Irwin County football coach Buddy Nobles holds the Class A public-school state championship trophy won Dec. 14 at Georgia State Stadium. It was Irwin’s first state title since 1975. Nobles, diagnosed with stomach cancer last summer, passed away on Jan. 22.

Irwin County football coach Nobles dies

Buddy Nobles, who led Irwin County to its first state title since 1975 last month, died Wednesday night after a months-long battle with stomach cancer.

Irwin County Schools superintendent Dr. Thad Clayton confirmed the news Thursday morning on a Facebook post that read in part: “Our Coach, Buddy Nobles, has passed from this life and is now in the presence of our Lord. He finished his fight with cancer peacefully in the night surrounded by his family. Irwin County Schools has lost a true man of God who will have an everlasting impact on many students, players, coaches and colleagues.”

Nobles was diagnosed with stage-four cancer last summer but continued to coach his highly ranked team as best he could. 

Defensive coordinator Casey Soliday became the interim head coach early in the season, but Nobles coached most games while seated in a wooden stand built for him by the school’s agriculture department.


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A Florida native, Nobles became Irwin County’s head coach in 2014 and quickly established the program as one of the best in Class A. The Indians won five region titles and reached five state finals in  Nobles’ six seasons.

After four losses in the state finals in five years, the Indians broke through in 2019 and defeated Marion County 56-14 in the Class A championship game Dec. 14 at Georgia State Stadium. Irwin twice defeated two-time defending champion Clinch County — 14-0 and 36-0. It was Clinch that had beaten Irwin three times in state finals.

Nobles was named the AJC’s Class A public-school coach of the year.

“I told our kids and our coaches that I don’t want our seniors to have their season ruined worrying about me,” Nobles told S. Thomas Coleman of AJC.com leading up to the finals. “But I’ll tell you I probably get about 15 text messages a day from our player, saying they love me. This whole season has been about a special team and a special community.” 

Nobles was a high school football coach for 32 seasons. A native of Jacksonville, he was on the staff of current Coffee coach Robby Pruitt at University Christian (1989-92) and Union County (1993-99) in Florida and Fitzgerald (2007-11) and Coffee (2012-13) in Georgia. 

Nobles was part of six Florida state-championship teams. He also was head coach at Union County (Fla.) from 2002 to 2006 and was a state runner-up in 2003. His overall record is 98-40-2. At Irwin, it was 67-13-2.

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