50-in-50: Lincoln County Red Devils

By S. Thomas Coleman
For the AJC

For a guy who has won 470 football games and 11 state titles, Lincoln County head coach Larry Campbell always seems to have something to lament about. This spring is no exception.

“We just don’t get to get that much work in during the spring because our kids are playing baseball or golf, and those teams are doing quite well right now,” Campbell said of this week’s spring football workouts. “Then we have kids going on a class trip to Philadelphia and proms, and plays, and academic nights and all that sort of thing that kids need to do in high school. So we’re without some key people we need [in football]. It’s hard when you have a school as small as ours.”

Campbell said he and his staff use spring to get the rising ninth graders up to speed, and so all is not lost. Still, Campbell said next year he will be among the handful of coaches that will ask permission from the Georgia High School Association to play an extra scrimmage game in August. A new rule creating the process was passed recently but will not go into effect until next season.

But Campbell said he has an even greater concern these days. He believes the public-private school split in Class A is hitting schools in the wallet.

“I think it is having repercussions that no one thought about when they voted on the split,” said Campbell, who was not a fan of the split. Instead, to offset the advantages he and many other Class A public school coaches believe private schools have, Campbell wanted private schools to have their enrollments multiplied by 1.5, which would, conceivably, bump the larger private schools into Class AA.

“What we have now is not working that well,” Campbell said. “It’s taking a toll financially.”

Campbell claims that the money Class A teams receive from the state finals at the Georgia Dome is now divided among four teams instead of two, and that total amount was increased by just one percent by the GHSA. Also, during the playoffs, public schools, particularly his, have to travel farther to face another Class A public school.

“For baseball, during the week we’ve had to travel to Emanuel County to play ECI (Emanuel County Institute, a two hour trip). We split the first two so we had to go back to play the third game,” Campbell said, Thursday evening, while riding the bus with the baseball team back to Lincolnton from Soperton, where the Red Devils split the first two games of the quarterfinals series. They will make the two hour, 15 minute ride again this afternoon for Game Three.

“If we win then we’ll have to drive all the way up to the Tennessee boarder to Chickamauga to play Gordon Lee,” Campbell said. “Our golf team went up to Ringold for the sectionals and will have to go to Moultrie for the final four.

“That’s a lot of money right there,” Campbell said. “I don’t think people knew exactly how much travel would be involved because of the split. It’s hurting our bottom lines [financially] and nobody wants that. Something will have to be done.”

On the football field, Campbell is not quite as solemn as he has been in the past, though he concedes the team has hole to fill. The Red Devils lost two all-state receivers/defensive backs to graduation in Zireycus Letman and Jalen Franklin, and linebacker is a concern.

“We don’t have a linebacker in sight right now,” Campbell said, “especially that inside linebacker spot. Someone will have to emerge there.”

But 1,300-yard rusher Mikey McIntyre returns, as does quarterback Ben Turner, who threw for 1,500 yards and ran for another 400. Three linemen return as well, including Andy Ray Wengrow, who missed almost all of last season with a broken leg.

Still, as always, Campbell doesn’t see this team as one that can win Lincoln’s first state title since 2006.

“Seminole County and ECI are loaded,” Campbell said. “I don’t think anybody will be able to touch either one of them.”

LINCOLN COUNTY RED DEVILS

2012 record: 11-2; lost to Dooly County (10-7) in the Class A Public semi finals

Starters returning: 4 offense; 3 defense

Key returning players: RB Mike McIntyre (5-7, 190); OL/DL Andy Ray Wengrow (6-2, 250); RB/DB Jamar Norman (5-11, 180); QB Ben Turner (5-8, 160)

Key players lost: WR/DB Jalen Franklin, WR/DB Zireycus Letman

Spring practice dates: (Three days per week) April 29-May 17

Schedule: Aug. 23 vs. McCormick, S.C.; Sept. 6 at Washington-Wilkes; Sept. 13 at Ninety Six, S.C.; Sept. 27 vs. First Presbyterian Day; Oct. 4 vs. Warren County; Oct. 10 vs. Aquinas; Oct. 18 at Georgia Military College; Oct. 25 vs. Twiggs County; Nov. 1 at Wilkinson County; Nov. 8 at Hancock Central.

Outlook: Every preseason Larry Campbell gets out his violin and spins yarns about how his teams lack this or that. But at season’s end the Red Devils have almost always racked up double-digit wins and made a deep run in the playoffs. Campbell’s teams are always talented and among the most well-coached in the state, regardless of classification, so look for more of the same in Lincolnton this season.

