Profiles of new head coaches: Class A

Number of hires: 14

Best hire: Jeff Herron, Prince Avenue Christian

Hardest to replace: Mark Farriba, Prince Avenue Christian

Best job: Prince Avenue Christian

Toughest job: North Cobb Christian

Most interesting: Prince Avenue Christian secured the coaching coup of the offseason with the hiring of Jeff Herron, who won three state titles at Camden County, a Class AAAAAA school with national prominence.

Region 2

*Lanier County hired Wayne County offensive coordinator Philip Johnson to replace David Ward, who retired. Johnson is Lanier County’s fourth coach in four seasons after Ward, Brent Miller and Wade Beale. Lanier County was 2-8 in Ward’s only season.

*Turner County promoted defensive coordinator John Gamble to replace Erik Soliday, who got the head job at Perry. Gamble previously was head coach at Irwin County and was 16-26 in four seasons (2007-10). He was an assistant at Peach County, Bleckley County and Mary Persons. Soliday was 54-46 in nine seasons at Turner County and won 10 games in 2006 and 2008.

Region 5

*Mount Vernon Presbyterian hired Georgia State assistant Ryan Zimmerman to replace Reggie Burnette, the former NFL player whose arrest on charges of indecent exposure in February led to his resignation. Zimmerman, a member of Bill Curry’s staff at GSU for four seasons, also has coached at his alma mater East Hall (2005) and West Hall (1999-2002). Burnette was 17-34 in five seasons.

*Pace Academy hired former NFL linebacker Chris Slade, who joined Pace’s staff in 2012, to replace Matt Hall, who will remain as Upper School dean of students and head baseball coach. Slade played nine seasons in the NFL and made the Pro Bowl in 1997 with the Patriots. He was an All-America player at Virginia and set the ACC’s career record for sacks. Pace was 3-7 last season and is 23-28 overall in its five varsity seasons. Hall started Pace’s football program in 2006.

Region 6

*Fellowship Christian hired Creekview head coach Al Morrell, who announced his retirement from public schools after the 2012 season. Morrell started the program at Creekview and was 48-25 in his seven seasons at that Cherokee County school. Morrell has been a coach for 31 seasons, and his stops as an assistant include Wills, Marietta, Etowah and Sequoyah. He was inducted into the Cherokee County Gridiron Club’s Hall of Fame. Fellowship Christian, which started varsity football in 2004, has not had a winning season since its 11-2 finish in 2007 and was 2-8 last season under Hunter Chadwick.

*Mount Pisgah Christian promoted defensive coordinator Mike Forester to replace Doug Dixon, who became head coach of St. Andrew’s School in Savannah. Forester coached for 19 seasons, primarily as defensive coordinator, at Briarwood Christian, a Birmingham school that won three state titles and finished runner-up twice while Forester was there. Forester played at Ole Miss and lettered in 1976, when the Rebels upset Top 10 teams Georgia and Alabama. Mount Pisgah made its first state playoff appearance in 2012 and finished 6-5.

*North Cobb Christian hired Scott Ryle, formerly the offensive coordinator at Southwest Christian in Fort Worth, Texas, to succeed Harry Miles, who resigned after four seasons and returned to Savannah to work in the private sector. NCC initially hired former Landmark Christian coach Kenny Dallas, but Dallas changed his mind two weeks after signing a contract. A college quarterback at Milligan in Tennessee, Ryle has been an assistant coach in his native Illinois. NCC is 6-42 since starting varsity football in 2007.

Region 7

*Aquinas promoted assistant James Leonard, 26, to replace Matt Lezotte, who resigned to become running backs coach at Wayne County. Leonard, who has spent his 11-year coaching career at his alma mater, is the grandson of Denny Leonard, Aquinas’ head coach from 1946 to 1966. James is believed to be the youngest head coach in Georgia. Aquinas was 28-16 in four seasons under Lezotte, the best four-year run in school history.

*Georgia Military Academy promoted defensive coordinator Steven Simpson to replace Brad Owens, who left coaching to enter the family insurance business. A Milledgeville native (and graduate of John Milledge Academy), Simpson is a former player for GMC’s junior college team and worked at the prep school initially as a community coach. He has been defensive coordinator the past seven years. He will remain as athletics director and was the Region 7 AD of the year for 2012-13. GMC was 19-21 in four seasons under Owens.

*Warren County hired former Portal coach Cherard Freeman after the team played without an official head coach last season after the retirement of David Daniel. Freeman was Portal’s head coach in 2000 but spent the past two years working on a specialist degree at Valdosta State while he also worked at the department of juvenile justice and taught incarcerated youth. Cherard, a former Lincoln County all-state player, also has been a coordinator at Treutlen and Portal.

Region 8

*Commerce promoted 15-year assistant Michael Brown, an alumnus and former all-state lineman, to succeed Marvin Justice, who resigned citing health and family concerns. Justice had a 9-13 record in two seasons. Brown was hired in May as interim coach with the opportunity to take the job permanently. Brown is only the fourth Commerce coach since 1967, when Ray Lamb was hired.

*Hebron Christian promoted offensive line coach Kevin Shaffer, a former NFL lineman who played his first four seasons in the league with the Falcons, to replace Sal Battaglia, who was 5-15 in two seasons. Shaffer had been an assistant the past two years at Hebron, or since leaving the NFL. Hebron started football in 2007 and finished 1-9 in 2012, the first season of playing a full region schedule.

*Prince Avenue Christian hired Camden County coach Jeff Herron to replace Mark Farriba, who took the head job at his alma mater, Tattnall Square in Macon. Herron was 154-18 in 18 seasons at Camden County, with state titles in 2003, 2008 and 2009. Herron also was head coach for Oconee County’s 1999 state championship team and is a former coach at Cedar Shoals in Athens. He retired from public schools this year.

*Towns County hired former Brookstone coach Blair Harrison to replace Kyle Langford, who took a job as defensive line coach at Cook. Harrison had a record of 73-29 in nine seasons at Brookstone in Columbus before taking a job as head coach of Kingston in his native Tennessee for one season. Kingston was 7-5. Towns County has achieved only one winning season (2008) since resuming varsity football in 1975. The school has not played a region schedule since 2005 or won a region game since 1999.

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4 comments Add your comment

CEM

August 19th, 2013
10:04 am

Just wondering how James Leonard can be 26 and already have an 11-year coaching career.

bbo

August 19th, 2013
11:01 am

And Farriba’s alma mater (and current employer) is Stratford Academy in Macon.

Don Fancher

August 19th, 2013
12:36 pm

Ryan Zimmerman coached at Fellowship Christian School last year as Defensive Coordinator.

irish backer

August 19th, 2013
2:10 pm

James was diagnosed with a vascular issue (blood clotting) that prevented him from playing when he was a sophomore or junior in high school, Coach Jim Connor put James on “staff” as an assistant with the JV team and film study immediately after, so James has effectively been an assistant coach at Aquinas since 2003. Good luck to you James and all the Fightin Irish, I know you guys will do great.