Leroy Ryals, who led Clarke Central to a state championship game in 2009, is the new head football coach at Thomasville in south Georgia.
Ryals, a Sarasota, Fla., native, was 60-22-1 in his eight seasons in Athens. Clarke, a state power for two decades under retired coach Billy Henderson, had not won a playoff game since 1997 when Ryals’ 2009 team made the Class AAAA championship game against Sandy Creek.
Thomasville has a similar football history to Clarke Central as a former major player in the highest classification. Thomasville, now Class AA, is one of the most winning programs in state history with nearly 700 victories and state five state championships, most recently in 1988. Prominent former Thomasville players include William Andrews, Mike Bobo, Eric Curry and Guy McIntyre.
“Thomasville reminds me a lot of Clarke Central,” Ryals told the Athens Banner-Herald. “It looks the same. It has the same kind of demographics. Even the school colors are the same.’’
Ryals is replacing Richie Marsh, who was 53-40 in eight seasons. Thomasville was 3-7 in 2012 playing in tough Region 1-AA. It was the Bulldogs’ first failure to make the playoffs since 2004.
Ryals will be the first African-American head football coach at a Thomas County school in the Georgia High School Association. According to the Georgia High School Football Historians Association, the last black head coaches in the county had been James Bryant of Douglass High and Charlie Ward Sr. of Magnolia High, both members of the Georgia Interscholastic Association, in 1969.