20 comments Add your comment

nourstuff

May 10th, 2013
1:40 pm

Classic-the first paragraph to quote him is all whine, the second is about his legacy in instigating the private/public split-of which he wasn’t a “fan”. He was just a driving force in leading the whine charge that resulted in the split, not a fan per se, he’s more of an innocent bystander so to speak…

Class A Wizard

May 10th, 2013
2:24 pm

Lincoln County will, once again, be loaded with talent. What an amazing program with great community support. It’s no wonder that so many others are jealous.

S. Thomas Coleman

May 10th, 2013
4:15 pm

@nourstuff: I know you’re no fan of Coach Campbell, from our e-conversations last year. But for the record, Coach Campbell didn’t want the split. He wanted the multiplier OR an attendance boundary set for private schools. Neither picked up any momentum after the South Georgia public schools became more and more determined to leave the GHSA if they didn’t get the split.

Thanks for reading and posting!

STC

S. Thomas Coleman

May 10th, 2013
4:16 pm

@Wizard: Indeed, Lincoln is without question one of the top programs in Georgia, regardless of classification. Thanks for reading and posting!

STC

Blu eagle

May 10th, 2013
8:50 pm

Lincoln county is always in the hunt,we need to appreciate good programs like this that never seem to disappoint!

MillerMan 81

May 10th, 2013
10:05 pm

I have seen the Devils quite a few times over the years. they have usually been impressive but we have had some equally talented squads. I would love to see them return to Colquitt just once more before Campbell retires as we have unfinished business with them.

JJ

May 11th, 2013
12:00 am

I wish someone will clear up what Coach did or dis not say. I am CONFIDENT everything I read was him whining about how he could not compete against the private schools due to their $ and lack of boundaries ONCE they began to win against him – he did not complain when he beat them.

S. Thomas Coleman

May 11th, 2013
1:44 am

@JJ: Let me help. Yes, Coach Campbell believed, and still does believe, that private schools have more money and resources than public schools AND have the advantage in terms of not having an attendance/enrollment boundary. However, he was never a huge proponent of the split, at least not publicly and not in the many conversations I’ve had with him on the topic. However, I just started covering Class A a couple of years ago, so I can’t speak about what he may or may not have said prior to that. Hope that helps.

Thanks for reading and posting!

STC

S. Thomas Coleman

May 11th, 2013
1:44 am

@Blu: Amen! Thanks for reading and posting!

STC

S. Thomas Coleman

May 11th, 2013
1:47 am

@MillerMan81: Coach Campbell has intimated to me for the past two years that he might step down, and did the same in our conversation this week. However, he’s still going strong. I think he loves the kids, the game and the competition too much let go just yet, plus I think he might have his eye on 500 wins. With the quality of his program, he should get there in three years.

Thanks for reading and posting!

STC

The Dogfather

May 11th, 2013
7:52 am

We all should question what kind of fan cambell really is. He had no problem putting the beat down on private and public schools for years(STC- check out some of the scores from the 80’s and 90’s when he would run the score up on those Private/public schools. Ahh the cycle of life–Times have changed and cambell wants to protect his boys.It’s about winning at all costs for him. What a loser…..

Really?

May 11th, 2013
8:52 am

Does he complain about a sunny day? Wow! I bet he was extremely upset with the public-private split … even though, he didn’t get his first or second choice. Competition across the state was ruined because of complaints from him. Sorry you couldn’t beat Savannah Christian or Wesleyan. It’s not like Lincoln got blown away in those games. Coach Campbell just couldn’t take it that they have only won 2 state championships in the last 17 years (which is still a great accomplishment).
Why don’t we go back to 4 classifications and fight it out? Not the hidden 8 classifications they tried to pass of as 4 either. Guess everybody wants a trophy, but it makes regular season and playoff competition very watered down. The GHSA did find a compromise to Lincoln’s private school problem, now they are worried about money. We should give everybody a trophy, just make Lincoln’s a little bigger so Napoleon will shut up and retire.

MillerMan 81

May 11th, 2013
9:09 am

Larry Campbell will go down as one of the all time great coaches in G.H.S.A. history. He like other coaches should be applauded for working very closely with youth. A lot of youth have no father figures in the home and long for this relationship. Kudos to Coach Campbell and the other dedicated coaches in Georgia!!

S. Thomas Coleman

May 11th, 2013
9:28 pm

@The Dogfather and Really?: Wow! I guess Coach Campbell won’t be getting Christmas cards from either of you. He’s definitely a polarizing figure. While I do believe that he’s miffed that several private schools have improved their programs to the point where they can compete with and beat the best public programs, I still think he’s also a heck of a coach.

