Roswell fires football coach

Roswell has fired head football coach Justin Sanderson, whose teams finished 0-10 and 3-7 in his two seasons.

Sanderson’s final game was a 28-24 upset of playoff-bound Walton, but it wasn’t enough to save his job after Roswell suffered consecutive losing seasons for the first time since 1979-80. Roswell lost seven of its 17 games under Sanderson by three points or less.

Sanderson, who was promoted from offensive coordinator in 2011, joined Roswell’s staff in 2003 and and coached during one of Roswell’s more successful eras. The Hornets won a Class AAAAA championship in 2006. Sanderson has never coached at another high school.

‘’It’s just my home; I love this place, and it’s going to be hard to leave,’’ Sanderson said. “Ending with that Walton win and as well as we played against Lassiter [a 28-14 loss the week before against the region champion], I thought we’d have another chance. But the bottom line is I’m 3-17 as head coach, and it’s a results-oriented business.’’

Sanderson said he met with his players Tuesday morning to tell them of the news.

‘’Telling the kids was hardest thing I’ve ever had to do,’’ Sanderson said. “These two years haven’t gone the way we wanted, be we’ve used this platform to tell them that tough times don’t last. Good things will happen. They’ve kept the faith and kept working and improved throughout the year.’’

Roswell has made nine coaching hires since 1950, each time promoting from within its staff.

53 comments Add your comment

Hubert Green

November 20th, 2012
10:38 am

Basketball coach there has had numerous losing seasons.

RHS bball champs 1997

November 20th, 2012
10:44 am

HIRE JERMAINE PHILLIPS!! Nfl experience is a must to DEFEND the NEST!

Reality Check

November 20th, 2012
10:56 am

Doesn’t Jermaine Phillips have a criminal record?? Not likely to get any position coaching at a public or private school with that kind of a rap sheet. Surely Roswell can find a good coach without a felony in their recent past.


November 20th, 2012
11:08 am

@realitycheck he dont get a scond chance? Its plenty of folk within the school systems doing all kind of wrong. They just havnt been caught.


November 20th, 2012
11:12 am

Bring back Coach Tim McFarlin..


November 20th, 2012
11:25 am

Doesn’t he have some illegitimate children with some women from his former days at UGA?


November 20th, 2012
11:39 am

Forealtho… Of course most everyone but the most hardened crimminals deserve a 2nd chance. But if you must pass a backround check to get a job, you are going to get your 2nd chance at a very menial or entry level position. Thats why we preach to our children to keep thier noses clean. Your crimminal record follows you your entire life. Once you are in the system, you are not getting out of the system! That is why they call it ‘the long arm of the law’!

coach hil

November 20th, 2012
11:40 am

@Seth what his kids gotta do with him coaching?

outside looking in

November 20th, 2012
12:15 pm

I’m missing the part about any other horrible thing he did. If not, somebody should be fired for firing a high school football coach after 2 seasons based on record. This was a team that was competitive in every game this season even with the new lines being drawn between Cambridge and Milton. High school football is not the SEC. This is a man’s life.

Class of '98

November 20th, 2012
12:32 pm

“he dont get a scond chance? Its plenty of folk within the school systems doing all kind of wrong. They just havnt been caught.”

Let me guess, Forealtho attended Clayton County Schools. I don’t think they even bother teaching grammar anymore.


November 20th, 2012
12:42 pm

What’s unfair here is that a major resource has been taken from the kids. I’ve been around that group and there just isn’t anywhere near the talent of past years. Coach Sanderson is an A+ mentor, coach, and leader and the school probably does not realize what it has just taken from its kids.


November 20th, 2012
12:47 pm

Too bad for a totally dedicated young man after only two seasons. He poured his heart and soul into teaching these young men way more than football. Best of luck to you, Justin!

Sad Day

November 20th, 2012
12:49 pm

This is what football is all about people; win and stay employed or lose and find a new career path. It doesn’t matter what school your with, when you go 3-17 its time to find an upgrade.

Point fingers in any direction that makes you feel better, simple fact is you won 3 games in 2 years. Your team found a new way to lose every week; your offense was simplistic at best, and mostly played uninspired football. This all adds up to the famous line: “Coach Sanderson is moving on to greener pastures”….

Roswell didn’t have the talent to win State, but certainly was better than 0-10 and 3-7.

Good luck Hornets.

Oconee Dawg

November 20th, 2012
1:16 pm

Enter your comments here


November 20th, 2012
1:17 pm

No coach at the high school level can turn a program around in 2 years. Your just starting over again.

