4 Questions with Prince Avenue Christian head coach Greg Vandagriff

Head coach Greg Vandagriff has led Prince Avenue Christian to a record of 49-9 in his five seasons.
Head coach Greg Vandagriff has led Prince Avenue Christian to a record of 49-9 in his five seasons.

Today’s interviewee is Prince Avenue Christian coach Greg Vandagriff, whose team defeated previous No. 1 Athens Academy 41-7 in a Class A Private rivalry game Friday. Prince Avenue, having lost only to No. 3 Rabun County of Class 2A, now is No. 1 in the rankings for the first time since 2015.

Greg Vandagriff, Prince Avenue Christian head coach

1. The Prince Avenue-Athens Academy game was 0-0 at halftime. What happened? “Our seniors had never beaten Athens Academy, and I believe we were a little tight on offense. However, defensively, the game plan that Rob Ridings, our defensive coordinator, put together was working to perfection, and we were playing lights out. We were not feeling pressure, but more like missed opportunities as they had only driven inside our 30 but missed a field goal themselves. We came in at halftime and saw a few things [on film] on offense and defense that we felt like could help us and made a few quick adjustments. They received the ball, and on their first play from scrimmage fumbled and we recovered it and scored five plays later. We held them for a three-and-out, and on the ensuing punt, Logan Johnson weaved 66 yards for a TD and the flood gate burst open. We got excited, and the rest is history.”

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2. The old cliche is that defense wins championships. And this isn’t to say you don’t play good defense at Prince Avenue. But the team that won it last year gave up 57 points in a game you might remember and still won the title. [ELCA beat Prince Avenue 62-57 in the second round] What’s your view on the importance of offense today? “Well, being a lifelong defensive coordinator, I always thought – and for the most part, still do – that it takes a very good defense to win a championship. I moved to the dark side four years ago – offense - and have my thoughts ever changed. Honestly, I believe, especially in high school, you have to have a defense that can stop power-run teams, triple-option teams, wing-T teams and spread teams, and that is extremely hard to do in the smaller classifications. However, if you can score, it all but eliminates those first three teams because once they get behind by two, three touchdowns, they are out of the game. Those power-run, wing-T and option teams have to operate at such a high rate of efficiency that a stop on first-and-10 or a penalty is a lost possession. Offenses have evolved so much over the last five, 10 years that it has made the old-school way of playing defenses obsolete. The spread offenses are able to incorporate option and wing-T concepts but are much more challenging to defend, especially with the use of RPOs and using tempo to affect the other team. Before I became an offensive coordinator, I would have never made these comments. I have truly seen the light.”

3. How is this year’s Prince Avenue team, relative to the others you’ve coached? Is it better equipped to beat a team like ELCA and the other top programs in Class A Private? “This team and the one in 2016 [that lost in the semifinals] were built to win a state championship. The teams in between had a few holes that could only be addressed by players that were not on our roster. Basically, we were not big enough at the lines of scrimmage on offense or defense. That is not the case this year. I am not saying that we can beat ELCA or any of those other teams, but we have a better shot this year than any of the past four years. When you get to the final four or eight, it takes players and some good luck as most of those teams are about the same. Except ELCA. They are a little better.”

4. Your team is best known statewide for your son, Brock, a five-star quarterback recruit committed to Georgia. What would you want people to know about your team that they don’t know? “We were able to play on ESPN this year [against Rabun County] and have already played four top-10 teams in our past seven games. We have 19 seniors on this team, of which five or six are hoping to go to college on football scholarships, and 63 players – eight are new, having never played before – on the high school team. There are roughly 120 boys in our school, and over half of them believe playing football and sacrificing their afternoons to work hard on the field, to sweat, bleed and work together for a common goal is awesome. In a day and time where football participation is shrinking, it’s not in Bogart, Ga. If you are a parent and are thinking about having your son participate in football, we want to partner with your family and help you raise a wonderful young man that is going to hopefully turn into a wonderful son, husband and father. We are not just in the football business, but we are in the business of raising young men. We don’t want to just win football games, but we want to be winners in life. So if you are ever on Highway 78 near Athens, stop on it.”

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