Grayson football coach resigns after ‘difficult’ season

Christian Hunnicutt announced his resignation Wednesday morning as Grayson’s football coach after two seasons, despite a 20-5 record, a region championship and state quarterfinal finish in 2018.

The coach called his resignation a mutual decision between himself and the school. He praised Grayson’s administration, players and booster club. And he conceded that the job was made more difficult because of what he called “outside influences.”

“First of all, I harbor no ill will toward anyone at Grayson,” Hunnicutt said in his first interview after his resignation. “I want the school to be successful and the football team to be successful. I have the utmost respect for Dr. Dana Pugh (the principal) and Brian DeBerry (the athletic director). I certainly appreciate the opportunity they gave me, and they are unbelievable administrators and incredible leaders, and they’ll continue to keep the Grayson machine rolling.’’

Grayson was ranked No. 1 in Class AAAAAAA in preseason and was the state’s most prominent team in early national polls, many that had the Rams in the top 10. Grayson fielded a state-record 12 seniors who were committed to or signed with major Division I schools. Those included 5-star recruits Owen Pappoe to Auburn and Wanya Morris to Tennessee. 

But trouble started before the team played its first game. In August, just days before Grayson’s opener, some players walked out of practice, citing grueling conditions. Hunnicutt later said that coaches and players met and resolved their issues. 

Grayson suffered early non-region losses to nationally ranked Bergen Catholic and Colquitt County, but won its region after defeating fifth-ranked Archer 41-14 in October to avenge a 2017 defeat.  Hunnicutt was voted the Region 8-AAAAAAA coach of the year by his peers in the region.

Grayson’s season ended with a 20-15 home loss to 10th-ranked Lowndes in a quarterfinal playoff game that most viewed as an upset. Grayson was ranked No. 2 in AAAAAAA and favored by 11 points by the computer Maxwell Ratings.

Hunnicutt acknowledged that the Grayson job was more challenging than most.

“There are just some outside influences, things on the periphery, that make that job difficult,” Hunnicutt said. “Every head coaching job is hard, but there’s a lot of moving parts outside the field house and outside the campus. It’s just a difficult deal.’’ 

Grayson won a state championship in 2011 with Mickey Conn, who started the program in 2000, compiled a record of 137-48 and left after the 2015 season to join the support staff at Clemson. Conn is now an on-field assistant coach at Clemson.

Hunnicutt, hired in 2017, had been head coach at East Jackson for one season, his first head-coaching position. That team finished 4-6, the best mark for the school in seven seasons. Hunnicutt had made his name as a top assistant at state-power Buford (1997-2011), Peach County (2012) and Lowndes (2013-14). 

He was Grayson’s offensive line coach in 2015 in Conn’s final season and made an impression that partly led to his return.

“The Grayson community holds a special place in my heart,” Hunnicutt said. “When I got divorced, I’m living with Mickey Conn, and I was about as low a person as I could be. I don’t recommend divorce to anyone. The Grayson community and players and coaches, all those people pieced me together. Regardless of whether I’m a head coach or not, I love that city. It’s a special city, and I have nothing but great things to say about Grayson High School and the Grayson community. And the kids are unbelievable kids, and they work their butts off, and the booster club works so incredibly hard to do everything they can for them.’’

Jeff Herron was hired as Grayson’s head coach in 2016, and the Rams won their second state championship. Herron left after one season to become head coach at T.L. Hanna in South Carolina.

Grayson is the second top program this offseason to part ways with a region coach of the year after just two seasons. Buford’s John Ford resigned days after the season despite a 21-5 record overall, 10-3 in 2018. Buford’s state-record streak of state semifinals appearances ended when the Wolves lost to Bainbridge in the quarterfinals.

Buford promoted defensive coordinator Bryant Appling last week.

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