18 new coaches taking over in Class A
Number of hires: 9
Best hire: Darren Alford, Schley County
Hardest to replace: Mike Swaney, Marion County
Best job: Hawkinsville
Toughest job: Stewart County
Most interesting: Two head coaches who recently won state titles – David Daniell at Hawkinsville (2014) and Mike Swaney at Marion County (2013) – stepped down. Daniell remained in the school system in an administrative role. Swaney retired.
*Chattahoochee County hired North Forsyth defensive coordinator Drew Fowler to replace Josh Kemp, who remains in administration in the school system. Fowler also has coached at Peach County (during the 2005 championship season), Paulding County, Carrollton and Metter. Chattahoochee County was 9-12 in two seasons under Kemp, who was 37-28 in two stints at the school and 3-7 in 2015.
*Stewart County hired Drew defensive line coach Kelvin Smith to replace Travis Terry. Smith has coached most of his 14 seasons in his native Alabama, including brief stints as head coach at Holt (2014) and Jackson-Olin (2012). He inherits a team on a 30-game losing streak. Terry, now the offensive coordinator at Terrell County, toiled eight seasons at Stewart, a school of only 124 students, and won just four games.
*Montgomery County hired Cross Keys head coach John Bowen to replace Eric McDonald, who resigned as coach and athletics director and remained as assistant principal. Bowen is known for taking on some of the toughest jobs in the state, including Glascock County, where his 1999 team broke an 82-game losing streak. Bowen was Hephzibah’s coach for 10 seasons (2005-14) and led the Rebels to three playoff appearances. Montgomery County was 0-10 in 2015.
*Wheeler County promoted longtime defensive coordinator Randy Collins to replace Randy Grace, who is now defensive coordinator at Harris County. Collins has coached at Wheeler County since 1992 and at his alma mater Montgomery County and Telfair County before that. Wheeler County was 3-7 in Grace’s only season with the Bulldogs.
*Marion County promoted defensive coordinator Chris Kirksey to replace Mike Swaney, who was 65-10 at Marion as a head coach. Swaney retired. Kirksey was Taylor County’s head coach from 2004 to 2013. His teams were 50-62-1. Swaney coached football for 31 seasons and never applied to be a head coach until the Marion County job opened in 2010. Marion won its first state championship in 2013.
*Hawkinsville hired Will Conner to replace David Daniell, who remained in the school district as director of operations. Conner is a 2001 Hawkinsville graduate who has run his alma mater’s defense for several years. Daniell led Hawkinsville to a state championship in 2014, and his four-year record was 31-16.
*Schley County hired West Laurens offensive coordinator Darren Alford to replace Mark Daniel, who became head coach at Rutland in Macon. Alford coached for 18 seasons at his alma mater Americus and Americus-Sumter, primarily as defensive coordinator, until moving to West Laurens in 2009. Under Daniel, Schley was 6-4 in 2014, its first winning season since 2008, but then 0-10 in 2015.
*Hancock Central promoted offensive coordinator Marleau Blount to replace Zachary Harris, who is now the offensive coordinator at Twiggs County. Blount was head coach at Warren County for two seasons (2009-10) and had an 11-11 record.
*Towns County hired former Chestatee running backs coach John Cornett to replace Billy Barnhart, whose teams were 4-16 in two seasons. Barnhart is now the line coach at Oneida High in Tennessee.
Class A (private)
Number of hires: 9
Best hire: Jimmy Chupp, King’s Ridge Christian
Hardest to replace: Mark Stroud, Calvary Day
Best job: Prince Avenue Christian
Toughest job: North Cobb Christian
Most interesting: Rick Tomberlin is best known for his work at Washington County, where he won state titles in 1994, 1996 and 1997. He came out of three-year retirement to take the Calvary Day job. “I wanted to see what life was like outside of teaching and coaching,” he said at his introduction. “It didn’t take very long for me to realize that I missed it.”
