High school football is one of the most competitive environments in the nation with the state of Georgia producing some of the best high school football this country has to offer.
In the suburbs of Atlanta rests the city of Roswell, a family-friendly suburb with plenty to offer. And one thing Roswell has is powerhouse football, which has been led by coach John Ford over the last four seasons.
“You aren’t going to hold me hostage!” – one of Ford’s favorite sayings.
Ford is a graduate of Brookwood High School, where he played wide receiver and strong safety. Graduating in 1998, Ford was a part of the Broncos’ ‘96 state championship team. Not surprisingly, he never missed a chance to tell his players when Roswell would matchup with a school from Gwinnett, how all Gwinnett County teams believed Fulton County programs were inferior, according to Roswell High School’s athletic director John Coen.
“He would tell our kids that Gwinnett players and coaches thought ‘GHSA’ stood for ‘Gwinnett High School Association,’” Coen said.
However, Ford has recently left Roswell High School to take the head coaching position over at Buford High School in Gwinnett County. Ford had been at Roswell for nine years, spending his last four years as the head coach.
“Buford has high expectations when it comes to winning and I hope that these expectations will also blend with the expectations of the staff being great mentors and role models,” former Roswell High School head coach and current Blessed Trinity Catholic High School head coach, Tim McFarlin said in regards to how successful he believes Ford will be at Buford.
McFarlin followed that up by saying, ‘Coach Ford will always do a great job in that arena.’
Before joining the coaching staff at Roswell, Ford served as an assistant coach at Harrison High School, in addition to serving as the head track and field coach.
Dexter Wood, the athletic director over at Buford, said that Ford caught his eye right after Roswell beat them in the opening game this season. Now that he is at Buford, Wood says their expectations for Ford are that he wins championships with class and character.
“Young, offensive-minded, successful, intelligent, great teacher, great character, connects with kids” is how Wood described Ford, claiming these are the attributes that made him their ideal coaching candidate.
Working with Ford provided a positive experience everyday, Coen said.
“We worked extremely hard, but we had fun too,” Coen said.
Coen was not happy to lose such a great coach like Ford, but he was certainly happy for him.
“Frankly they (Buford) would have been crazy not to hire him,” Coen said. “They don’t know it (yet) but they have won the lottery in football coaching hires.”
Ford took over as head coach of the Hornets back in 2013. Since then he has led the Hornets to two-straight state championship games and three-straight winning seasons. Under Ford, Roswell boasted an astonishing 40-12 record throughout his four years.
“I don’t like comparing head coaches, but I will say he (Ford) is clearly the best young head coach I have ever been around,” Coen said. “His ability to communicate gave him much needed credibility with the team and most importantly I know the kids believed in him.”
From 2009 to 2012, Roswell went 20-24, making the playoffs twice. However, they had failed to make the playoffs since 2010. And in 2011, the Hornets went 0-10, just two years before Ford took over.
When it came to naming a new head coach after the 3-7 2012 season, Ford’s name was brought to the top of the list. Roswell’s principal, Jerome Huff, knew exactly what Ford could bring to the table and took a chance on the young coach.
In Ford’s first season, the Hornets missed the playoffs with a 4-6 record, but have made the playoffs ever since. After missing the playoffs in 2013, Ford was not too worried about the future.
“No, I knew we were going to make the playoffs (in 2014),” Ford said.
In 2014, Ford helped the Hornets double their win total with an 8-4 record, reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2010. Ford knew he had a talented roster going into 2014 and on that roster were a bunch of young men he said were ready to make the jump.
Ford says that the biggest difference between the 2013 and 2014 season was the leadership and what they were able to get done in the weight room, also mentioning the difference in talent between the 2013 and 2014 senior classes.
According to Ford, these guys were willing to put in the work and got a little better every day. His goal is to always get kids better than they were yesterday. “If you stack good days on top of good days,” and combine that with the raw talent Roswell possessed, you are going to get the results, Ford said.
Coen, on the other hand, said Ford was a master motivator for kids and strongly believes that Ford’s ability to communicate his vision and plan to the team is why he was so successful.
The 2015 season is when the magic truly began to start for Ford and company. In 2015, he led the Hornets to a perfect 14-0 start before falling to Colquitt County High School in the state championship game, ending the season 14-1. Ford’s message to the team, after the state championship game, was simple.
I told them, “That I love them and I’m proud of them,” Ford explained. Ford followed that up by letting them know that you don’t need a scoreboard to tell you that you are a champion.
Just a year later, Ford found himself in a similar situation. Sitting at 14-0, Ford was preparing the Hornets to take on Grayson High School. However for Ford, the results were the same as he once again led the Hornets to a 14-1 record, after falling 23-20 in an overtime thriller.
For the first time in Hornets’ history the team had back-to-back undefeated regular seasons. It was also the first time the school went to back-to-back state championships in football.
“He works hard,” McFarlin said in regards to why he believes Ford has been so successful. “John is a student of the game and doing the little things is important to him.”
His fellow coaches and players will always remember Ford as a great coach.
“He’s a good man, husband, father, teacher and coach,” McFarlin said. “Buford is fortunate to have him.”