Will Yancey #55 about to get a sack!
I served at Landmark Christian School in southwest Atlanta in two different stints. The first stint was from 2001-2007 and the second was from 2011-2018. In between those two time periods I served at Tuscaloosa Academy. The two Landmark experiences were almost like a tale of two cities. The first stint was a great experience for me. In ways it seemed like a six year honeymoon. No job is perfect, but those six years at Landmark from 2001-2007 seemed to be as perfect as a job can be. I owe that feeling to the people at Landmark. I cannot imagine a better group of teachers, students, or parents to be involved with at any school at any time. The second had its shares of ups and downs. Most of the downs were my own fault, it was a learning experience for sure!
At Trinity I was teaching five preps and coaching three sports and taking care of the fields. It nearly burned me out and ended my coaching career at an early age. Landmark Christian School was a different place from Trinity. It was a bigger school with a more established athletic program. My job was going to be to teach 11th grade US History all day, one prep! I was also giving up baseball so that I could totally focus on football and have more time with my young family. Right away I could feel the difference! I could pour myself into preparing for my classes and give it 100% effort and attention. It made a huge difference in my ability to teach. I think I even shocked myself at how successful I could be in the classroom. I developed a huge passion for the subject matter due to the encouragement and help of Richard Burslem, our principal. I also developed a lot of great relationships with other teachers that were a huge influence on me. The history department, led by Doug Vinson, was awesome and key to my development. I can never thank Shannon Sheffield and Marie Williams enough for their friendship and encouragement. They were three of the best colleagues that I have ever had. Our history department was the best!
An amazing thing happened soon after the start of the first school year at Landmark. We had to sell our house in Tennessee so Lisa and Ashton stayed there to show the house and get it sold. I lived in the basement of a Landmark family. It was nice but really small and there would not be nearly enough space for us after we sold our house and Lisa and Ashton moved. We were having a house built but it would not be ready until November. Well, our house sold and in early September Lisa and Ashton would be joining me. Where would we live? Enter Fred Gilkeson.
Fred could tell that I missed Lisa and Ashton terribly and that I was having a hard time finding a place for all of us to stay until our house was finished. He offered his house for us to live in and he and his family moved across the street to stay in his in-laws basement. Wow! Can you believe that? It was a huge sacrifice and a real testament to his passion and love for others. He was truly living out “love your neighbor as yourself”. It made us feel more than at home and loved at Landmark. It was one of the most special things that has ever been done for me in my life. Like I said, that seven year stretch at Landmark was like a honeymoon period. I had the time of my life teaching and coaching and building relationships that will last a lifetime.
I love it when former players come back to visit! Landmark legends Rome Smith, Mike Geeslin, Chris Capps, Sean Berger, and Will Geeslin.
We were extremely blessed during that time to have some great players. There are too many to name. When you have a bunch of great players you are going to win a lot of games. In that seven year stretch we won six straight region championships and several young men went on to play in the college ranks.
I was the quarterback coach and offensive coordinator. Chris Mortensen who works as a NFL analyst for ESPN was the head of the search committee to hire a head coach at Landmark. Chris and Kenny Dallas, who I worked with at Trinity and who was now the head coach at Landmark, were the main reasons I took the job. Kenny and I had several discussions about the position and he was very convincing. I have often said that Kenny could sell ice to an eskimo! Chris can also be very convincing. He would call and ask me questions about quarterback play and we would have great conversations. It just seemed to be a great fit, and it was.
