Coffee, Jefferson among 15 teams in Class 5A with new head coaches

Travis Noland, who was 70-27 with three region titles over eight years at Oconee County, is the new head coach at Jefferson. (Feb. 7, 2022).

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Travis Noland, who was 70-27 with three region titles over eight years at Oconee County, is the new head coach at Jefferson. (Feb. 7, 2022).

Number of hires: 15

Best hire: Mike Coe, Coffee

Hardest to replace: Robby Pruitt, Coffee

Best job: Jefferson

Toughest job: Cross Keys

Most interesting: Coffee’s Robby Pruitt and Jefferson’s Gene Cathcart left high-profile jobs for inconspicuous ones in their home states. Pruitt, whose 376 victories were second-most among active Georgia football coaches, went to Williston, which went 1-8 last season in Florida’s Class A. Pruitt needed more time in Florida to max out his retirement benefits. Cathcart is now at Batesburg-Leesville, which was 3-4 last season in South Carolina’s Class 2A.

Region 1

*Coffee hired Madison County (Fla.) head coach Mike Coe to replace Robby Pruitt, who became head coach at Williston in Florida. Coe led Madison County to state titles four of the past five seasons, including 2021. He’s a member of the Florida Athletic Coaches Athletic Hall of Fame, as was Pruitt. Coe’s record at Madison County was 136-27 over 12 seasons. Coffee was 8-3 last season.

Region 2

*Dutchtown hired Mays head coach Niketa Battle to replace Clifford Fedd, who became head coach at Sumter County. Battle led Mays to three 10-win seasons and three region titles in his six years, though the Raiders had fallen to 3-7 the past two years. He coached at Mays for 10 seasons overall and had stints at Miller Grove, Stone Mountain and Mount Zion (Jonesboro) as well as Dutchtown in 2006. Dutchtown was 43-16 in five seasons under Fedd and 7-4 in 2021.

*Locust Grove hired Drew defensive coordinator Garry Fisher to replace Mark Miller, who became defensive coordinator at Lake Oconee Academy. Fisher spent 17 seasons on college staffs, most recently as Tennessee State’s defensive coordinator (2017-19). He was a graduate assistant under Urban Meyer on Utah’s 2004 Fiesta Bowl champion. Locust Grove was 0-10 last season and last had a winning season in 2015.

*Ola hired Pelham (Ala.) coach Tom Causey to replace Ryan Angel, who rejoined Loganville’s staff. Causey’s coaching record is 146-104. He won an Alabama Class 5A title in 2009 with Demopolis. His Pelham team was 7-4 last season. Ola was 5-6 in Angel’s only season and has never won a playoff game.

Region 3

*Harris County hired Lambert head coach Tommy Watson to replace Jamie Fox, who retired from public schools and is not coaching this fall. Lambert was 5-5 and 7-4 in two seasons under Watson after finishing 0-10 the season before he was hired. The move puts Watson closer to home. He is a graduate of Upson-Lee and coached that school from 2008 to 2013. Harris County was 7-5 last season.

*McIntosh hired Viera (Fla.) head coach Derek Smith to replace Lee Belknap, who became Newnan’s defensive coordinator. Smith’s record at Viera, a Class 7A school in central Florida, was 28-17 with three district championships in four seasons. Viera was 5-5 in 2021. McIntosh was 2-8 last season.

Region 4

*Cross Keys hired Riverdale linebackers/safeties assistant Jimmy Williams to replace John Bowen, who became Towers’ head coach. A Southern Miss graduate, Williams coached for eight seasons in his native Mississippi at Rosa Fort, Canton and Hattiesburg before coming to Riverdale in 2019. Cross Keys has won four games the past 10 seasons against non-region schedules.

*Tucker promoted defensive backs coach Wayne Jones to replace James Thomson, who became head coach at Winter Haven in Florida. Jones has been with Tucker’s staff for two seasons. He spent 30 seasons at North Carolina’s High Point Central, the final 13 as head coach before retiring in that state. High Point was 75-81 under Jones. Tucker’s victory total has declined each season since its Class 6A runner-up finish in 2016. The Tigers were 2-9 in 2021.

Region 5

*Mays promoted offensive coordinator and alumnus Tony Slaton to replace Niketa Battle, who became head coach at Dutchtown. Slaton has coached at Mays the past eight seasons, the last four as offensive coordinator. He was Banneker’s head coach for two seasons (2011-12) and also has worked at Westlake (2004-07), where he helped develop quarterback Cam Newton. Slaton is a former Morris Brown quarterback. Mays was 44-25 with three region titles in six seasons under Battle and 3-7 in 2021.

*Midtown hired Hampton co-offensive coordinator Darrell Howard to replace Kevin Clark, who remained at the school as a teacher. Howard was on Hampton’s staff for four seasons. He also has coached at Creekside and North Springs. He is a former lineman at Eastside in Covington and Middle Tennessee. Midtown, formerly known as Grady, played only one varsity game in 2021 but plans a full non-region schedule this season.

Region 6

*Kell hired Westlake head coach Bobby May to replace Brett Sloan, who became Collins Hill’s offensive coordinator. May’s Westlake teams were 27-10 in three seasons and 10-3 in 2021. May had been Westlake’s offensive coordinator when promoted in 2019. May was head coach at Suncoast in Florida and led it to its best season in 13 years before coming to Georgia. May also has coached at Palm Beach Lakes and Palm Beach Gardens. Kell lost in the first round the past two seasons in Class 6A. The Longhorns are back in 5A, where they reached the semifinals in 2013 and 2016.

Region 7

*Woodland of Cartersville hired Rockmart co-offensive coordinator Brandon Haywood to replace Tony Plott, who became Gordon Central’s offensive coordinator. Haywood is a former Rockmart and Carson-Newman quarterback who was the South Atlantic Conference’s co-offensive player of the year in 2012. He has coached at Cass, River Ridge and Rockmart. Woodland was 14-54 in seven seasons under Plott and last made the playoffs in 1999.

Region 8

*Flowery Branch promoted defensive coordinator Jason Tester to replace Ben Hall, who became head coach at Oconee County. Tester has been with Flowery Branch since 2018 except for 2020, when he was Brookwood’s defensive coordinator. He’s also coached at Grayson, Eastside and St. Pius along with three schools in his native Michigan. Flowery Branch was 41-20 in five seasons under Hall, 8-4 in 2021.

*Heritage of Conyers hired Griffin defensive coordinator Ryan Andrews to replace Eddie Snell, who retired. Andrews has been a head coach at alma mater Banneker (2013) and Shiloh (2015-18) and was on Griffin’s staff since 2019. Heritage was 1-9 last season.

*Jefferson hired Oconee County coach Travis Noland to replace Gene Cathcart, who became head coach at Batesville-Leesburg in South Carolina. Noland’s record at Oconee County was 70-27 with three region titles over eight years. The Warriors hadn’t had a winning season over the previous nine years prior to Noland. His career record is 189-89. That includes time at Stephens County and two North Carolina schools. Jefferson was 9-2 last season and 49-11 the past five seasons under Cathcart.

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