Donnie Branch, who coordinated three state championship defenses before becoming LaGrange’s head coach in 2011, has resigned. He will coach LaGrange’s final regular-season game Friday night at Carrollton.
LaGrange is 3-6 and almost certain to miss the state playoffs for the first time since 1999.
‘’Honestly, just the head coaching thing, I didn’t enjoy it,’’ Branch said. “The thing that I enjoyed about football was when I called the defenses and didn’t have all the other stuff that comes with being a head coach. There are a lot of things that need to be done to get the program where it needs to go and has been, and I think they need to get some new blood in here that’s willing to do it.’’
LaGrange is 13-19 in three seasons under Branch, who has coached at the west Georgia school since 1986. He was on staff for a fourth state championship team in 1991.
Branch succeeded Steve Pardue, who left for a coaching job at the University of Kentucky after leading LaGrange to state titles in 2001, 2003 and 2004. Pardue named Branch his defensive coordinator when Pardue was named head coach in 1994.
Branch’s defenses in the early 2000s were some of the state’s best in any classification with all-state players such as Tray Blackmon, Wesley Woodyard and Sam Olajubutu.
Branch, who is in his 30th year as a teacher and could retire, said he planned to remain at LaGrange and would consider re-joining the football staff of the new head coach, which would be an unusual move for a former head coach.
‘’I know that’s kind of odd, but I’m odd, so guess that fits,’’ Branch said. “What I love is coaching defense. That’s what I’m best at. If they bring in somebody that would want me to do that, and it’s a fit, I would consider it.’’
Branch said he would also consider a return to baseball as an assistant. Branch led LaGrange to a state title in that sport in 2004.
Branch’s final season as head coach seemed doomed from the start. Zach Giddens, who passed for 3,002 yards in 12 games last season, has played less than one quarter this season because of an injury. Branch said that was no excuse.
‘’I’m disappointed that I wasn’t able to do a better job wins and losses-wise,’’ Branch said. “Our talent level is not where it was. We still have good players, but not like it was in early 2000s. But at the same time, this is a tradition-rich place that will get back where it needs to get. Somebody else coming in will be best thing for the program.’’