New Jackson County head coach Rich McWhorter was 288-79-2 with 15 region titles and four state championships at Charlton County.
Photo: Phil Skinner
Photo: Phil Skinner

Jackson County’s McWhorter among 13 new coaches in Class AAA

Number of hires: 13 

Best hire: Rich McWhorter, Jackson County 

Hardest to replace: Jimmy Smith, Cedar Grove 

Best job: Calhoun 

Toughest job: Stone Mountain 

Most interesting: Four of the past five Class AAA championships have been won by Cedar Grove (2016, 2018) and Calhoun (2014, 2017). The head coaches from those championships won't be on high school sidelines this fall. Cedar Grove's Jimmy Smith took a job on Georgia State's staff, and Calhoun's Hal Lamb retired. Lamb was 238-52 with 18 region titles and three state championships in 22 seasons. He was 231-29 this century at Calhoun, a program with no statewide football relevance for decades until Lamb came along. So why isn't Lamb "hardest to replace"? Why Smith? Cedar Grove's emergence as a state power is more short-lived, thus more unpredictable. Football fortunes in DeKalb County can turn. Calhoun is a juggernaut whose 18 consecutive region titles represent unprecedented local dominance in this state. That's not going away any time soon. 

Region 1 

*Cook hired Baker County (Fla.) head coach Jamie Rodgers to replace Bobby Jones, who remained at Cook as a teacher. Rodgers' teams were 29-9 at Baker County and won district titles in all three of his seasons at the Class 5A Florida school. He's 63-24 overall as a head coach. Cook was 21-24 in four seasons under Jones, 3-8 in 2018. 

Region 2 

*Pierce County hired Oxford (Ala.) head coach Ryan Herring to replace Jason Strickland, who took the head coaching job at Ware County. Herring's Oxford teams were 50-21 over six seasons and won at least 10 games each of the past three. Clay Webb, a five-star offensive lineman and now freshman at Georgia, played under Herring at Oxford. Herring also has coached at Lincoln and Shelby County in Alabama and has a 96-52 overall record. 

Region 3 

*Groves hired Macon County offensive coordinator James Latimore to replace Michael Martin, who is now the ninth-grade coach at Lowndes. Latimore was on Macon County's staff during the 2016 Class A public-school championship season. He has also been an offensive coordinator at Baldwin and Crawford County and assisted at Perry, Lee County, Americus-Sumter, Central (Macon) and alma mater Peach County. Groves was 10-40 under Martin. 

*Windsor Forest hired Toombs County defensive line coach Ike Ferrell to replace Gregg Busby, who is now defensive coordinator at Lamar County. Ferrell, a Northside (Warner Robins) alumnus and former all-conference lineman at Georgia Southern, has been on staffs at Cairo, Thomasville and Peach County and was head coach at Lithia Springs in 2004 and 2005. Windsor Forest was 6-5 last season and 18-24 overall under Busby, who inherited a team on a 23-game losing streak. 

Region 4 

*Rutland hired East Coweta defensive coordinator Rusty Easom to replace Mark Daniel, who retired. Easom had run East Coweta's defenses since 2014. He was Griffin's defensive coordinator during the Class AAAA championship season of 2013. He also has been on staffs at Bulloch Academy and Harris County. He's a former Upson-Lee player. Rutland has lost 23 consecutive games. 

Region 5 

*Cedar Grove promoted defensive coordinator Miguel Patrick to replace Jimmy Smith, who is now running backs coach at Georgia State. Patrick, also the school's boys basketball coach last season, has coached at Cedar Grove for 12 years, the past six as defensive coordinator, during which the Saints have gone 67-14-1. 

*Redan promoted Redan Middle School head coach Rahman Sparks to replace K.D. Dunn, who is now on staff at Lithonia. A native of Los Angeles, Sparks is a former defensive back at Cal State Northridge. He was defensive coordinator and interim head coach at his alma mater, Washington Prep in California, in 2012-15. He came to Georgia in 2016 and spent one season on Chamblee's staff. Redan was 1-9 in Dunn's only season and last had a winning record in 2007. 

*Stone Mountain hired Morrow defensive coordinator James Lal to replace James Collier, who stepped away from coaching and now teaches at DeKalb Alternative School. Lal also had coached the Georgia Doom of the American Arena League for two seasons until it suspended operations this year. Lal has been on staffs at Morrow, Dutchtown and Ola. Stone Mountain is 4-46 over the past five seasons. 

Region 6 

*Calhoun promoted 15-year assistant Clay Stephenson to replace Hal Lamb, who retired. Stephenson played for Lamb at Upson-Lee, Lamb's first head-coaching job, in 1997-98. 

Region 7 

*East Hall hired Centennial head coach Michael Perry to replace Scott Patrick, who remained a teacher at the middle school but is not coaching. Perry's teams were 8-4 and 7-4 at Centennial. Perry was the offensive coordinator at Gainesville from 2011 to 2015. The 2012 team, led by Deshaun Watson, won the Class AAAAA title. East Hall was 3-7 in one season under Patrick. East Hall has finished 3-7, 5-5 or 6-4 every season since 2010. 

*Lumpkin County hired Stephens County quarterbacks coach Caleb Sorrells to replace Shane Williamson, who took the head coaching job at Hawkinsville. Sorrells coached at Stephens for three seasons and worked at Cartersville and Gaffney (S.C.) in prior years and was on staff for Cartersville's 2015 Class AAAA championship team. Lumpkin County was 8-22 under Williams and last had a winning season with a 6-4 finish in 2011. 

Region 8 

*East Jackson hired Belleville West (Ill.) head coach Cameron Pettus to replace Scott Wilkins, who retired. Pettus, a Georgia native and Paulding County graduate, was 45-35 at Belleville West in eight seasons, which included seven playoff berths. Pettus spent 12 seasons overall at the metro St. Louis school and coached for seven seasons prior at McKendree University in Illinois. He began coaching at Paulding County before heading back to the Midwest, where he played college ball at Millikin University. 

*Jackson County hired Charlton County head coach Rich McWhorter to replace Brandon Worley, who is now on staff at Habersham Central. McWhorter was 288-79-2 with 15 region titles and four state championships at Charlton County, the only school for which he worked out of college at Eastern Illinois. McWhorter's 288 victories rank 12th in GHSA history and second among active coaches behind Marist's Alan Chadwick. 

Coming Thursday: Class AA 

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