4 Questions with Thomas County Central head coach Justin Rogers

Today’s interviewee is Thomas County Central coach Justin Rogers, whose team is 8-0 after a 42-21 victory over No. 10 Houston County last week. The Yellow Jackets are playing Friday at No. 7 Lee County. Rogers was the coach at Colquitt County (2019-21) and Jones County (2014-18) before taking the Thomas Central job this season. Despite moving up two classifications into Class 6A, Rogers’ Yellow Jackets are off to their best start since 2007.

1. What did your team to well that made the difference in beating Houston County? Was it containing Houston County’s passing game and quarterback A.J. Hill? “That was the deal, being able to play the long game. Our defense did a good job not giving up explosive-play touchdowns. We only gave up one, and we kept making them snap the ball and found ways to get stops. They have a one-play mindset, and they’re really good at it, and I thought our defense was awesome. Then we finished in the fourth quarter [outscoring Houston County 21-0 after going into the final period 21-21]. We put together a good drive, and the defense comes out and forces a turnover, and we go in again on a short field. At some point we’re going into four-minute mode, trying to burn clock, and the offense did a great job of possessing the ball and we were able to punch in a touchdown run.”

2. Thomas County Central was 5-6 last season playing in Class 4A and hadn’t had a winning season since 2016. Did you expect to be in this position – 8-0 and playing for a region title in this tough region – in your first season? “I know when we took the job and got to working the boys at the school, we felt we had a chance to be a good football team. They had talent and were working their tails off, and we had good support from the school. Did you see yourself being 8-0 and the way we got here? I don’t know, but we knew we had a shot to be good because of the way the kids were working. There were some really good players on this football team who’d played a lot of snaps.”

3. What have you and your staff have done that’s made the biggest difference in the turnaround? “The biggest thing was establishing consistency in everything that we do. We have a system on how we get dressed, a system on how we practice, a system on how we meet and a system on how we lift weights. We hold everybody accountable and to the same standard whether they’re a first-string player or a fifth-string player. All of our coaches come from winning programs from the college level or high school level. We’re doing what we knew produced results and teaching that to the kids.”

4. Why is this job better for you than Colquitt County? “I think everything in life is about fits. There are a lot of women in the world, but you only marry the one that you have a good fit with. I loved my time at Colquitt County and have life-long friends there that I’ll never lose, and I’m a much better coach for the time spent at Colquitt, but I walked into a situation that was difficult. Call it like it was. It was a tough time. I’m proud of what we did there, and I’m proud of my time spent there. When the Thomas County Central job became available and they reached out to me, I did feel like it was a better fit for me and my personality and who I am. It’s a rebuilding mode, and it’s going to be mine. I’m not inheriting it. I grew up on a farm in south Alabama. We’re living with a big pond in Boston, Ga., and enjoy going fishing to relax and get away. This is me. In a football game, somebody wins, and somebody loses, but in life, there are a lot of win-wins. I believe this is a win-win. Sean Calhoun [Colquitt County’s new coach] is a great coach, and I’m happy for their success this season. And I’m having fun coaching ball here. I feel it was a situation where both programs won and nobody lost. I’m pulling for them. I hope they win it all in 7A.”

Produced by Georgia High School Football Daily, a free e-mail newsletter. To join the mailing list, click here.