Jonas Grumby

November 20th, 2012
1:19 pm

My HS coach won 3 games his first two years, then took the team to the playoffs. What’s sad is the win-now mentality has filtered down to HS sports. He might have been fired for more than his record, but it doesn’t sound like it.

Oconee Dawg

November 20th, 2012
1:23 pm

Being an ex-coach in Fulton County at Milton High School. Tim is a great student of the game and was one of the pleasures I had is to coach him during my coaching days.. Bring Tim back and take all those extra responsibilities off him and let him just “coach”.
Also Sam Harmon lives in Roswell hire him he is a great offensive mind. Bring back Wayne Smith to coach the hornets. You need some help and here is my input….


November 20th, 2012
1:27 pm

They should hire Derek Dooley. He could do well running a high school football program and would look good in green pants.

the truth

November 20th, 2012
1:40 pm

should have gotten at least one more season. they have improved under his tenure. he has been plagued with underclassman and injuries. had no idea georgia 5A has become the SEC. dude wasnt getting paid enough to be treated the door like this.

The Real Truth

November 20th, 2012
1:49 pm

JS is a great guy, a super mentor to the kids and I personally respect the heck out of him. However, he was set up for failure from day 1. He was too young and inexperienced when he was hired. He was a mere 30 years old (the youngest 6A head coach in the state, ever) and had been offensive coordinator less than 1 year when he was promoted to head coach. He did not have enough leadership or coaching experience to lead a 6A program and everyone knew it. Dr. Spurka is the real culprit in this case. He hired Justin on his way out the door to Cambridge HS leaving the current administration to deal with HIS decision to hire JS. When Justin was hired most fans news this would be the outcome b/c history does not support a coach with so few experiences being successful at such a large, notable program such as Roswell HS. Finally, lack of talent was a legitimate excuse last year, however the 2012 team had more than enough talent to at least have a 5-5 season and make the playoffs. Instead, we found a new way to loose every week. Primarily, bc our defense could not stop the run and we got pounded every week by weaker less talented teams. If JS had fired his D coordinator last year he would likely still be head coach, however his loyalty to DB ultimately cost him his job. Looking forward, say what you will, JS had a fair shot and it just did not work out. I am a hornet fan and support the decision and look forward to the current administration finding us a better leader and coach for the program. Finally, our offensive philosophy is outdated and needs revamping. Bringing someone from the outside will be a breathe of fresh air. GO HORNETS!!!!!

The Real Truth

November 20th, 2012
2:04 pm

One final point, The kids stopped listening to JS, thus his leadership was muted. The players did not fear him as they did Barker, Manus, MacFarlin etc. The kids looked at him as a friend, peer or mentor vs. a coach who will get in my butt if I do not perform. His lectures/speeches to the team before a game, after a loss and at practice were laughed off. He was beginning to loose control of the kids big time. I know, bc I was there every day to hear them and see the kids reactions. Look at the number of games were the kids had personal fouls ad stupid penalties. There were pissed and frustrated and hate to loose. The kids on the RHS varsity are kids who came through the Jr. Hornet program with maybe 2-3 loses in 3 years and an undefeated Freshman/JV experience. They are not used to loosing against programs they have dominated for year during their youth. It comes down to coaching. The better coaches can win with lesser talent and unfortunately we just do not have the better coaches right now. We have the talent, we just need the coaching. The decision to let JS go is a tough one, but it was the right thing to do.

RHS 1997

November 20th, 2012
3:01 pm

No Rap sheet. Sorry guy!!! You should know what you are talking about before you write things down. Thanks


November 20th, 2012
3:28 pm

I played for coach Manus and coach Mac at RHS back in the day. I wonder what their take is on this action. Personally I don’t think coach Mac will give Roswell the time or day again. He must have known a dumpster fire was brewing there when he left. Might I add that coach Mac is doing pretty good at Blessed Trinity…he has them in the playoffs.


November 20th, 2012
3:32 pm

I think he missed coaching and would have come back to RHS if they would have had him. Before he went to BT.


November 20th, 2012
3:33 pm

Also I know Jermaine Phillips, he is from a God fearing family. I know Len his dad had man to man talks with him after some stuff that went on at UGA and at Tampa. Jermaine would be a GREAT fit for the program as a head coach.