*Calvary Day hired Rick Tomberlin, who won 236 games and three state titles before retiring in 2012, to replace Mark Stroud, who took the Swainsboro job. This will be Tomberlin’s seventh coaching stop. Tomberlin, 59, made his name at Washington County (1992-2005). He also is the only person to be head coach at both Lowndes (1989-91) and Valdosta (2006-09). Calvary Day has averaged 10.2 wins per season over the past five years and finished 9-2 in 2015.
*Our Lady of Mercy hired Jamie Aull to succeed Mike Earwood, who retired. The job originally went to former Griffin and Drew coach Jarrett Laws, but Laws took the Salem job in June. Aull, who came to OLOM with Laws as offensive coordinator, then was promoted. Aull was head coach at Mount Zion of Jonesboro (2009-11). His teams were 12-19. Aull was Griffin’s offensive coordinator under Laws in 2014 and 2015.
*Christian Heritage promoted offensive coordinator Jay Poag to replace brother Preston Poag, who became head coach at North Murray. Jay Poag has some 20 years of college coaching experience with stops at N.C. State as a graduate assistant (1987-88), Lenoir-Rhyne (1989-90), Presbyterian as offensive coordinator (1991-98) and alma mater Davidson (2002-08). Poag started the Pine Lake Prep (N.C.) football program in 2012. Christian Heritage played its first region schedule in 2012 and was 24-20 in four seasons under Preston Poag.
*North Cobb Christian hired Westminster Academy (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) head coach Jake Sorg to replace Scott Ryle, who became head coach at Brook Hill School in Texas. Sorg’s Westminster teams were 30-12 in four seasons. Sorg also specializes in strength training. North Cobb Christian started football in 2007 and achieved its first winning season (6-4) in 2015 against a non-region schedule.
*King’s Ridge Christian hired former Greater Atlanta Christian head coach Jimmy Chupp to replace Jeff Pickren, who started the program in 2008. Chupp was GAC’s coach from 1999 to 2007. His record was 89-24, and he never had a season with fewer than eight victories. The 2002 team reached the Class AA final. Chupp has worked at GAC for 21 of the past 22 years, most recently as facilities director and assistant football coach. King’s Ridge has never had a winning record in football and finished 1-9 each of the past two seasons.
*St. Francis hired Franklin County (Fla.) head coach Tim Mathis to replace Brennen Booth, whose teams were 23-19 in four seasons at the 6-year-old program. Mathis, a Rome native, was on Shorter University’s staff from 2005 through 2014, the last five years as offensive coordinator. He also has coached at Trion. Booth is now head coach for the new football program at Notre Dame Academy in Duluth.
*Whitefield Academy promoted defensive coordinator John Hunter to replace Quinn Gray, who left after one season (2-8 record) to become head coach at Mandarin High in Jacksonville. Hunter coached for 16 seasons at Harrison and two at Allatoona. He won a state championship as a head coach in 1990 at Lexington Academy in Texas.
*Tattnall Square hired Prince Avenue Christian offensive coordinator Chance Jones to replace Clint Morgan, who was 22-11 in three seasons. Jones is a graduate of the Westfield School in Perry and is the son of Westfield head coach Ronnie Jones, who has 329 victories in the Georgia Independent School Association. Tattnall Square joined the GHSA in 2014 and went 10-2 and 4-6. Tattnall won 11 GISA state championships under Barney Hester, who is now head coach at Howard in Macon. Chance Jones had been at Prince Avenue for the past six seasons.
*Prince Avenue Christian hired Woodward Academy defensive coordinator Greg Vandagriff to replace Jeff Herron, who took the Grayson job. Vandagriff had run Woodward’s defenses since 2005. Woodward reached the semifinals last season and held opponents to one touchdown or fewer in 10 of 14 games. Vandagriff was head coach at Campbell (1999-2000) and Kell (2003) and compiled an 16-24 record.
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