4 Questions with Oconee County head coach Ben Hall

Today’s interviewee is Oconee County coach Ben Hall, whose team defeated Carver of Columbus 14-6 last week in the Class 3A quarterfinals. Oconee County is the only semifinal team that has won three playoff road games this year. Only 11 teams in history have won four games away from home to reach a championship game. Hall was the offensive coordinator for one of those, Flowery Branch in 2008. His Warriors play at No. 1 Cedar Grove in the semifinals.

1. What made the difference in the Carver game? “Our players believed they could win the game. We played well on defense, and we were able to avoid turnovers and be patient on offense. Our punter, Bo Gaines, flipped the field at key times during the game.” [The Warriors have allowed only six first-half points total and 149, 259 and 123 total yards in their three playoff victories.]

2. You lost your opener to North Oconee, another semifinal team, and then to three other good teams, all by seven points or less. How has the team evolved? “We have developed throughout the season in several key areas. We entered the season with most of our experience on the defensive side of the ball. The defense has played well all season, which has allowed for the offense to develop. Playing really good opponents this season has helped that process.” [Twelve of Oconee County’s 13 opponents made the playoffs, and nine were ranked when the Warriors played them.]

3. What do you believe has helped you have that road success? “Our kids enjoy playing the game together regardless of the location. We have played very good teams on the road this year, our fans travel well, and our kids understand that we have to play well home or away to have a chance to win ball games.”

4. This the second school that you’ve taken to the semifinals, following Jefferson in 2016, and third if you count Flowery Branch as a coordinator. Are there some coaches or moments in your career that specifically helped shape your beliefs on what makes a winning team? “I have been very fortunate to have played and coached for some very successful coaches over the years, and I have definitely benefited from my experiences with each of them. T. McFerrin taught me that less is sometimes more, and that one of the keys to winning late in the season is avoiding burnout from players and coaches. We want our team to enjoy being here. Understanding that talent varies from season to season, working to create a positive environment is an ingredient that shouldn’t be overlooked. As long as the players and coaches don’t want it to be over, they will give all they have.”

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