Coaching Profile: Bruce Miller
Team: Gainesville High (GA)
In a way, the Gainesville (GA) football team’s final game was a microcosm of the team’s season. Tough losses on the field, compounded by injuries to several key starters set up a tense finish to the regular season. Then, Bruce Miller’s plucky Red Elephants team seized clutch wins to reach the playoffs and come within a single score of knocking off a No. 1 seed on its own field. It all turned around when Miller and his coaching staff had a heart-to-heart with their players following two consecutive losses to region opponents. The coaches asked the players to look ahead to the legacy they wanted to leave.
At the time, Miller’s team was at its lowest in the middle of the year, when it became clear it could not overcome local rival Lanier as the top seed from Region 8-AAAAA. On top of that, Gainesville was missing starters on both offense and defense.
“We had a lot of talks that week of what we represent,” said Miller. “The traditions we want to carry on. They could have easily folded their tent and fallen apart, but they rallied around each other. So we knew, if they wanted to do it, they could go out and get a home playoff game and put us in a good situation.”
From that point on, Gainesville embarked on a four-game win streak, including a victory over Alexander in the first round of the postseason before travelling to play top-seeded Stockbridge in the Round of 16.
The Red Elephants trailed 28-6 at halftime before ripping off four second-half touchdowns to force overtime, before falling to the Tigers in heart-breaking fashion. Still, the comeback proved that Gainesville could stand up to the test.
“Football, I’ve heard a lot of people say, it’s like life,” said Miller. “It’s tough. You have to endure the physical and the mental parts of it and the grind. You start in August and get the season going, with all the ups and downs and injuries you get. But you can’t get too high on the ups or too low on the downs. Attitude has a lot to do with it. If they can control their attitude and their effort, we’ll deal with the rest of it.”
The same school that has produced college talents like Clemson’s Deshaun Watson and Alabama’s Blake Sims has a new crop of budding quarterbacks in the pipeline.