The Coin Flip Chronicles
As the 2017 Georgia High School Football regular season comes to a close we tip our caps to all of the teams and players who participated and extend well wishes to those fortunate enough to be continuing on the road to Mercedes Benz Stadium and State Championship Weekend. On this Football Friday In Georgia, those playoff bound teams will find out their opponents and destinations for next week's first round state playoff games. For some, it has already been figured out, but for others tiebreakers will be needed.
The Georgia High School Association doesn't get involved in tiebreakers for the regions and allows each region to decide which form of tiebreaker works best for them. The tiebreakers run the gamut from head to head to, points scored, points allowed, strength of schedule, and point differential, right on down to a 3-way mini game, and last but certainly not least, the dreaded coin flip. Winning the tiebreaker means you are a first or second seed and will get to play at home. Losing means being a third or fourth seed and hitting their road where you might face a defending state champion that has been beating everybody by 40 points all season.
Oh the coin flip, it can cause the palms to sweat and the stress levels to rise. Coaches have been known to have sleepless nights and make stops at Walgreens for Maalox all due to the thought of a coin flip. "It's takes years off your life," says Mill Creek Head Coach Shannon Jarvis. "I'm glad that our region now uses point differential to get away from the coin flips. "Archer Head Coach Andy Dyer took a different approach. "I actually started practicing coin flips," says Dyer. "We would all sit around this big table in the coaches office and I would start flipping a coin. I would lose 3 in a row, then I would win 2 straight and stop. I knew I was going to win the next one. It's all probability."
Sometimes you lean on a friend. In 2010, Terry Crowder's Chattahoochee team was set to meet Statesboro in the semifinals, and his friend Franklin Stephens' Tucker squad was matched up with Starr's Mill. Crowder and Stephens both decided to call heads at their coin flip."I flipped the coin, it landed tails and I knew that I was bound for Statesboro," remembers Crowder. "I got into my car and Frank called me to say that he called heads and won, so he would get a home game. I said, "You sorry dog, I have to go to Statesboro." I'll never do that again. It all turned out just fine, because 2 weeks later Chattahoochee beat Starr's Mill to win the state title."
Coin flips can be held any place, but most of the time the coaches will end up at a place where food is being served. Not a lot of fine dining establishment’s open on highways around Georgia after 11:30 on a Friday night. Last year Rome Head Coach Mike Reid waited until the next morning to meet Stockbridge Head Coach Kevin Whitley at Waffle House in Kennesaw and flipped a coin on a table. "Kevin shouted "Dang", got up shook my hand and left", remembers Reid. "The waitresses were looking over at us shaking the heads wondering what in the world we were doing at 6am on a Saturday morning. We all just left after the coin flip, and those poor women were working for money. Guess we could have at least left a 5 on the table."
To be sure Waffle House seems to have hosted more of these coin-flipping events down through the years, but sometimes an audible has to be called. Grayson, Dacula, and Archer were in a 3-way tie and coaches were to meet at Waffle House on Snellville for the coin flip. Andy Dyer called his friend Tommy Jones of Dacula on the way. "Dude, I'm about to drill you in this coin flip," remembers Dyer. Then came word that somehow the coin flip location had been leaked and fans of all 3 schools were starting to show up. Quick, a change in venue was needed, and the move was for the IHOP on highway 78. Grayson's Micky Conn joined Dyer and Jones, not in front, or inside, but behind the IHOP near the dumpsters, where former Brookwood Coach Dave Hunter performed the coin flip. " It came up Archer 1, Dacula 2, and Grayson 3," said Dyer. " Everybody was real friendly until that coin went into the air. Afterward we were silent. We all got into our cars and left. We didn't even shake hands."
We'll Keep The Light On For You, is the popular slogan for Motel 6. That same slogan could apply to Cracker Barrel, if you ask Norcross, North Gwinnett And Collins Hill .In 2013, there was a 3 way time at the top of their region. "We went to Cracker Barrel at 11:30 after our last regular season game," remembers. Norcross Head Coach Keith Maloof. "Cracker Barrel was closed, but they let us come in just for the coin flip. It came out Norcross 1, Collins Hill 2 and North 3. That was the year we played North for the state title." Just doesn't seem right to go to Cracker Barrel and not eat something.
For me, one of the best coin flip tale come from Blessed Trinity Head Coach Tim McFarland, whose Titans drew Washington County for a quarterfinal game and a coin flip was needed. Coach McFarland and his assistant coach Ricky Turner drove east on I-20 to an exit that just had a Waffle House and a gas station. There they met WACO Head Coach Joel Ingram, who brought along 2 assistant coaches and the team Chaplin. " Coach Ingram had a shiny silver dollar and he wanted to flip it, but I made a suggestion," recalls McFarland. " Let your preacher flip it. He's an honest man. Coach Ingram agreed and called Heads. The Chaplin flipped the coin and it landed on it's side and started to roll. There was 6 grown men bent over waking through the Waffle House parking lot following that coin, that struck a pebble and landed, Tails!! The WACO coaches looked at the preacher like it was his fault, we hopped in my car and drove home."
Now the GHSA has taken a step to eliminate those drives across state for a coin flip by holding virtual coin flips, starting with the quarterfinal round. The two coaches are joined on a phone call with a GHSA representative who does the flipping while the coaches listen. Andy Dyer remembers having his coaching staff listening on speakerphone. "Coach Dyer, this is the GHSA, remembers Dyer. "I'm going to do the coin flip and my wife is here, she's going to be my witness. I had the vision of this poor women in her night gown and slippers watching a coin being flipped. Things were not so light hearted for Shannon Jarvis after Mill Creek won at McEachern last season. It can be a horror story," says Jarvis. "I'm on the bus riding home and on the phone for a virtual coin flip with Grayson. The one-second of silence while the coin is flipped was more stressful than any game that I have coached in. I hate it. I hate that coin flip!!"
Tim McFarland knows it's progress but still prefers meeting the coaches face to face for coin flips, but feels that if the coin could be seen it would be less stressful and maybe more fun for the fans. We could call it Coin Flips After Dark on GPB.Org. In this day and age of Skype, FaceTime, Facebook Live, and Periscope it would be easy or the governing body to make the virtual coin flip visible. "We are at the mercy of the integrity of the folks at the Georgia High School Association," says McFarland. "Could they Skype it? Sure they could, but then we wouldn't have these great stories.