Clinch County won its eighth state championship in 2018 when it defeated Irwin County in the Class A public-school final. Today's interviewee is Don Tison Jr., who was promoted to head coach from offensive coordinator in the offseason. Tison replaced Jim Dickerson, who retired with a 152-44-1 record and five state championships. Tison is the son of Don Tison Sr., the coach who won Clinch County's first two state titles in 1988 and 1991 and for whom Clinch County's stadium is named.
Don Tison Jr., Clinch County head coach
1. It's hard enough to follow a coach who won five state titles. But you're also the son of a coach who put Clinch County football on the map statewide. What's it like to follow two coaches of that stature?"From someone who grew up through the program and played here, I process that question differently that most people probably would. From my perspective, from growing up around my dad and being around the program with him, it was never about winning games or championships, although we won a lot of those. It was always about making the program the best that you could from top to bottom, from the rec ball kids through to when they graduated high school to even after they graduated, having them carry a certain character and integrity through life. So when I look at it from my angle, I don't feel that I've got to win championships to be successful. For me, the challenge is to make the football program better so we're still making young men into good citizens. Hopefully we can win some championships. We've got some great players, and we've been on a good upswing for the last four or five years. I know dips will come with it being a small school. But if we maintain that same mentality that we've had, we'll continue to win. And if the ball bounces our way, we can win some championships."
2. When did you know you wanted to become a coach? "Growing up, you always want to be like your daddy. With his being a coach, I was always up at the field after school during the season and on weekends. A lot of Saturdays after games, I was helping clean up and doing laundry. It's what I did growing up. Then as I got older and was in high school playing quarterback my junior year, I just felt like I had a calling and a nag that I could possibly be good at it. So it's really been my whole life. We've had some that have graduated from Clinch and gone on to be very good coaches at other schools [most notably Jason Strickland at Ware County], but with me, there's never been any other school that I've wanted to coach at. In my senior year at Georgia Southern, I coached at Claxton as a community coach. That was my first real coaching job. I got engaged to my now wife, and she had one more year of school left at Southern, so I got a job at Tattnall County in Reidsville while she finished up her degree. Every job that I've gone to, it was always to gain some experience to use for when I had the opportunity to come back to Clinch County. Luckily that next year, a teaching spot came open here. At a small school like Clinch, jobs are like golden eggs. They don't come too often. That was 2006. I've been here since."
3. What's the scouting report on this year's Clinch County team? "The biggest thing that we graduated was our leadership. We graduated a senior class that was so good not just athletically but in how dependable they were and how much trust we had in them. There were things we didn't have to worry about with them. They were great leaders from the time they were sophomores. This team's challenge is not about replacing athletes or linemen, although obviously we're having to replace some special players. Our biggest challenge is this group coming into their own as leaders. As far as talent and depth, we're in good shape. We've got great players. We're confident in who we have. We just have to get better every day."
4. What's the best opposing player and opposing team that you've seen at Clinch County? "When I was an eighth-grader, we were playing Charlton County, and it was Champ Bailey. Obviously that name speaks for itself. Another one that comes to mind is Nick Marshall at Wilcox County. Miller County had a couple - Juwan Jones and Shawndre Sheffield. Now currently, D.J. Lundy at Irwin County. I've never really talked to D.J., but I feel like I know him. Not only is he big and fast, but his mentality toward the game from what I hear is outstanding. [Clinch County has faced Lundy's team five times, winning three.] As far as teams, the one that comes to mind is the 2010 ELCA team. We won the state title in 2010 and really should not have beaten them [in the quarterfinals]. That was just a game where the Lord saw fit to let us win. They were very good and coached by a tremendous coach. We're highly respectful of that program."
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