If perspective from different areas of the world is what West Forsyth wanted in its new coach, they found it in Shawn Cahill.
Cahill, who has been an assistant at Lanier since 2011, has been tapped to replace Adam Clack as head coach of the Wolverines after Clack took the Milton job. Clack guided West Forsyth to the first round of the playoffs last season, where it lost to Brookwood, 45-42.
Cahill has seen different types of football from across the nation, and the bulk of his coaching success has been out-of-state. In the mid 1990s, he was an assistant under his father, Bill, at Harvey High School in North Dakota. The program went 23-3 and played for state championships in 1996 and '97.
“I am originally from North Dakota and played at North Dakota State," Cahill said. "My dad was a head coach for 41 years. I have coached in North Dakota, California, and now I am down here in Georgia.”
Cahill spent one season (1994-95) at Santa Margarita High School in Mission Viejo, Calif.; spent one season (2006-07) at Newton and two seasons (2008-10) at Duluth before joining Lanier.
After being a receiver on two national championship teams at North Dakota State, Cahill was asked if he wanted to play football in Europe. Two weeks later , he had his passport and was on a plane to Finland. He played one season as a receiver, then was used as a defensive back, running back, quarterback and punter.
To say the least, he brings an interesting and well-traveled football perspective to West Forsyth. Cahill took time last weekend to answer a few questions about his new gig in a wide-ranging Q&A:
Q. Being so well-traveled, compare the football you’ve seen to Georgia high school football.
A. Well, compared to North Dakota, there are just more athletes. It is just faster. California ... the difference was you had players that did more multiple sports. And it wasn’t as physical of a game as it is here. The North Dakota kids are physical, but just the speed of the game is a lot different down here. You have kids down here running 4.3 or 4.4, and up there maybe the fastest kid is a 4.6 or 4.7. And in California it has kind of been sort of pass-happy out there for a while. And you can kind of see that in the Pac-12. It is a finesse game out there, and that is the kind of kids that they have. And then you look down here and the schools kind of follow the SEC, you know, gonna hit you in the mouth and be physical.
Q. What have you learned in your travels that you will bring to West Forsyth as the head coach?
A. Well, the number one thing is that every situation is going to be different. But at the same time, your whole entire team, whether it is the coaching staff down to players, everyone has to be held accountable for their actions. I have been in programs where that hasn’t been the case, you know, freelancing all over the place. You have to have a system and you have to believe in what you are doing. Everybody has to be on board with that. I have been in systems where it has been like, “We are going to run this, and if it doesn’t go well we are going to change in the third game of the season, and that didn’t work, so now we have to go to this in the fourth game.” I have been in a program that went from a spread to a wing-T in a single season. Needless to say, it did not work. So you have to believe in what you are doing, and everyone has to be on board with that.
Q. What is your team looking like?
A. When I finally got to watching game film, I was impressed. We have kids here who are going to give everything they got. They're tough kids. Just watching that, to me, you can build on that. If you have kids who are willing to go out and spill their guts out on the field, you know, that was big and was one of the most appealing things about the program, for me. There were 97 openings this year and this was the only one I threw my hat into. The whole picture was there, but I loved seeing the way these kids play. At Lanier, we played Dacula and so did West. West beat them; Lanier didn’t. And watching the game film, these kids just play hard. To me, coming from where I come from, North Dakota, it is the same type of a kid. I am watching them on film, and I think that is the same type of kid that I want to model this program after.
Q. Describe your relationship with the West Forsyth fan base?
A. It has been great. I have had meetings with parents this week, you know, thinking maybe I’d get 30-40. I have had 130 in meetings with parents this week. We have gone out in the community and every single sponsor, business, and whatnot that we have called have been open to us. All the parents coming in spending 15-20 minutes in here has been phenomenal to me. I go home and tell my wife that I cannot believe the support and how the community supports these kids.
Q. Is there a message to the fans?
A. I mean, as I said when I interviewed, this place is not broken. I am not going to come in here and change a tire that is not flat. I am going to find a way to build on what coach Frank Hepler and Clack have already gotten started here. And find a way to get to that next level somehow. That is the plan when I talk to the kid: Let’s get to that next level somehow.
Q. What are the goals and what would be a success after year one?
A. I met with the seniors yesterday, and the goal every single year is to win a state championship. I don’t feel like there is a reason to go into the weight room and do everything that we do and spend the time that we are spending unless that is your goal. But if these kids go out and their attitude in practice and their effort is there, if we get beat, then I’ll go over and shake the coach’s hand and say, “Congratulations, you just beat a good football team and we did everything we could to win.” As long as we go out and a team beats us, and we don’t beat ourselves, I can be happy with that. I’ll figure that we are doing things right because our kids are doing what we ask them to do.
Q. What keeps you busy outside of football?
A. I have four kids. They range from a 2-year-old boy to a 14-year-old girl so if I am not doing something football-wise, I am chasing them around doing something.
Q. What do they think about head coach daddy?
A. They're excited. My daughter will be a freshman so we were kind of tip-toeing around it a bit, wondering what she was going to think about leaving her friends and going to a different school. We were going to give her a choice about it, and it took her about a day to say, “I want to go to West.” We are all on board with it, and the wife put our house up for sale yesterday. So it is going to be a big change, but we are excited.