I loved the young men that I was coaching and I think they impacted me more than I did them. Alex Mortensen was my first quarterback. He would become a great player. He was named the Metro-Atlanta Offensive Player of the Year by the AJC, made All-State, and received a scholarship to play for the Arkansas Razorbacks. Chris Capps played left tackle. He was one of the best athletes I have ever seen on the offensive line. Chris had great feet and hands. He was an All-State player as well and received a scholarship to play for the Alabama Crimson Tide. Eric Worrell was our best wide receiver. To this day I have never seen a player run the post-corner route or the deep comeback better than Eric. He had 72 receptions his senior year. Jason Godbee was also a great receiver for us. He was our possession guy and our go to guy on third down. Every quarterback needs that receiver that he can count on in the crunch and Jason was that for Alex. He wasn’t going to take the top off of the defense but he would get open over the middle just at the right time. Sean Hill was our tailback. He was quick and smooth, so smooth that it sometimes appeared that he was running effortlessly. Sean had one of the most dedicated and toughest players on the team in front of him at fullback in Dylan Hanes. Dylan was the salt of the earth. He was a coach’s dream because of his attitude, personality, and dedication. He would block all night and never complain about not getting carries. He just wanted to win! He was the high school version of Tom Rathman and if he had been blessed with size he would have played on Sunday’s. Josh Jones was our center. You must have a great center if you want to be successful. Just to give you an idea of how good Josh was at center, in three years he did not have one bad shotgun snap. He went on to West Point and graduated with honors. Josh is a great man and great leader for our country. How is that for the leader of your offensive line? I told you we were blessed.
There are two games that really stand out for me during that fist stretch at Landmark. One was against Bowdon in 2002 and the other was against Twiggs County in 2003. Bowdon was the standard in West Georgia, they had a long time coach who was one of the winningest in the state, they had won state titles, they had a great tradition, the atmosphere for a game there was as good as it gets and they have won our region several years in a row going into the 2002 season. We played them late in the regular season and we both came in undefeated. It was a perfect setting for football, packed crowd on both sides, low 50’s, no rain, slight breeze, and the smell of fall in the Georgia night. You could feel the excitement and tension in the air. It was beautiful. We had a perfect game plan and we executed it to a tee. We played great defense and on offense we had four long, time consuming drives that resulted in touchdowns. We broke their backs late in the third quarter. With the score Landmark 21 and Bowdon 6 we faced a second down and two at the Bowdon 38 yard line. We had practiced a power play action pass for this exact situation all week in practice so I didn’t hesitate when I made the call. Con Right 360 Snake. Our outside receiver would run a 12 yard curl and our slot would run a wheel route. Our QB would fake to our tailback and take a drop. Our fullback would slip into the flat. Alex Mortensen made a great play fake and got a good drop and threw a perfect ball to Eric Worrell on the wheel. He caught it in the back of the endzone. 28-6 Landmark! We had another long, time consuming drive and ate out most of the 4th quarter clock to seal the deal. We were the new kings of region 6! There was a new sheriff in town!
There is nothing like Friday Night Lights in the late fall when you come down to warm up for a play-off game and it is already dark!
Twiggs County was loaded! They had size and speed and they were very physical. They were only giving up an average of five points a game going into the quarterfinals of the play-offs in 2003. We had a tall task ahead of us but we were focused and ready. We had put together a great game plan with some unbalanced line formations and a couple of motions out of the backfield designed to confuse their coverages. Nobody had been able to run against them all year but lining up in the unbalanced formations gave them some fits early and allowed us to gain some number advantages. We were able to crease them a few times on our first drive and take an early lead. Their adjustment was to bring an extra man over to the other side of the formation. We countered by motioning one of our backs out of the backfield to the other side. It really put them in a bind because it left a linebacker one on one with our tight end who had great speed. We abused them! Alex Mortensen had a huge night by hooking up with several different receivers as Twiggs tried different ways to cover us. They really had no answer. We put 47 on them in the first half! It was a great culmination of all of the hard work that Alex had put in throughout his high school career. Early mornings before school, off-season workouts, and everyday in the summer. It was a night I will never forget! We lost in the next round to Clinch County but on the night we played Twiggs there was not a high school team in the country that could have stopped us.
I probably would have never left Landmark if the right situation hadn’t come along but in December 2006 it did. I had always dreamed of being a head football coach and I had always thought I would love to live in Birmingham or Tuscaloosa. One day I noticed on a school job website that Tuscaloosa Academy was looking for a head coach. It jumped right off of the screen at me. I called right away and went and interviewed a few days later and they offered me the job on the spot. I loved Landmark and I loved the people there but I believed God was leading me on a new adventure.
