Photo: AJC
Photo: AJC

25 Class A schools to open season with new head coaches

Number of hires: 25 

Best hire: Ashley Harden, Dooly County 

Hardest to replace: Rich McWhorter, Charlton County 

Best job: Clinch County 

Toughest job: Stewart County 

Most interesting: Rich McWhorter left Charlton County, the only employer he's had since college, to take the Jackson County job in north Georgia in December. Charlton County was nothing but bare potential when McWhorter was hired in 1990. The program failed to have a winning season in the 1980s, and nobody else wanted the job. So at age 26, McWhorter went to work. He won 288 games, 15 region titles and four state championships in 29 seasons. Now, it's Russ Murray's turn. Murray is a former Charlton County lineman from those 1980s teams, and he joined McWhorter's staff in 1995 and has been part of all four of the Indians' state championship teams. He has served as assistant head coach, line coach, JV coach and middle school coach. He's also been a head coach in baseball, golf and archery. 

Region 1 

*Baconton Charter promoted Parker Rentz to replace Randy Grace, now the head coach at Windsor Academy in Macon. Rentz has been on Baconton's staff the past two seasons. He was head coach at Southwest Georgia Academy in Early County in 2016. Baconton has gone 3-7 the past two years and never won more than three games in a season since starting varsity football in 2010. 

*Calhoun County hired alumnus and former Terrell County defensive coordinator Leonard King to replace Dietrich Wadley, who joined the staff at Jordan. King, hired just two weeks ago, played for Calhoun County in the mid-1990s and has coached at Terrell County and Randolph-Clay. He was out of coaching last season. Calhoun County was 8-32 in four seasons under Wadley. 

*Chattahoochee County promoted offensive coordinator Jody Allen to replace Drew Fowler, who is now on staff at Central of Carrollton. Allen was a longtime college coach who spent 10 seasons at Florida State under Bobby Bowdon, three at Ole Miss and one at Alabama. He has been an assistant at Griffin and Cairo. Chattahoochee County was 18-15 in three seasons under Fowler and 8-4 in 2018. 

*Randolph-Clay hired Thompson (Ala.) assistant and Randolph County native Wes Murphy to replace Harvey Smith. Murphy, a former Arkansas tight end who signed to the Kansas City Chiefs' training camp in 2007, has spent much of his career with college programs, including Auburn's 2013 SEC championship team as a support-staff member. He's also worked at Arkansas State and Virginia Union. In 2011, he was an assistant at Fellowship Christian in Roswell. Randolph-Clay was 0-10 last season. 

*Seminole County hired Daleville (Ala.) head coach Trey Woolf to replace Wes Williams, who remained as a teacher at the school. Woolf was Early County's head coach from 2001 to 2016, and his record was 105-75-3 with one region title and one state finals appearance. Seminole County was 17-23-1 in four seasons under Williams, 5-6 in 2018. 

*Stewart County hired Baker Middle School head coach Roderick Martin to replace Ashley Harden, who took the head coaching job at Dooly County. Martin, a Carver of Columbus graduate, was coach and athletic director at Baker Middle for five seasons. Stewart County, one of Georgia's smallest public schools that fields a varsity football team, was 2-8 in 2018, matching its best record since starting the program in 2008. 

*Terrell County promoted defensive coordinator Jack Harris to replace William Huff, who is now assistant principal at Terrell County. Harris won state championships in the Georgia Independent School Association at Southland Academy (2006) and Terrell Academy (1997, 2001). Terrell County was 81-123 in 20 seasons under Huff. 

Region 2 

*Charlton County promoted Russ Murray to replace Rich McWhorter, who took the head coaching job at Jackson County. Murray is a former Charlton County lineman from the 1980s who joined McWhorter's staff in 1995 and has been part of all four of the Indians' state championship teams. He has served as assistant head coach, line coach, JV coach and middle school coach. He's also been a head coach in baseball, golf and archery. McWhorter's record at Charlton over 30 seasons was 288-79-2. 

*Clinch County promoted offensive coordinator Don Tison Jr. to replace Jim Dickerson, who retired. Tison's father was Clinch County's head coach from 1974 to 1993 and won state titles in 1988 and 1991. Tison Jr. is a 1999 Clinch County graduate who joined the staff in 2006. He holds the school record for passing yards in a game (280) and longest field goal (52 yards). Dickerson's record was 152-44-1 with five state titles. 

*Turner County hired Putnam County offensive coordinator Nick Hayes to replace Leroy Hood, who took the head coaching job at Pebblebrook. Hayes, a native of Lyons, also has been an assistant at Lowndes, Ware County and Toombs County. Turner County was 6-5 in each of Hood's two seasons. 

*Wilcox County promoted defensive coordinator Rob Stowe to replace Ken Cofer, who took the head coaching job at Dodge County. This will be Stowe's second season at Wilcox, 25th overall on Georgia sidelines. He's assisted at alma mater Stephens County, Rabun County and Gilmer and was Gilmer's head coach from 2003 to 2006. Wilcox County was 5-6 in its only season under Cofer. 

Region 3 

*Jenkins County promoted offensive coordinator David Johnson to replace Charley Waters, who remained at the school, his alma mater. Johnson was head coach at Jenkins County in 1997-2001 and Swainsboro (2010-12). He also has assisted at Bradwell Institute and Burke County. Jenkins County was 28-24 in five seasons under Waters, 5-5 in 2018. 

