In what the Newton High School football head coach called “The Newton Spot,” a.k.a ‘World of Wings 2’ we had lunch and talked about his first year as head coach and what he expects from the program next season.
The Covington News: On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, how would you rate your first year?
Terrance Banks: I’d probably say it was an eight; and I only say it was an eight because I felt like I could have did more for the boys as far as getting them out of the first round of the playoffs. They have never been out of the first round and it’s been about 10 years since Newton has. That’s the only reason why it was an eight. Everything else was a 10. The community accepted me. I can’t even explain the stuff that happened for me this year. Winning my first game against Lowndes number four in the state. We were the high-five team of the week. You can’t predict stuff like that. That was amazing. I never could have guessed that that much attention would have been on Newton High School when they hired me. That’s something you dream about.
The Covington News: We know in your first player/parents meeting you talked about building a championship program, which didn’t necessarily mean winning a title. Do you think you have the right foot forward toward building that program?
Banks: Yes. When we’re talking about building a championship program at Newton, we look at three levels. There are three championships. Our biggest championship actually goes in reverse. It’s at the end of the year. It’s graduation. Our second-biggest championship is signing day, and then our third biggest championship is the actual state championship. When you look at it from that perspective 99 percent of our kids graduated from high school that were seniors. We had five guys that signed college scholarships on signing day and a sixth that has gotten a scholarship after signing day. We had six guys go to school. No, we didn’t win a state championship, but where are we as a program? The thing about school achievement, we had 115 kids out in the spring. We’ve never had that many kids out in the spring at Newton, we ran out of helmets...We’re building the program the right way.
CN: How would you describe your relationship with your players?
Banks: (He laughed.) Dad/humongous big brother. My players know I care a lot and I get on to my players and I ride them hard, but at the same time my players know that it’s more important to me that they be successful when they leave Newton High School than we win a state championship. My players definitely understand that. I think my players definitely take on my emotions. I’m a highly emotional guy. I wear it on my sleeve and I think my players do the same thing as well... My players know that if you bring an Xbox in the field house that I can spank that behind in Madden.
CN: How do you see you guys improving this season?
Banks: We have the potential to be a great football team if some things fall into order between now and August. We gotta get better line play, not that our line play was bad. I’m gonna start probably three sophomores on our defensive line. This is their first time playing varsity, so they’ve got the potential to be fantastic. But it’s just potential until you do it. Our offensive line does have great potential. A lot of those guys have game experience, but if we’re gonna go the way we wanna go, they’ve got to be better than what they were. Skillwise we’ve got weapons at the skill positions. Our season really depends on how well our line plays. We do have great skill positions guys. For us it depends on how those guys up front come together.
CN: What player are you looking for most to improve or expecting to see a lot out of in this upcoming season?
Banks: While Davonte Jones is our bell cow, we’ve got to get him the ball more because he is really a grown man amongst boys. Romario Johnson is the person we gotta have the most improvement out of, that’s our quarterback. In a sense people might say it’s hard for him to improve after being all-area in both papers. As I told him, he threw for 1,700 yards and he ran for 800, so he had about 2,500 yards of offense. We need 3,500 this year. He’s going to be a junior this year, we need 4,500 as a senior. How our offense is ran, he is basically the head coach on offense. We run a college style offense where he has choices to call plays at the line of scrimmage. Being in his second year in the system, knowing the playbook, knowing the audibles now, if he’s going to take that next level it’s on him. It starts with the triggerman. That’s the one guy you gotta account for.
CN: Give us a prediction of your record this year.
Banks: I have no prediction. What I will say is this, 1988 was the last time Newton High School played 12 or more games. Most of my kids were born after that year. This is the first time in school history that we made the playoffs in back-to-back years. Our overall goal is you gotta play 12. What that means to us is we gotta make the second round of the playoffs. If we get to the second round of the playoffs, we’ll have a winning record. We will have made it to the playoffs, for the first time in school history, three years in a row. I think we have a chance to be special. Everything they need is in front of them. You gotta beat lovejoy if you want respect. We gotta continue to show our rivals that, as I tell my kids, we run this county. We gotta continue to remind Alcovy every year that we run this county. It’s one high school and y’all are extras. We don’t play Eastside anymore, but we want Eastside to know from the way we play this year is it’s in y’all best interest not to play us in the regular season. (Rockdale High School head football coach Venson Elder) knows. Me and him are good friends. He’s like a mentor to me. Game 10 we’re going back to Rockdale, and Elder has a trophy that belongs to me. I need to remind him that last year was a fluke and that’s why y’all didn’t make the playoffs. We can’t sneak up on anybody this year. If we make game 12, it’ll take care of itself. When you get to 16 teams, everybody is good. We’re on the right track.