BENJI HARRISON wants to change the football culture in Jackson County. And the newly-hired coach doesn’t mean three or five years down the road.
He means now.
“We’re not saying we’re building for the future,” Harrison said Monday via telephone. “We’re building for now because there’s no way I’m going to disregard the senior class, saying that success comes in the future.”
The former Flowery Branch offensive coordinator inherits a long-struggling program coming off a 3-7 season but one that returns several key upperclassmen.
Harrison met with players yesterday and said he’s already heard lots of good things about the senior class.
He has a message for them about 2012.
“We’re going to build the mentality early that ‘this is our year,’” he said. “We’re going to start turning the corner this year. Hopefully, when we say turn the corner, that’s going to be some pretty special stuff.”
The 35-year-old Harrison doesn’t have any direct ties to Jackson County but is familiar with the area and believes he can mold the program into a winner.
“I just feel like Jackson County in itself is a place that’s hungry for success, hungry to really change the culture, and I just was intrigued by that and excited by that possibility,” Harrison said.
Harrison’s credentials as an offensive coach are impressive.
His career took him from Elbert County to Franklin County and then to Flowery Branch in 2008 when he landed a job as passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
In 2011, he rose to the rank of offensive coordinator for the Falcons and presided over a team that averaged 44.8 points a game in a run to the state quarterfinals.
While the Falcons were certainly able to throw the ball in his time at Flowery Branch – the Falcons’ last four quarterbacks all went Division I —Harrison believes in a hard-nosed philosophy.
That begins with a stout running game.
“I don’t think we’re a big finesse team,” he said. “I think we’re a very physical spread team. Obviously, we want to be as balanced as we can.”
The other major component to his scheme? Make opposing defenses defend the entire field and make them do it fast.
“We want to play at a really fast tempo,” he said. “I think that’s been a major key to our success (at Flowery Branch).”
And Harrison has seen what football success can do for a school and a community. After all, Flowery Branch won 43 games and made trips to both the state finals and quarterfinals in his four years there under coach Lee Shaw.
“It’s been fun seeing the excitement that was created and the buzz that was created in the school,” Harrison said of his time at Flowery Branch. “We just had really great kids who bought into what we were doing.”
It’s Harrison’s aim to bring that excitement to Jackson County. His goal is to turn the corner this year, but his eventual objective is to build a program that competes on the state level.
“That’s the goal, to create a team that’s second to nobody in how we operate and how we carry ourselves,” he said.
I hope the community rallies around this team and the new coach. As a proud JCCHS alum, I will support this team no matter what their record is, as long as we do things the right way and play hard each week.
Sports teach our young people a lot of valuable lessons. I would love it if our program became known for winning and making the playoffs, but being known for developing students for a good future in life is much more important. I have a strong feeling that Coach Harrison is going to run a solid program at JCCHS.
I would have to agree. Would be great to win, but more importantly, I want my son to learn about integrity and good sportsmanship....how to do your best and give it all you've got every time out. Welcome Coach!