Photo by Jerry Jackson
New Forest Park coach John Diehl helps demonstrate a defensive technique during the first week of spring drills at the school.
FOREST PARK — When Forest Park opened its spring drills on Monday, it was apparent what coach John Diehl was trying to get accomplished. The first week of drills was dedicated to the defensive side of the ball.
Diehl allowed defensive coordinator Nick Bach to install his scheme.
“We are going to come after you,” Diehl said about the new defensive scheme.
And the coach feels he has the right person to lead the Panthers into a new era on the defensive side of the ball. Bach has spent the majority of his short coaching career in the college ranks.
Most recently, he was a defensive assistant at Buffalo. Last season, the Bulls gave Georgia a handful in the first half before the Bulldogs superior talent took over.
Diehl is also working to change the culture at Forest Park. The new coach will have his work cut out for him as the team is coming off an 0-10 season, which has happened three times in the last 10 seasons.
Forest Park last made the postseason in 1996, and has only won 10 games in as many seasons.
But the new coach doesn’t want to dwell on the negatives.
“These players are hunger and determined,” Diehl said. “They have been working their tails off since I’ve gotten here. They have dedicated themselves to the weight room. We are working like crazy.
“These kids lost a lot more than football games. They have lost some of their pride. We have been pushing them to put in the work and get some of that pride back.”
Diehl will have 18 seniors on the upcoming season squad. Among the the players on the team is Brandon Williams, a three-sport standout athlete.
This past week, he split his time between practicing for the Class AAAAA track and field championship and football practice. Williams qualified for state in the high jump.
Last season, he was the Panthers’ top offensive threat. He rushed for 431 yards and three touchdowns and had 18 receptions last season. On defense, Williams had 87 tackles and three sacks to go with his 10 tackles for loss.
The 6-foot-3, 200-pounder was the leading scorer on the basketball team with a 10-point average.
“I think we are more committed now,” Williams said. “Coach Diehl pushes everyone. He really knows what he is doing. I think we are pretty excited about our team.”
Diehl says he knows that Forest Park has struggled in recent years, but he refuses to offer that as an excuse.
“We are not going to lower the bar,” Diehl said. “I came in here and set some high standards. It might be tough, but we are going to reach them. The kids are pushing themselves and they are willing to do the extra work. The bar has been raised tremendously.”