Providence Christian Academy's Ken Robinson is in his third year as head coach of the football program. (Staff Photo: Brandon Brigman)
Ken Robinson came home a few ago weeks and found his wife Lori watching an old game film.
It was Greater Atlanta Christian’s semifinal game in the Georgia Dome in 2002, when Robinson was a coach for the Spartans.
Robinson stopped in the room to reminisce about the team. Then the television commentator mentioned one of the teams in the Class A semifinal had a team with just 25 players and the Providence Christian head football coach drew a connection.
“I’m painting that picture for them,” Robinson said.
Providence will begin the third year of its football program this fall. The team is small, which is to be expected for a Class A school. The Storm have just 25 players on their junior varsity squad and 24 on the middle school team.
“The good thing about this group, I think everyone of these guys will contribute and play,” Robinson said. “That’s exciting as a player.”
Providence’s football program began in 2011 with just a middle school team. The team played a junior varsity schedule last year, going 5-1-1. The only loss was to North Cobb Christian’s varsity team. It will play a JV schedule again this year and move to a varsity schedule in 2014.
“I think the region we’re in is pretty good football,” said Robinson, whose team plays schools like George Walton Academy, Prince Avenue, Athens Christian and Athens Academy. “I tell our guys all the time you better sharpen your pencil and get ready to play those guys.”
Robinson has taken baby steps to start the program. He could have easily had them jump into a varsity schedule that first season, but chose to take a slow approach to build the program right.
“Every day I’m coaching the middle school defense. I tell them the things we’re covering isn’t about just this year because we are asking them to do a lot,” Robinson said. “We’re taking a long-term perspective.”
Robinson brings a pretty impressive resumé to the Lilburn private school. He was team captain of the University of South Carolina football team in the early 1980s and was a member of the Washington Redskins’ 1987 Super Bowl team.
Robinson spent eight seasons at GAC, including three years as defensive coordinator and two years as head coach. He had a 5-16 record with one playoff appearance.
While at GAC he tutored under the legendary Jim Lofton, who would always tell him to be patient. He’s used that mantra at Providence.
“I know that if we’re going to build a solid program, we can’t get in a hurry,” Robinson said. “The thing about Providence, football is the bigger picture of the school. This football program is to support the larger mission of the school. When everybody is on the same page with that, it makes it easier.”
As Providence enters it third season, Robinson can tell a noticeable difference in the program. The players have two years of weight room experience, so they are bigger and stronger. Their knowledge for the game is also showing on the field.
“We’re able to move a lot faster. When you’re sound, you can be creative,” Robinson said. “Just taking the first six weeks of the summer, we’ve pretty much installed what we’re going to run. We’re further ahead because the kids have been in the program for three years, they know the routine, they know what’s expected and maybe we’ve gotten a little better as teachers.”
Robinson serves as head coach and defensive coordinator, while Jeff Joyner is the offensive coordinator. Ken Gossage, a former coach at Buford, is on staff along with South Gwinnett grad Hafeez Baoku. Randy Scott, who played for the Green Bay Packers in the early 80s, and former Atlanta Falcon Martez Milner are also on staff along with Tom Duncan, Scotty Strong and Jerry Overman.
“I don’t want to be involved with something that’s mediocre,” Robinson said. “Football is a great tool to prepare young men to be great dads and great husbands and great leaders. That’s worth spending my time on.”
Providence runs a multiple formation offense and 3-4 on defense. The team returns just four starters from last year — two on offense, two on defense — but other players saw significant playing time.
Quarterback Caleb Carter, FB/LB Max Carter and OL/LB Ben Ellison have been in the program for all three years of its existence. Anthony Kushand, Chris Sanders and Noah Emerick are the team’s only seniors.
“This year we’re trying to get the younger guys to be leaders as much as the older guys,” said Kushand, who also plays basketball for Providence. “We want to be an elite program. We want to keep pushing.”
There’s no JV state playoffs, so the team is limited to a seven-game schedule. Robinson hasn’t put any expectations on the team, like a certain number of wins. Most of the goals this year are about who Providence is going to be, which the players came up with during the offseason.
“Do what you do with excellence and we’ll let the scoreboard take care of itself,” Robinson said.