwick’s teams are 1-7 all-time against Thomas County Central. None of Chadwick’s other opponents have been nearly so difficult as his record is 431-79.]

4. What and who shaped your coaching philosophy? Who have been some of the biggest influences over the years or even recent years? “I was very fortunate to start at a young age under Dean Hargis here at Marist. He was coach and athletic director for 19 years. They were running the option about two years before I got here [in 1976], and it took me a while to adjust to it from my background [as a passing quarterback at East Tennessee and an NFL draft pick in 1974]. We also had a great staff. All of those coaches taught me a great deal about working with kids and coaching them day to day. That includes Jerry Queen, the longtime baseball coach; Bud Murray, our running backs coach; Ed Letts, our secondary coach. They were just great guys to be around to learn from. The other part is what I’ve learned from our current staff – Dan Perez, Paul Etheridge, Jeff Euart, Gary Miller, Jim Showfety, Danny Stephens, John Embry, who are all good quality coaches. I’m not a stand-over-their-heads kind of guy. I let them have it, and we work as a team. I think that is the strength of our staff.’’

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