November 20th, 2012
3:36 pm

@The Real Truth- I assume you were “there every day” as a student based on your lack of proof reading. Keep working on it though, you will get it. The lesson of this coach’s (and very good man’s) firing should speak deeply to those kids, especially if they did indeed stop listening. People all over the world go from being a big fish in a small pond to a small fish in a big pond, or from “successful” situations to less obviously successful situations. If the kids quit, that was their choice and it says more about them than the coach. I know the coach never quit trying or took any loss lightly. Too bad the Jr. Hornet program didn’t also instill a greater value in pride of self, or playing through adversity, whatever adversity it may be. But since all of these kids are going to the SEC and then the NFL I guess my views are moot. I’m just an educator. I know kids retain more of their lessons through adversity and persevering through the adversity than they do from “2-3 loses in 3 years”, as lovely as that may be. More folks than not experience hard times and have to learn how to deal with it and pull themselves up. That said, this coach’s time with these kids was not wasted time. He will have more chances to positively influence the growth of kids.

only a matter of time

November 20th, 2012
3:41 pm

careful guys. just because someone has played the game on a higher level doesn’t mean they can translate that knowledge to kids. coaching is as much an art than anything.


November 20th, 2012
3:43 pm

@hoho…well said. Good luck coach Sanderson.

need to clean the whole house

November 20th, 2012
3:57 pm

The AD John needs to be gone he is awful for Roswell along with some others. Remember it was John who allowed this to happen to JS and saved his own butt knowing he a great coach like Tim was still there. As long as they keep John there they will not move forward.

The Real Truth

November 20th, 2012
4:34 pm

“need to clean the whole house” – I agree – I forgot about about the AD – he needs to go as well. I think his daughter graduates this year – rumor has it he will retire at the end of the year. If not, he should “resign” as well.

most of you don't know what your talking about

November 20th, 2012
4:45 pm

The kids never quit and never would have there wasn’t one game where those kids got outplayed. the kids never laughed off anything when ANY coach was talking. none of you know what went on inside the program and while yes you can freely voice your opinion you should not make yourself sound so stupid with your ideas for the team. Mac isn’t coming back and Phillips is not going to jump into a head coaching job. Coach Sanderson was unfairly screwed repeatedly throughout the year and fired right after winning the biggest game of those 2 years. That team could not have come back the way that they did and won that game if it wasn’t for Coach Sanderson. Lastly did any of you think about what would happen to the kids if you cleared house? Every single kid there has played for that staff their whole high school career and now you suggest to take every coach that they have made that connection with away and replace them with new coaches who know nothing about these kids? If they clear house it will be a disaster for Roswell next year.

Dino Sawyer

November 20th, 2012
4:53 pm

Just a few facts for everyone’s consideration in this matter…

Between the years of 2006-2010, Roswell had about 20 future college players (Jr’s + Sr’s) on each of those very strong teams, with the exception of the 2008 team, which went 5-5 under Coach Barker and had about 10 total future college players (Jr’s + Sr’s). The 2011 and 2012 teams had about 6-8 future college players, at most. That is a significant drop-off in raw Talent. It is too short of a tenure to make a truly informed judgement of the ‘talent development’ effectiveness under Coach Sanderson. Also, when Coach Barker left, that left RHS with a new 1st-time HC, a new 1st-time OC, and a new 1st-time DC. The Principal & AD were also new in their respective roles. Additionally, hiring assistant coaches into RHS has been extremely challenging because all or most of the PE ’slots’ are filled with long-tenured teachers who do not coach football. That translates into only being able to hire a D-Line coach IF he can also teach Calculus or Upper Level French, or similar. That’s quite a rarity in the HS Coaching ranks. Finally, the very experienced Athletic Sec’y also went with Dr. Spurka to Cambridge. That is a bigger loss to the program than most people realize. Significant talent drop-off, new administration, new coaches in key roles, virtual inability to hire outside coaches, limited administrative support. This is the situation Coach Sanderson faced. These are the facts, not excuses. He knew most of those things when he accepted the position.

As a manager, I have always evaluated my people based on their period over prior period improvement and my estimation of their potential improvement during the next period with my continued mentoring (particularly for a newly promoted leader) and fighting to remove any barriers I can that impede them making the needed improvement. If I don’t think they can make the necessary improvements with all of my support and assistance, I will make the hard decision to change the trajectory of their life by ending our professional association. I will leave it up to others to ask/answer/’sleep with’ if any and/or all of this was done in this making this decision. If so, then the right decision was made. If not, then that is just a terrible shame.

Regardless, I know Coach Sanderson will land on his feet and continue to positively influence young men and win football games. I hope that Roswell High School Football will do the same.

Joe Pupo

November 20th, 2012
5:51 pm

Very Disappointed at RHS.This ain’t right. Coach Sanderson is a great leader and this WILL BE Roswell’s Loss!!!

Roswell Parent

November 20th, 2012
5:53 pm

I wish Coach Sanderson the best of luck. He meant so much to my son while he played at RHS and we will be forever grateful.


