There were 82 head coaches hired by GHSA schools over the offseason. This week, GHSF Daily has been looking at each new coach, concluding today with classes AA and A.
Number of hires: 15
Best hire: Franklin Stephens, Lamar County
Hardest to replace: Robby Pruitt, Fitzgerald
Best job: Greater Atlanta Christian
Toughest job: Jordan
Most interesting: Franklin Stephens, coach of 2011 Class AAAA champion Tucker, and Lee Shaw, coach of Flowery Branch, left big-time jobs for the country. Stephens went to rural Lamar County, a AA school in middle Georgia. Shaw took the job at his alma mater, Rabun County, in the mountains of northeast Georgia.
*Berrien hired Chipley (Fla.) head coach Rob Armstrong to replace Tony Long, who was 1-9 in one season. Armstrong was 22-12 in three seasons at Chipley and was 11-3 in 2011, reaching the Class 1A championship game. Armstrong was an assistant at Lowndes from 2002 to 2006, serving most recently as offensive coordinator. Armstrong also has been a head coach at Graceville, Freeport, Walton and Marianna in Florida. Berrien’s last winning season was 1995 (5-4-1).
*Fitzgerald hired Lamar County head coach Jason Strickland to replace Robby Pruitt, who was 120-21-1 in 11 seasons. Strickland took Lamar to the Class AA quarterfinals and a 12-1 finish in 2011 and was 27-18 in four seasons. Before coming to Lamar County, Strickland was the defensive coordinator on state championship teams in 2005 and 2006 at Charlton County. Fitzgerald was 11-2 in 2011, making it eight consecutive seasons with at least 10 victories.
*Screven County hired Elbert County defensive coordinator Ron Duncan to replace Greg Manior, who was let go and took the head job at Mundy’s Mill in Clayton County. Duncan was head coach at Seneca (6-16 in 2008-09) and Bamberg Ehrhardt (49-12 in 2003-07) in South Carolina. Manior was 5-15 in two seasons, 2-8 in 2011. Screven has won one playoff game (2003) since its 2004 state championship.
*Bleckley County hired Dublin running backs coach Tracy White, a Bleckley alumnus, to replace Sam Barrs, who retired after 24 seasons as a Georgia head coach, the past seven at Bleckley. White was at Bleckley in 2008 before joining Dublin’s staff. White also coached at Dublin during Barrs’ tenure there. Bleckley was 6-5 last season and made the playoffs for the first time since 2006.
*Crawford County hired Northside (Warner Robins) defensive line coach Greg Street to replace Tony Byram, who was 71-122 in two stints at the school. Crawford has been 0-10 the past two seasons.
*Lamar County hired Tucker head coach Franklin Stephens to replace Jason Strickland, who took the head job at Fitzgerald. Stephens was 64-6 in five seasons at Tucker and won state titles in 2008 and 2011. Stephens, a Burke County native, was a college football teammate of Lamar County principal Derick Austin at Georgia Southern. Before getting the Tucker job, Stephens had been an assistant at Burke County (1996-2001) and Camden County (2002-06). Teams with Stephens on their staff are 171-35-1.
*Macon County hired Riverdale offensive coordinator Larry Harold to replace Matthew Lester, who was 11-30 in four seasons. Harold is a former lineman at Southern University in Baton Rouge and coached high school ball in Louisiana for eight seasons until coming to Georgia in 2010 to coach at Campbell in Smyrna. Macon County had seven 10-win seasons in the 1990s and two more in 2003-04 but has suffered its first three-year streak of losing seasons in 25 years, hitting bottom last year at 1-9.
*Jordan hired Lassiter defensive line coach Jim Brown to replace David Nurnberg, who was 7-23 in three seasons, 0-10 in 2011. Brown is a Columbus State graduate who served 14 years in the Army before starting a career in coaching. He had coached at two colleges and a high school before coming to Georgia in 2006 to work at Chattahoochee County. He’s been at Lassiter since 2008. He missed the 2010 season and part of 2011 while on deployment to Afghanistan. Jordan’s last winning season was 1993 (7-4), its last playoff victory 1951 (8-4).