*McIntosh County Academy hired Dade County head coach Bradley Warren to replace Tony Glazer, who is now the offensive coordinator at Liberty County. Warren's record is 106-111 in 21 seasons as a head coach, and he had his most success at McIntosh County in his first stint there. He led the Buccaneers to 8-3, 11-3 and 8-5 finishes in 1999-01. The 11 wins in 2000 remain a school record. MCA has gone 4-15 since its state runner-up finish in 2016. 

*Montgomery County promoted defensive coordinator Tim Suttles to replace John Bowen, who took the head coaching job at Cross Keys. Suttles, a Montgomery County alumnus, has coached only at his alma mater and began there in 2008. He's also been the head track-and-field coach and in 2018 won the school's first state championship in a boys sport. Montgomery County was 8-4 last season and won its first playoff game since 1987. 

*Savannah Country Day hired Westminster offensive coordinator Jim Collis to replace Dennis Coyle, who took a job as head coach at Cincinnati Country Day in his hometown. Collis had been at Westminster for four seasons. Before that, he was head coach for 14 seasons over two stints at The Columbus Academy in Ohio, where his team won the 2003 Division V state championship. Savannah Country Day was 47-58 in 10 seasons under Coyle, 7-4 in 2018. 

Region 4 

*Dooly County hired Stewart County head coach Ashley Harden to replace Corey Jarvis, who took the head coaching job at Lithia Springs. Harden's 41-52 record at five Georgia schools over 10 seasons is deceiving. Those five schools (Stewart County, Northeast, Twiggs County, Jenkins County, Butler) were a combined 5-45 before he arrived. The average improvement at Harden's latest four stops was three wins. The one school that didn't see immediate results - Butler - cashed in big time in his second season by ending a 40-game losing streak and finishing 7-3 and then 8-2. Dooly County, which finished 7-5 in one season under Jarvis, will be Harden's first program that had a winning season immediately before his arrival. 

*Greenville hired River Ridge head coach Tyler Wynn to replace Vex Farley, who retired. Wynn's River Ridge teams were 9-31 in four seasons. He was River Ridge's offensive coordinator before that and previously worked on alma mater Troup's staff. Greenville was 16-45 in six seasons under Farley, 3-7 in 2018. 

*Hawkinsville hired Lumpkin County head coach Shane Williamson to replace Will Connor, who is now the defensive coordinator at Crisp County. Williamson has been head coach for 18 seasons at Lumpkin County, Forsyth Central and Swainsboro. His record is 86-93-2 with two region titles. Hawkinsville was 10-20 in three seasons under Conner. 

*Pacelli hired Russell County (Ala.) head coach Dwight Jones to replace Mark LeGree, who is now the high school relations recruiting coordinator at Georgia State. Jones' career record is 127-158 in 27 seasons as a head coach, 18 of those at five Georgia schools (Hardaway, Northside of Columbus, McIntosh, Jones County and Harris County). His Harris County team with Tae Crowder and TaQuon Marshall won a region title. Pacelli was 4-6 in 2018 after an 0-10 finish in 2017. 

Region 5 

*Landmark Christian hired former NFL wide receiver Mike Sherrard to replace Joe Scott, who is now coaching at Cartersville. Sherrard had been an assistant high school coach in his native California at Oaks Christian, Newbury Park, Brentwood, Bishop Alemany and Beverly Hills. As a player, he was a walk-on at UCLA and a first-round NFL Draft pick by the Cowboys and won a Super Bowl with the 49ers. Landmark had been a consistent winner in Class A since 2001 until the past two seasons, when the War Eagles have finished 0-10 and 2-8. 

Region 6 

None 

Region 7 

*Georgia Military hired Lee Coleman, an assistant coach from its junior college team, to replace Steve Simpson, who is now Warren County's defensive coordinator. Coleman had been the junior college's wide receivers coach since 2014. He's an East Hall graduate and former Northwestern player who also has coached at Arizona State and Arizona. Simpson's teams were 19-41 in six seasons. 

*Twiggs County promoted offensive coordinator Irade' Perry to replace Kevin Blackshear, who is now coaching at Veterans Memorial Middle School. Perry came to Twiggs last season and also was the middle school head coach. He worked previously at Dooly County. Twiggs has lost its last 21 games. 

*Washington-Wilkes promoted assistant head coach T.C. Jay to replace Chad Alligood, who is now offensive coordinator at Northside of Warner Robins. Jay had been on the Tigers' staff for six seasons (2011-12 and 2015-18). He also coached for single seasons at West Georgia and his alma mater, Rockmart. Washington-Wilkes was 9-11 in two seasons under Alligood, 3-7 in 2018. 

Region 8 

*George Walton Academy promoted defensive coordinator Shane Davis to replace Don Williams, who is now the dean of athletics and remained on the staff to coach wide receivers. Davis was head coach at Apalachee for 10 seasons through 2014 and was Grayson's strength-and-conditioning coach during the 2016 state championship season. Williams' record was 174-113-1 over 25 seasons. GWA won GISA championships in 2003 and 2009. 

*Towns County hired Johnson of Gainesville head coach Jason Roquemore to replace John Cornett, who moved back to Maine. Roquemore's Johnson teams, which were playing a non-region schedule when he arrived, were 16-54 but went 4-6 in 2018 against a full region schedule. Towns County was 11-20 in three seasons under Cornett, 3-7 in 2018. 

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