Coaching changes: Strickland leaves Fitzgerald; Sprayberry hires; Cokely back in Georgia

Article and photos courtesy of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution –> Original Article Here

Fitzgerald has played in the Class AA championship game the past two seasons. (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

Fitzgerald has played in the Class AA championship game the past two seasons.

(Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

Three Gwinnett County football programs made big news last week when they hired head coaches, but none of those topped what finished off a newsworthy week – the decision of Fitzgerald coach Jason Strickland to take the Pierce County job.

Strickland, who led Fitzgerald to Class AA runner-up finishes in 2015 and 2016, told WALB-TV in Albany that it was the toughest decision of his career and indicated that it puts him and his wife closer to family. Blackshear is in southeast Georgia near Waycross. Strickland is from Clinch County.

“This is a really good opportunity with some unique challenges,” Strickland told the TV station. “But I love the vision they have for the future.”

Strickland’s record at Fitzgerald was 54-14 in five seasons. He previously was head coach at Lamar County, where he inherited a program that was 1-9 the season before he arrived and went 12-1 in Strickland’s final season there in 2011.

Strickland will replace Sean Pender, who took the Brunswick job. Pender was 54-18 at Pierce, a program that could never sustain success until Pender arrived.

The Gwinnett County hires went this way:

Peachtree Ridge picked Norcross assistant Reggie Stancil.

North Gwinnett hired Mill Creek defensive coordinator Bill Stewart.

Collins Hill hired Centennial head coach Lenny Gregory.

Here are some other hires that took place in the past week:

*Sprayberry hired Etowah defensive coordinator Brett Vavra, a Sprayberry alumnus, to replace Billy Shackelford, who took the East Paulding job. Vavra is a former Sprayberry linebacker, 2000 graduate and member of the school’s athletics hall of fame, according to the Marietta Daily Journal.

*Tim Cokely, a former head coach at Colquitt County (2005-07) and greater Atlanta Christian (2000-11), was hired at White County to replace Bill Ballard. Cokely, most recently at Leon High in Tallahassee, Fla., has a 185-73 career record and won state titles at North Florida Christian.

*Mount Zion of Carroll County promoted defensive coordinator Brad Gordon to replace the retiring Keith Holloway. Gordon has been with Holloway the past five seasons, during which Mount Zion has gone from 0-10 finishes in 2010 and 2011 to a 35-20 record since.

Off-season hirings:

Appling County hired Jon Lindsey to replace J.T. Pollock

Bradwell Institute hired Russ Couch Greg Hill

Brunswick hired Sean Pender to replace Larry Harold

Buford hired John Ford to replace Jess Simpson

Camden County hired Bob Sphire to replace Welton Coffey

Campbell hired Kyle Adkins to replace Ryan Brady

Carver (Columbus) hired Calvin Arnold to replace Dremail King

Cedartown hired Doyle Kelley to replace Scott Hendrix)

Central (Carrollton) hired Darius Smiley to replace Larry Kesler

Claxton hired Tony Welch to replace Rodrick Williams

Coahulla Creek hired Caleb Bagley to replace Chad Barger

Collins Hill hires Lenny Gregory to replace Kevin Reach

East Coweta hired John Small to replace Steve Pardue

East Paulding hired Billy Shackelford to replace Jon Lindsey

Flowery Branch hired Ben Hall to replace Chris Griffin

Gilmer promoted Casey Wingard, who had been interim coach for the final seven games

Haralson County hired Scott Peavey to replace Frank Vohun

Hart County hired Rance Gillespie to replace William Devane

Hebron Christian hired Jeff Saturday to replace Kevin Shaffer

Jeff Davis hired Lance Helton to replace Ed Lovvorn

Jefferson hired Gene Cathcart to replace Ben Hall

Monroe Area hired Kevin Reach to replace Joey Sulkowski

Mount Zion (Carroll) hired Brad Gordon to replace Keith Holloway

North Gwinnett hired Bill Stewart to replace Bob Sphire

North Oconee hired Tyler Aurandt to replace Terry Tuley

Pacelli hired Mark LeGreeto replace Buster Connally

Peachtree Ridge hired Reggie Stancil to replace Mark Fleetwood

Perry hired Kevin Smith to replace Carl Dixon

Pierce County hired Jason Strickland to replace Sean Pender

Pope hired Tab Griffin to replace Kyle Adkins

Roswell hired Matt Kemper to replace John Ford

Shaw hired Al Pellegrino to replace Chuck Stamey

Sprayberry hired Brett Vavra to replace Billy Shackelford

Statesboro hired Jeff Kaiser to replace Steve Pennington

Therrell hired Greg Sullivan to replace Dominic Callaway

Union Grove hired Chad Frazier to replace Craig Melton

Villa Rica hired Rico Zackery to replace Chad Frazier

White County hired Tim Cokely to replace Bill Ballard

Jobs still open (with former coach)

Atkinson County – David Parker

Baconton Charter – Johnny Hayes

Baldwin – Lee Hannah

Bleckley County – Tracy White

Creekside – Will Rogers

Dutchtown – Mark Myers

Early County – Trey Woolf

Fitzgerald – Jason Strickland

Forest Park – Dale Myers

Gordon Central – David Humphreys

Johns Creek – Matt Kemper

Luella – Nick Vasilcheck

Long County – Eric McNair

M.L. King – Nicolas Kashama

Mitchell County – Larry Cornelius

Newnan – Mike McDonald

Northeast – Bruce Mullen

Northview – Chad Davenport

Savannah – Tony Welch

South Cobb – Sherrod Rainge

South Gwinnett – John Small

Southwest DeKalb – Fletcher Salter

Stone Mountain – Utavius Ingram

Strong Rock Christian – Tommy Webb

Tattnall County – Jeff Kaiser

Washington-Wilkes – Jacob Kelley

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