Landmark Christian School Part 2
Friday Night Lights at Landmark were always special!
My second stint at Landmark was totally different from the first. The first stint was near perfect, I sincerely feel like I did a great job, I was highly respected and loved and in a lot of ways revered. I left on great terms. If I am honest, I cannot say that about the second go around. The second time at Landmark was full of challenges and ups and downs. I was the Athletic Director in that second stint. I knew going in that there was a lot to do in that position. I had been warned by friends that it was going to be a tough job. It was. The teams at Landmark were all winning but below the surface there was a lot of work to be done. Parents felt very entitled, and to be honest had gone a little rogue. Facilities were not up to speed, coaches were not being held accountable to school and league policies, we were very short on full time coaches, there was a lack of funds, and there had been little leadership from the top.
I really was in over my head. It was way too much to be the AD and the head football coach. I felt the stress and the workload really affecting me. I also tried to do too much in the first two years. We greatly improved the facilities, hired coaches, set policies, and established mentoring and accountability groups among the coaches. I probably overworked myself. After that second year I constantly felt exhausted.
My record at Landmark as the head coach was 46-16 heading into the 2017 campaign. We had made the play-offs every year and made some deep runs. We had been to the semi-finals and the quarter-finals and had beaten some really good teams. Then disaster struck in 2017, we went 0-10 and I was asked to resign. It hurt really badly. I feel like I had always stood up for others at Landmark and I was constantly going to bat for others when it came to their job, promotions, raises, etc. Sometimes when you stand up for something you can make a few enemies. I certainly did. When I was asked to resign I was hurt because I felt betrayed. I felt like I had been thrown under the bus and stabbed in the back by a few people that probably wouldn’t even have a job at Landmark if not for me. I learned that you figure out pretty quickly who your friends are when you go winless! The crazy thing is that I strongly believe that I did more to promote the gospel and teach manhood to the team in that 2017 season than any other.
The game that really stands out to me during that time was the win over Wesleyan in 2016. I think it is a favorite memory of a lot of people around Landmark from that time. We were undefeated headed into the last game of the season. Wesleyan had one loss. It was a tough and physical game and they led most of the way. Late in the 3rd quarter they were up 17-7 and our quarterback, Joey Blount, was injured on a play and had to come out. It didn’t look good. The next time we got the ball on offense we went to our wildcat package since Joey was out hurt. It totally changed the game. We rotated Dalton Colburn, a freshman running back, and Lofton Tidwell, a senior running back in the shotgun the rest of the night. We ran speed sweep motion with either power or counter, that’s it, and they could not stop us. We had two long, time consuming drives that ended in touchdowns. 21-17 Landmark! In coaching sometimes you are a genius and sometimes you are an idiot. I know I have looked like both from time to time. That night I looked like a genius for going to the wildcat. But, in reality, I am really an idiot for not using it all game long!
After leaving Landmark I spent the last four years at Calvary Day School in Savannah, Georgia serving as the offensive coordinator and quarterback coach. I also coached the track team. The four years at Calvary were awesome. My son, Bryant, played wide receiver for us and we had the time of our lives on the field together. I loved coaching him more than you can ever imagine.
He was just what you would expect from a coach’s son. Smart, hardworking, tough, and dedicated. He ran great routes and he had great hands. He didn’t mind going over the middle and he could take a hit. His senior year he had a beautiful catch and run for a 72-yard touchdown that sealed a victory in the quarterfinals of the play-offs. He won the award at Calvary for the best all-around athlete that shows the most spiritual maturity, he made All-Savannah and All-Region as a junior and senior. He spent every Friday night of his life from birth to his senior year on a high school football field and I love him more than you could ever imagine!
Bryant Brantley #11 WR Calvary Day School
Front: Bryant #57 Ball Boy Tuscaloosa Academy 2008
Ashton, Lisa, and Wayne after a big win!