A new face will be patrolling the Centennial Knights sidelines next season as the program seeks a return trip to the postseason. Jeffrey Carlberg has been named the new head coach at Centennial after spending the last two seasons as Alpharetta’s defensive coordinator and linebackers coach. Carlberg’s defense gave up just 22 points per game one season ago, only 17 points per game in region play.
“I’m just excited,” gushed Carlberg of being named the new Centennial head coach. “I can’t wait to wrap my arms around the program and get people excited about football at Centennial.” Last season with Alpharetta, Carlberg’s defense shutdown the Knights after Centennial jumped out to an early lead as the Raiders went on to win the 2011 region title. Now, he will be charged with getting the team back into the playoffs for the third time in four years.
Centennial athletics director Phil Thomas, who conducted the search which came down to seven finalists, said “Coach Carlberg demonstrated what the interview panel believes are the characteristics that we want our head football coach to posses: integrity, passion, honesty and character.’’
Carlberg believes that much of his success at Alpharetta came from the head coach allowing the coordinators and position coaches come up with game plans, something he hopes to do at Centennial. “The key to the success is letting the coaches coach. I want to be the same way.” Carlberg wants to hire quality people at Centennial to help him reach new heights with the Knights. “You need to have quality people coaching. As head coach you can’t be everywhere all the time. You need quality people to make a quality program.”
Though Centennial will pick up a few new region foes with realignment next year, Carlberg will recognize many of the teams on Centennial’s schedule from his time at Alpharetta. “You get to know who they are, what their basics are, but they know that about you too,” said Carlberg of the familiarity with schools such as Alpharetta, West Forsyth and North Forsyth.
Before venturing into Fulton County, Carlberg was a defensive coordinator at Lassiter for two years, a stretch that saw the Trojans go 21-4 and win a region title in 2009. Carlberg was able to coach under former Lassiter head coach Chip Lindsey and soak up the experience from a talented mind that went on to become a coach at the college level before returning to coach at Alabama-power Spain Park. “Chip was one of the most laid back coaches,” Carlberg said of the former Trojans coach. “He’d let guys do their thing.”
Centennial will not be Carlberg’s first time as a head coach. Prior to coming to Georgia, he was the head coach of Apollo High School (Owensboro, Ky.) for three years. Carlberg took Apollo to the playoffs in his first season at the helm, winning his first-ever postseason contest. The difference between high school football in Kentucky and Georgia, though, is night and day according to Carlberg.
“The difference in numbers and quality is incredible,” said Carlberg. “You have so many high quality athletes in Georgia that, as a coach, you’ve got to be sharp every week.” In Georgia with so many different schemes, a coach needs to have variations and alterations to be successful. “It’s a challenge every week, but that makes it fun.”
Carlberg has also coached in the college ranks, serving as a Student/Graduate Assistant for Howard Schnellenberger at Louisville from 1988-1992. He coached defensive backs at Meade County (Ky.) High School and worked as defensive coordinator/assistant head coach for current North Gwinnett coach Bob Sphire when the Bulldogs coach was still at Lexington Catholic. “Bob is unique as an organizer and in his thought process,” Carlberg said of the North Gwinnett coach. “He is very creative.”
He hopes to take some of what Sphire and some of what Lindsey showed him as head coaches and apply it to his first head coaching job in Georgia. Carlberg said he will need to figure out what he has returning at Centennial for his multiple defensive look. “You’ve got to have a system, but you can have two or three fronts that will mold to the talent you have.” He noted that while he is a 4-3 guy at heart, last season Alpharetta was in a 3-3 or 3-4 defense 80 percent of the time based on personnel.
As for the offense, Carlberg is anxious to meet some of the holdovers from the previous Centennial regime as he hires new coaches for the spread offense, which he will implement at Centennial. “(The Spread) opens the field up, and you get the best athletes out there and you play more kids.” He said his ideal situation would be to hire the offensive coordinator and give him the offense while reserving a small say in what is run. “We must have a quality staff. You must hire good people and trust them to do a great job.”
Carlberg is married to the former Sherri Gaffney of Danville, Ky., who is a paralegal for the U.S. government. The Carlberg’s have two sons, Major, 11, and Gunnar, 8. Both will be seen on the sidelines next season as ball boys and playing on Saturdays in the Junior Knights program. The family resides in Alpharetta.
Once Carlberg gets past all of the variables and questions over his staff, a potential playoff team awaits him at Centennial. If Carlberg can simply continue the success he’s earned as a coordinator and previously as a head coach, the sky is the limit for the 2012 Centennial team. Knights Nation has a right to be excited with Carlberg roaming the sidelines, getting the community as excited as he is for Friday nights.