November 20th, 2012
6:08 pm

Justin Sanderson is a class act and will be fine. Additionally, the young men he coached will succeed in many endeavors later in life because of his example. Good luck COACH SANDERSON.

Baffled hornet

November 20th, 2012
6:09 pm

Coach Sanderson will have many opportunities to help other young people, not only football players. He is a well respected teacher who works very hard in his classroom as well. Roswell High students will miss much more than a football coach. I am baffled by the actions of our administration. We will miss you.

Old Hornet

November 20th, 2012
6:22 pm

Wish Mitta Hobb was still around.


November 20th, 2012
6:28 pm

so this guy improves three games over last year and he gets the axe? Don’t think I would want to work at Roswell… sounds to me like the administration has cheese on them.


November 20th, 2012
6:54 pm

Coach Sanderson will be better off in the long run….the administration basically said that they really don’t care about the kids and the last 3 games didn’t count….take a look at the talent on the roster….roswell is married to the I formation and won’t change…that is not a Sanderson issue its a school issue…they fire the man the day before the students leave on break….shows a complete lack of class from the administration…they didn’t assist him with bringing in assistants till this year and it was the staffs first year together…rhs is going to blow it up and hope for better results in the future…bring back whoever you want hire Jon Gruden…if I’m a kid moving into the area and I see any of the other schools on the area vs roswell…I’m sorry guys but I would choose anyone but roswell based on the facilities and the program in it self…coach Sanderson, I hope you end up at a program that plays roswell every year so that you can humiliate them on a yearly basis


November 20th, 2012
9:08 pm

Coach Mac has found some deep deep pockets at the private school. He has total control and doesn’t answer to anyone.
Unless he needs more time in the state retirement system he is not going anywhere. He is at a place where a 500 record was pie in the sky. He has already changed that atitude.
BT will now be a frequent guest in the playoffs brackets from now on. Sorry Roswell look elsewhere.

Dont blame it on lack of talent Dino

November 20th, 2012
9:14 pm

Most schools in georgia dont have alot of talent on one team to and play college ball yet they still win because of the coaching. You have to be able to coach a whole team not just a few good talented players. If you notice the last few years the coaching staff only used a few players in their plays they called. Never worked on the kicking game and ignored a big group of kids to the point they did not play. We had alot of talented guys who did not play. And as for those who went on to college there are some playing right now from the last few years at colleges in the area. So next time you complain about not having the talent why dont the coaches reach out to all the boys and develop them into the plays. It was not hard to prepare a game plan againist Roswell because you knew who they were throwing to and he was going to get the ball. That is not the kids fault but the coaching. Some of the boys seniors and juniors did not even get on the field so you loose alot of support from kids parents and fans.

Sad Day

November 20th, 2012
9:39 pm

At the end of the day, Roswell will be better for pulling the plug on this guy. Sometimes you can’t quantify it, but the “it” factor never seemed to be there. I have no doubt based on all the factors that led up to his hiring his course was difficult, but you can’t go 0-10 and not find a way to win games.

Also, leave the past in the past and find someone who will re-engergize the community/team and get this program back to its winning ways.


November 20th, 2012
10:47 pm

why dont yall get David Boyd to coach your team? crybabys


November 21st, 2012
9:47 am

Have huge respect for JS – he earned it. No challenge to the admin’s right to make the decision – it’s their job and it’s nobody else’s place to tell them how to do it…but the execution on this decision was awful…the timing showed virtually no consideration for the individuals or families involved…really disappointed in that.


November 21st, 2012
9:47 am

Very disappointed in the administration after only two years letting Coach Sanderson go! This is not the SEC this is High School Football and while winning is one element there are many more such as positive influence on students/players, instilling integrity etc.

Coach Sanderson coached my son while he was O-Line Coach through a State Championship and while he was Offensive Coordinator and the enthusiasm for the game and values he helped shape for my son live with him today while he plays college football and graduates early with honors from college next month.

For all you arm chair coaches – get a life! You do not know jack until you walk a mile in someone’s shoes. And to “The Real Truth” you truly have no clue what you’re talking about period!

For those that talk about talent and say it is there, sorry but there has been a huge drop-off in overall talent in the past few years vs. the past glory years of 06 and 07. Talent level always runs in cycles and there are also other recent factors due to new school rezoning as well as two private schools with football programs in the Roswell High district.

Coach Sanderson was not given the full overall support that those before him received and I dare say if Dr. Spurka were still there this would not have happen yesterday. For all you naysayers who trashed Coach be careful what you ask for!