Thanks for reading and posting.

STC

GAHSFBFAN24

May 12th, 2013
8:37 pm

As an ELCA fan, I admire and respect coach Campbell. His accomplishments as a coach and leader of young men is amazing. Like many above, I too wish we could settle the single A state championship on the field but we have to work within the system we currently have. The private v. public debate is a matter of your perspective. I can see both sides and see no alternative that makes everyone happy except for a +1 game to crown one class A champ. That’s the game that should be in the dome.

NoDistrictLinesInDekalb

May 13th, 2013
7:48 am

I agree more with @Really?.
Coach Campbell has his stand on things but the 1.5 would not make any sense in A. Who would he play? You can’t get any lower than A public unless he wants to play 8 man football. Is he taking up the cause for the folks in the higher classes? When you play Georgia high school football and other sports in takes in the whole states. Do we want to cut the state in half and have 4 champions in class A. North private champ South private champ, North public champ South public champ?
Then everyone would still suffer from the travel costs and the now lower gates from schools that you use 1.5 against less players equals less fans ! Does a AAA school want to play an A school hit with the 1.5 and now the AAA will suffer with the lower gates due to lower fan base? Now who gets hurt Coach Fairplay? You win games but more schools lose money. AAA schools need gates from schools their size to equip their number of kids. Did we think about that Mr. Coleman?
Now I know some private schools do bring fans so I would think that you would put them on the slate for the regular season.
Now “I think it is having repercussions that no one thought about when they voted on the split,” said Campbell”. Gee Coach Fairplay were there no math classes included in the degrees bestowed on whoever voted for this? As no big fan of the GHSA if they didn’t give you the right share of playoff money that would not be right but maybe, just maybe the GHSA was hitting back against the class A public schools.

Lovett high school has a more plausible idea with attendence zones and 1.3 multipler. That would really hit Dekalb big 3 football schools. Heard already that some players are leaving Tucker to play next year for Stephenson. And heck Tucker had a transfer or two last year from a couple of have not programs. MLK had a FB that went to Stephenson for 3 years before transferring. But then again who will pay for someone to check addresses of players? When does it end or can it ever end?

S. Thomas Coleman

May 13th, 2013
10:16 am

@NoDistrictLines: I’ve always said and believe that Coach Campbell and his staff do as good a job as coaching and preparing their teams as anyone in the state, thus the reason for their success. However, I don’t agree with a multiplier. If you want to “even the public-private playing field” I think an attendance zone restriction of 50 miles would be better.

As for the DeKalb transfer issue, personally, I believe that a Georgia resident in a Georgia public school, paying Georgia taxes, should be able to go to any public school in the state no matter where it is, as long as you can provide your own transportation and the school has room.

I don’t think that a school should “own” the rights to where a family sends a child just because that school is in the family’s neighborhood. If your child is a gifted musician, but your neighborhood school does not have a strong music program, you should be able to go to a school that will develop and nurture your child’s talent. Same rules should apply for football or any other extracurricular activity.

Thanks for reading and posting.

STC

Know it all

May 13th, 2013
10:23 am

Last year there was meeting of public schools to discuss how they could break away from the GHSA. Larry Campbell attended and spoke- but before he did he got all the media to leave. Yeah this guy is really above board. Complained to Murphy to stay out of the GHSA… then 10 years later sings Murphy’s praises…. he is a clown and always will be… Claimed that Public schools could not compete in tennis and golf… the next week Bremen win the state golf title…

NoDistrictLinesInDekalb

May 13th, 2013
11:27 am

I see what you are trying to say so then the schools that win football or have a chance will always win football, the schools that win basketball or have a chance will always win basketball etc etc. Now band well there are several schools that think they have the best so that is the only activity that is up for debate. (no pun intended).
I am only slightly doggy the coach here. He has proved that he is a dedicated coach and educator I was just stunned that he didn’t think for every action there is a reaction. There is or was a Murphy rule in GHSA at one time and there is a Murphy rule in life well I guess he got a taste of both in his time.

Swamp Lizard

May 13th, 2013
11:28 am

Like my good friend GAHSFBFAN24 has said ….. I’d like to see one Class A Champion ….. a Plus One in the Georgia Dome. It was OK for Lincoln Co, Charlton Co, Clinch Co, ECI, ETC to beat the “privates” years ago, but when the tide turned you make a new set of rules …. I will never agree with the split.