ROSWELL, Ga - There's a new mentality at Centennial High School according to Athletic Director Jeff Burch: "We don't lose."
That's the phrase he hears in the hallways of one of the most diverse high schools in Fulton County. The Knights expect to win in any sport and they're two-for-two on the HIGH 5 Sports Team of the Week Facebook poll-winning for the second time in two years after a heated battle with Archer High School.
"The community here is fantastic and our kids are different than most schools, it's truly a melting pot," said Burch. "Our teachers want what's best for the kids, they really try to support them in any way possible, so some of the teachers were like, 'everybody go online before we start class and vote, and then we'll get started.'"
Faculty and students alike are genuinely excited about the Knights current 5-game winning streak under new head coach Michael Perry, who left an offensive coordinator job at Coffee to accept his first head coaching opportunity after Lenny Gregory left Centennial to take over the football program at Collins Hill.
"It's very different. Now I have to worry about defense, special teams as well as the offense, plus all the other things that go along with it...sometimes I wonder if I'll ever get a chance to work on football," said Perry.
Perry obviously found some time because his newly-installed Air Raid Offense has produced big numbers landing three of his atheltes in the top ten statistically among all GHSA players- a fourth is ranked in the top twenty. Perry gives credit to former West Virginia offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson-who's now in the same role at Southern Mississippi- for providing the blueprint for his spread attack which relies heavily on quarterback accuracy and the use of multiple playmakers on Friday nights.
"We run the West Virginia offense. Exactly what they do," said Perry.
So far, Perry has helped develop several successful quarterbacks using the Air Raid Offense. In his only season at Coffee, Perry changed the offense from a variation of the Wing-T to a wide-open passing attack led by quarterback Max Hughes, who went on to throw for over 3,500 yards while learning an entirely new offensive scheme. Hughes is now the backup quarterback for Valdosta State. In 2012, Perry helped guide the Gainesville Red Elephants to an AAAAA state championship riding the arm (and legs) of Deshaun Watson. Perry and Watson remain close to this day, something Perry says is common between quarterback coaches and their signal callers. Watson's success is well documented between his national championship season at Clemson and his current play as the offensive leader of the Houston Texans, but Perry says it's the kid who came after Watson at Gainesville that fills him with pride as a coach.
"Mikey Gonzalez was Deshaun's backup for three years, but he never missed a meeting when it would have been easy to say 'I'm just not gonna play football'," said Perry. "In his senior year as the starter, Mikey led the state in touchdown passes and took us to the third round of the playoffs- one win from the final four."
Now, Perry has turned his attention to his latest charge, junior quarterback Max Brosmer who's leading the state in passing yards in just his first varsity season with the Knights. After losing their first three games, two of them in the final 10 seconds. Brosmer has taken control of the offense using a solid arm along with superior intelligence to engineer the Knight's current winning streak.
"He's made huge strides," Perry said. "It's not easy because the quarterback is the most difficult position in all of sports. If he makes a mistake he doesn't make it a second time. This offense goes as he goes. Max has a 4.5 GPA... one day he's probably gonna be President of the United States!"
Perry has his player's respect and it's not surprising, considering most head coaches can't walk through the halls wearing a tee shirt given to them personally by one of the most popular players in the NFL. But, Jeff Burch insists his new head coach isn't a name-dropper, never using his relationship with Watson as a conversation starter.
"He interviewed here two years ago for the head coaching job and made a great impression, so this time he was at the top of my list. We're so happy with what he's done with the program so far. I thought he had the maturity level we were looking for even though he was young. Initially, I wasn't looking for a first-time head coach, but he was the right fit."
With a little luck and a lot of effort, Perry hopes his team can go deep into the playoffs. For now, the Knights are in second place in Region 7-AAAAAA, behind rival Alpharetta. With two regular season home games remaining against sub .500 teams, Centennial will likely host a postseason game when the playoffs begin in November. After the season ends, Perry and his twin brother and Centennial defensive coordinator, Tyler, plan on making a trip to Houston to stay at their friend Deshaun's house and watch a little football.
You can catch the Team of the Week pep rally from Centennial High School Thursday morning beginning at 8 a.m. on Good Day Atlanta. Paul Milliken will present the team with another Hand Trophy that will hopefully sit next to a GHSA state championship cup in mid-December.