By Michelle Rand (photo courtesy of Jason Getz/AJC)
Since it was founded in 2009, Archer High School has managed to win three region championships, has been to the playoffs six times and is heading into its fifth-consecutive Corky Kell appearance this August. With so many achievements in so little time, the question is, how have they come so far so fast? One of the answers lies in head coach Andy Dyer.
Dyer has been the head coach of the Tigers since the program was established in 2009. After coaching at Brookwood and Mill Creek, Dyer decided to put his blood, sweat and tears into building the football program at Archer. Dyer dedicated his time to creating this team from the ground up.
“It takes a lot of great people around you, number one, and I was very fortunate to be able to hire a great staff of not just football coaches, but of great men,” Dyer said. “Football is a sport that is built on relationships, and developing those relationships with your staff, and if you have that chemistry with your staff, then that is going to naturally feed down to your players.”
For the past 10 years, the program has had the same three goals — state playoffs, region championship and state championship. From the first time a freshman steps on the field to the last time a senior leaves the stadium, that player is responsible for playing the best that he can, to help his team reach its goals.
“We set our goals that [first] year,” Dyer said. “Our goals haven’t changed — to make the state playoffs, become region champions and be state champion. And we’ve accomplished two of those three goals. We’re still trying to complete that third one, but we set that tone with our kids when they were ninth graders and sophomores.”
In their inaugural season, the Tigers played a JV schedule, but by their second year, they began playing in one of the toughest regions in the state, playing against teams like Brookwood and Parkview. Although they were playing more established programs, and were competing against teams with plenty of next-level, the players in Archer’s young program did not let that bring them down. By their third season in 2011, the Tigers made their first appearance in the playoffs, and the team made it to all the way to the state championship game in 2014, losing 28-24 to Colquitt County.
“We were thrown into a region schedule in our second year of existence with a bunch of puppies,” Dyer said. “We knew we were going to be playing teams that were physically dominant and we didn’t use that as a crutch. We just told them, we don’t care, these are our goals, this is what we want to accomplish, and our kids have bought into that and continue to do so today.”
Although the head coach title is next to Dyer’s name, he sees himself as just a piece of the puzzle. He understands the importance of everyone around him.
“I have the title as head coach, but I’m part of the team and I just have the role of head coach, so I’m going to do whatever I’ve got to do to help those around me be successful,” Dyer said. “And I think that’s a big key as head coach is to make sure your assistance coaches have the things they need and to make sure your players have the things that they need to be successful. Then you just put that plan into action and the results will take care of themselves.”
Dyer also takes pride in the level of commitment his players exhibit.
“We’ve never had to ask or beg our kids to show up every day and work,” Dyer said. “They’ve got a great workmanship and mentality and they keep us young. They give us grey hair, and they keep us young.”
One of the ways Archer has been able to develop such a strong program is by reaching out to the younger generations. Dyer puts emphasis on creating a successful youth program that introduces kids to football at a young age.
“You have to have a great youth program and have people in your youth program that are doing a great job with your kids, and helping them enjoy football and learn to have a passion for it,” Dyer said. “And then we just continue to cultivate that once they become ninth graders and try to keep growing them up.”
All of these attributes are what have allowed Dyer and the Tigers to achieve so much over the past nine seasons, making way for their fifth-consecutive Corky Kell appearance.
“We’ve been fortunate to win three region championships,” Dyer said. “We’ve played for the state championship, we’ve been in the quarterfinals, we’ve knocked on the door to get to another state championship on a couple of occasions, and in order to do that you have to have some talented players, and we’ve had some talented kids come through our school that have been able to go on and play college football.”
With Corky Kell only a few weeks away, the Tigers are busy developing their team right now, going through summer workouts and team camps. Going into their fifth year on the big stage, Dyer knows what to expect when his team goes into its first matchup against Milton in the Corky Kell Classic. But as prepared as the team might be, Dyer knows that it is hard to tell what the outcome will be until the game starts. His focus right now is getting his team ready for Milton.
“Our main focus is to take care of us. We know we are playing a great opponent, but we can’t concern ourselves with our opponent, we have just got to concern ourselves with us, and doing things the right way,” Dyer said. “We talk about with our kids — alignment, assignment — they’ve got to get lined up correctly and they’ve got to do their job, and part of that is to play with all their heart and with all their mind and with all their soul. And so those three things — take care of ourselves, play alignment/assignment football, play with all your heart, all your mind, and all your soul — if we do those things, win or lose, at the end of the night we can go home and put our head on the pillow and feel good about what we are doing.”
Archer will play Milton in the Corky Kell Classic on Aug. 17 at 8:30 p.m. at Georgia State Stadium.