Eric Godfree gives instruction during one of Parkview’s final spring practices. The new Parkview head football coach has replaced his former high school coach, Cecil Flowe. (Photo: Will Hammock)
LILBURN — There’s mismatched paint in the shape of a long rectangle on the outside of an orange door and in the room the new signs and jerseys and pictures shine with a newness of stark juxtaposition against walls best understood as experienced. Behind the desk is a youthful face, not young, but like the items on the wall simply shinier.
And he’s ready for this type of question:
You played here and coached here at Parkview under Cecil Flowe, how are you different from him? How do you put your mark on Parkview football?
“We are two different people,” new Panther head football coach Eric Godfree said this spring after wrapping up a football practice. “Cecil did a lot of things right. Look at his record and look what he did. The five years that I was here with him you couldn’t have had a better program, just every aspect of it.
“Yeah, I dodged that question.”
It’s asked again.
“Next question,” he laughs. “I am not going to say anything, I have too much respect for him.”
What’s understood from Godfree, an experienced football coach in his own right, is that following a man who won four state titles, including three straight in Georgia’s largest classification and winning 46 straight games along the way does not come without a different set of challenges.
This isn’t a rebuilding job for Godfree — Parkview reached the state quarterfinals two seasons ago. He is not an alum returning to his school to revitalize. He is meant to continue a tradition. And he’s not going to start that by giving anything but praise to the outgoing legend.
“I probably have a greater respect for him than most people know or would understand,” Godfree said. “Having played for him, having coached with him and becoming a head coach and seeing all of the stuff that you have to go through and deal with, I have a high, high respect for the man.”
Godfree will be different in his on-field tactics. Godfree plans to bring a spread attack to the Panthers, hopefully with a foundation of a strong running game.
“It’s a whole new style of offense that is just very different for the kids to learn,” Godfree said, the only time he’ll talk about differences from the past. “You learn different skills.
“Spread attack, fast-paced, throw it around. We are still going to have a physical run game. It’s very different.”
He’s kept much of the old staff, evidence his praise of Flowe is not just words.
“We didn’t have to do a lot of fire and hire,” he said. “Basically just needed some reorganization. Nothing was broke. It’s not like the apple cart turned over.”
A college player and three-year starter at tight end for Presbyterian College, Godfree’s spent the past 10 seasons coaching nearby at Loganville, reaching the playoffs in three of those seasons and going 53-50. Make no doubt, he’s got his own style after spending a decade as a head coach.
Coming back to Parkview was a football and family decision for Godfree, who is married with three children. The family is returning to Lilburn and Godfree’s biggest smile comes when he mentions his 6-year-old son playing football this fall at Mountain Park.
“(He’ll be) playing for the Panthers,” Godfree said.
That’s the fun part of coming home. The colors. The fight songs. The old friends. But Godfree’s been gone long enough. He doesn’t return with an unrealistic or idealistic view of reviving his past glories.
“The coaching aspect is just so different than being a student and being a player,” Godfree said. “I learned a lot as a player and I learned even more as a coach. I put in a lot of time as a player, but you put in a lot more time as a coach. It’s a very, very different aspect.
“It’s been neat to correspond with some friends that I went to school with and that I have known from Parkview. Everybody wears that Panther paw with pride.”
Once again, Godfree does, too.
Team: Parkview Panthers
Head coach: Eric Godfree
2013 record: 3-7
Key returning players: OL Trey Derouen, Sr.; TE/DL G.G. Robinson, Sr.; OL Jake Cooper, Sr.; LB Ethan Walton, Sr.; DL Spencer Walker, Sr.; DL Neil Wempe, Sr.
Aug. 29 Mountain View
Sept. 5 Peachtree Ridge
Sept. 12 Brookwood
Sept. 19 at Grayson
Sept. 26 Archer
Oct. 10 at Berkmar
Oct. 17 South Gwinnett
Oct. 24 at Shiloh
Oct. 31 Central Gwinnett
Nov. 7 at Dacula