This is one of the finest men in this profession and one I can proudly say is a friend and a extended family member for our family. This is a very sad time and a major loss for the players, students and the Roswell community.

another perspective

November 21st, 2012
11:10 am

@shocked You are exactly right. If Ed Spurka was still at RHS this would not have happened in the first place. No one understood the importance of gate money to fund academic/school programs better than him. Unfortunately for RHS, Dr. Spurka already had his eyes on Cambridge when Coach Barker left. He took the least expensive, easiest route (with the convenient excuse of RHS always promoting from within) and gave the coaching job to a fine but very young man. This greatly contributed to a recipe for failure and much of the blame for what has happened to JS can be layed directly at Dr. Spurka’s door. Had Spurka thought he was staying at RHS I imagine there would have been a wide search for a seasoned and successful coach to keep Roswell winning and the gate money high. This being even more important if, as many say, player talent is not what it was in past years.
No–it’s not the SEC but successful football programs certainly contribute to the greater success of a high school. Mr. Huff had no choice but could have handled it better. I wish Coach Sanderson the best. He is a fine man and a good coach.


November 21st, 2012
12:14 pm

“another perspective” I respectfully disagree with Mr. Huff having no choice after only two years and that Doc took the “convenient excuse”/ path to promote Coach Sanderson as Justin was/is qualified and he earned/deserved the promotion . I do agree that successful football programs contribute to the greater success of a high school but how that is measured should not only be wins vs. losses at the high school level but several factors.

Being a young Coach had nothing to do with it as he has been at Roswell since 2003 and he had the pedigree and advantage of having Coach Mac as a mentor. He also had/has no realm of control (as most coaches do) concerning the cards he is dealt in terms of talent and as I said before talent runs in cycles and there is no doubt in my mind he would bring Roswell back to the past success of the 2006 and 2007 seasons.

Mr. Huff shame on you for the premature firing in the first place and the unprofessional/thoughtless timing!

Think about this?????

November 21st, 2012
12:44 pm

I say you bring back Mario Hansbrough. I hear he is in the corporate world leading people now and doing very well. He was excellent for the kids and he was experienced and he almost got the job at North Cobb High School before he resigned over some BS. He was respected by the community, administration and kids. Coach Hansbrough was a tutor under Manus, McFarlin, Poulos and Smith and work his but off year round to make the RHS football team great. He is a good coach and motivator; if anyone can get Roswell back on track, this man can.


November 21st, 2012
2:38 pm

Greenbacks… Coach McFarlin may think that he has total control and answers to no one, but that is not the case in a private school, especially one that has to follow the rules and regulations of the Archdiocese of Atlanta. He has stepped on so many toes that half the administration and staff are hopping around on one foot. He’s fundamentally a good man, he cares deeply about the kids, and there is no question about his success as a coach, however it is a classic square peg – round hole situation. I think that it is only a matter of time before one party or the other gets so frustrated that there is a parting of ways. He could bring instant stability and credibility to RHS and ride off into the sunset of his coaching career in an environment much more suited to him.

Inside looking out

November 21st, 2012
5:21 pm

OK. I thought about this all day before responding. Many of the comments posted here are based on rumor and hearsay. There are some facts to be considered.

Fact 1 – Justin Sanderson is a good man and teacher. No question about it. However, he lost the respect of many on the team (coaches and players) due to his leadership style. If you say that you are going to do something; then do it! If not, the coaches and the players lose the confidence and respect for you as a leader. There were too many personal foul penalties committed during games that went without consequences during the season.

Fact 2 – The Roswell program will survive. We will find a head coach that will return Roswell to the premier program it has been in the past. The fact is that for the past 2 years, there’s been a dramatic reduction in the support that the community and student body has shown by not showing up to home games. Agreed that the record has something to do with it but it was evident that the team was not properly prepared on Friday nights. One blogger posted that he hoped that Coach Sanderson is hired by a rival program that Roswell plays every year so that he could beat us every year. I believe that Coach Sanderson is professional enough to realize that his decision was for the good of the program. We’ll see.

Fact 3 – The Roswell administration went out and hired the coaches that the program needed. Mr Huff nd the administration supported the team by providing the personnel that hey needed to have qualified coaches where needed. Many of these coaches were hired from outside Fulton County from successful programs in the metro area and beyond. These coaches made suggestions during the season that might have been used to improve the overall performance of the but, these suggestions were largely ignored.

It’s never easy to make an important decision like this but it was a decision that had to be made. I wish Coach Sanderson the best in all of his future endeavors. The true mark of a person is how they come back from adversity. I hope coach bounces back wherever he finds himself.