What goes through the mind of Page head coach Kevin Gillespie after a playoff win? Here’s an exclusive post-game interview Gillespie gave to Greensborosports.com after his team defeated the West Mecklenburg Hawks 55-26 Friday (11/25/2016) in the second round of the 2016 NCHSAA 4-AA football playoffs.
GreensboroSports.COM: How big is this win?
COACH GILLESPIE: “We’re in the 4-AA playoffs, advanced to the third round, and will be able to play at home again next week. That’s huge. Anytime you can play at home, with the same routine, it makes it better. Our guys like playing at home. In high school I think that is a good advantage. It’s big in high school, I will tell you that.”
GS: Let’s talk about the performances from your players tonight. How big is it to have players step up and make big plays?
CG: Obviously, we’ve got some playmakers. Those guys have been making plays for us all year. We expect the same thing from them at this time. I don’t know if (West Mecklenburg) came out flat, but we didn’t. Especially coming out after the third quarter, we were ready to get after it. We got after it from the opening kickoff of the second half. When Tyler (DeBerry) blocked the punt and got on top of it in the end zone, I think that gave us momentum, and we rolled with it.
“(West Mecklenburg) has a talented team. A lot of teams would’ve quit in that situation, and they kept fighting.”
GS: Speaking of Tyler DeBerry, he was everywhere in the second half. How much did his performance bring the defense and team together?
CG: That’s the way he plays. (DeBerry) was getting double-teamed in the first half and tackled to the ground. (Opponents) can try to double-team him, try to bottle him up, and then, all of a sudden, he gets stronger as the game goes on. He finds a way to dig deep when he gets tired and then make plays. That’s what he does and he did a great job with it tonight.”
GS: How big is a completion on the first attempt for Will Jones versus an incomplete pass or interception?
CG: “Well, that builds confidence for him and the team. (Jones) sent me a text message this morning and told me how ready he was. He told me that he was going to make sure that what happened against Olympic last week didn’t happen tonight, and it didn’t. He was on. He was on with his reads. He was calm and cool. Even when pressure came I thought he did a good job most of the time.
“Coming into the game I was worried about their blitzing scheme, but our offensive line picked it up most of the night. There were a couple of times that they got pressure to him. Whenever he didn’t and had time to throw, he was throwing lasers. Our receivers were catching the ball. We had multiple guys make big catches. Ronald Polite had another great night. Those are the things that we have to do at this time of the year, and they did it.”
GS: Talk about the performance that you got from Javon Leake tonight. Did you think he had a good night and is he advancing the way you would like?
CG: The biggest thing with his injury is confidence: confidence that he isn’t going to tweak his ankle again when he lets loose. This week we took him out before he rolled it, versus last week when he came out because his ankle was tweaked. He came out of the game without any setbacks at all with his injury. Hopefully he will treat it this weekend, and he will be back 100% mentally, and physically he will be as well as he can be. The biggest thing with that injury is mentally being confident that you’re not going to tweak the ankle again, and then (Leake) will cut loose.
“We’ve got another tough test next week.”
GS: How big has Tarvris Martin been in the absence of Javon Leake on special teams, where Martin is returning kicks for you? That is one of the fortes of Leake.
CG: “Tarvris is a special athlete. He has always been good at returning kicks. We just happen to have a guy named Javon Leake. When Javon got hurt, we plugged Martin in there without thinking twice, and he has done a great job. That’s what you have to have, and that’s what we have right now. We’ve got guys stepping up at the right time. Even last week when we played offensively about as bad as we could’ve played, the defense stepped up, and the special teams was awesome.
“This week, we kept putting them behind offensively, even when they were scoring some points early. Then our defense got it together in the second half and getting after them a little bit. We kept going offensively, and that’s what you have to have to do to win this time of year.”
GS: What was their offensive line doing in the first half of the game when West Mecklenburg quarterback Richard Latimer seemed to have all day to pass, versus the second half when your defense broke through and put pressure on them? Was it a mindset change? Was it adjustments by you and your staff? Was it adjustments made by your players?
CG: “(West Mecklenburg) did a good job in the first half of picking up our pressure when we brought pressure. They were double-teaming (DeBerry) a lot. We made some adjustments the second half, changed where we brought pressure from, which made them have to solo Tyler, and when that started happening, it turned ‘the beast’ (DeBerry) loose. Defensively, Coach Weeks and those guys do a great job to do some things to get pressure on (Latimer). We did that, started getting pressure on him, but he still made some plays. However, we got after him pretty good.
“Our defense came up big with stops there, even when we sputtered offensively, and that gave us confidence. I think almost every time but one, when we had a penalty, it stalled a drive. I will have to look at the film on a lot of those holding penalties. It seemed like every time we got rolling, we would get backed up. We will have to try to fix that, obviously.”
*GreensboroSports.com and Wyatt Smith would like to thank Coach Kevin Gillespie for this interview*