*Greater Atlanta Christian hired Mountain View head coach Tim Hardy to replace Tim Cokely, who took the head job at Marianna High in Florida. Hardy started the Mountain View program in 2009 and was 9-15. He coached nine seasons at Wheaton College, a Division III school in Illinois where he also was quarterback and conference offensive player of the year in 1998. GAC was 9-3 and 8-2 under Cokely after consecutive losing seasons.
*Chattooga promoted assistant head coach Clay Livingston to replace Brad Waggoner, who took the head job at Decatur. Livingston, also the school’s wrestling coach, has specialized in the offensive line and strength and conditioning while at Chattooga, North Cobb (2007-09), Alexander (2005-06) and Cartersville (1997-2004). His line blocked for Ronnie Brown on Cartersville’s 1999 state championship team. Livingston played on Warner Robins’ 1988 state championship team. Waggoner was 18-13 in three seasons.
*Model hired Gordon Powers, its coach from 2003 to 2008, to replace Lynn Hunnicutt, who was 4-16 in two seasons. Powers was 21-40 in his first stint with Model and led the Rome school to its only playoff appearance (2003) since 1997. Powers had taken Owensboro (Ky.) to consecutive state finals before coming to Model. Powers was coach at Westfield School in Perry for seven seasons in the 1980s and played in two GISA finals. His 20-year coaching record is 138-87-2. Hunnicutt’s departure was tied to budget cuts and half-time employees. Powers had remained at Model after stepping down as head coach in ’08.
*Greene County hired former Georgia star running back Robert Edwards to replace Charlie Winslette, who was 12-19 in three seasons. Edwards had been head coach of Arlington Christian in Fairburn and was 7-4 and 8-3 in two seasons. Edwards was a 1,000-yard rusher as a rookie with the New England Patriots in 1998, then made a comeback from a major knee injury and played eight seasons in the NFL and CFL. Greene has not won more than seven games in a season since the 1993 state championship except during the QB Josh Nesbitt era (2005-06).
*Rabun County hired Flowery Branch head coach Lee Shaw, a Rabun alumnus, to replace Danny Durham, who was 6-34 in four seasons. Shaw, the father of South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw and Georgia Southern quarterback Jaybo Shaw, was 79-41 at Flowery Branch, a program that he started in 2002. Shaw went 0-10 the first season but averaged more than 10 wins over the last seven. Rabun has not had a winning season since 2000 (6-4) or won a playoff game since 1998 (11-2).
*Riverside Military Academy hired Mount Pisgah offensive coordinator and former Atlanta Falcons player Gary Downs to replace Chris Cotter, who was 3-17 in two seasons. Downs was offensive coordinator for Riverside from 2004 to 2006. Riverside won a GISA state championship in ’05. A Columbus native, Downs coached one season in NFL Europe. He was a special teams leader on the Falcons’ 1998 NFC championship team. Riverside has suffered declining victory totals since joining the GHSA in 2008 and was 1-9 in 2011.
*Social Circle hired DeKalb County Schools athletics director Ron Sebree to replace David Seawright, who was 3-17 in two seasons. Sebree was a Social Circle assistant from 1981 to 1986, his first coaching job in Georgia, then joined the staff at Columbia in DeKalb County, where he was 55-54 in 11 seasons as head coach (1989-98). Sebree then entered administration for DeKalb schools. Social Circle last had a winning season in 2006 (6-5 under Ken Stoudenmire). Social Circle’s only victory in 2011 was by forfeit.
Note: Armuchee made Preston Cash its official head coach after he served in the position on an interim basis since the fourth game of 2011.
For a look at the new coaches in Class AAA, click here.
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