Most interesting: Smaller schools in rural Georgia continue to be steppingstones to bigger jobs, even if it means going from head coach to assistant. Kevious Johnson, who led Turner County to the Class A Public quarterfinals last season, is Warner Robins’ offensive coordinator now. Pierre Coffey left Chattahoochee County, a consistent Class A winner, to take the Carver job in Columbus. Their new teams are state powers, but don’t be surprised if their former teams do as well as their new ones this season. With perennial juggernauts such as Brooks County and Irwin County out of the mix, Turner and Chattahoochee are expected to be serious state-title contenders in the GHSA’s new small-school division.
*Pataula Charter hired Southwest Georgia Academy coach Daniel McFather to replace interim coach Matt Fowler, who remains as assistant athletic director. McFather won two GISA region titles in five seasons at Southwest Georgia. He’s a 23-year head coach with a 109-128-1 record. This will be the first time in five coaching stops that he’s inherited a team that won more than two games the previous season. In 2021, Pataula was 6-4, its best record in a six-year varsity history, albeit against a non-region schedule. The team coped with the midseason death of coach Todd West, who was killed in an auto accident.
*Randolph-Clay hired Tiftarea Academy defensive coordinator and former Monroe head coach Charles Truitt to replace Scott Swantic. Truitt’s record was 85-90 with a region title as Monroe’s coach. He was head coach at Americus-Sumter in 2002 and 2003 and Americus High’s defensive coordinator during 2000 and 2001 state championship seasons. Randolph-Clay was 1-9 in Swantic’s lone season. Swantic is now coaching softball and baseball at Quitman County near his home on Lake Eufaula.
*Turner County hired Irwin County defensive coordinator Ben Simmons to replace Kevious Johnson, who became Warner Robins’ offensive coordinator. Simmons was Turner County’s coach in 2015 and 2016, winning eight games each time. He then coached a winless season at Worth County. He also has assisted at Valdosta and Tift County in a 28-year career. Turner County reached the Class A Public quarterfinals last season with a 6-7 record.
*Jenkins County promoted Edmund Burke Academy assistant Charley Waters to replace David Johnson, who retired. Waters was Jenkins County’s coach in 2011 and from 2014 to 2018. His Jenkins County record is 29-33, and the 8-4 and 7-4 seasons in 2017 and 2014 are the school’s best in 50 years. Jenkins County was 10-21 in Johnson’s three seasons.
*Montgomery County hired Cedar Shoals defensive coordinator Don Vandygriff to replace Tim Suttles, who joined Jeff Davis’ staff as defensive line coach. Vandygriff also has coached at Cairo (2017-18), Lincoln in Tallahassee, Fla. (2016), Thomasville (2014-15), Dublin (2005-12) and Lake Gibson in Florida (2002-04). Montgomery County was 19-13 in Suttles’ three seasons, 8-3 in 2021.
*Dooly County promoted offensive coordinator Cecil Lester as interim coach to replace Phillip Hale, who joined East Paulding’s staff as defensive line coach. Lester is a former Dooly County and Fort Valley State quarterback who played more than 10 seasons of Arena League ball. He was the Professional Indoor Football League’s MVP in 2011 with the Albany Panthers. Lester has coached at Dooly County (two stints), Manchester, Riverdale, Dutchtown, Randolph-Clay and Central of Talbotton, typically as offensive coordinator. Dooly County was 6-4 last season.
*Chattahoochee County hired Bleckley County offensive coordinator Ryan McKenzie to replace Pierre Coffey, who became head coach at Carver of Columbus. McKenzie came to Bleckley in 2019 after short stints at Sumter County, Central of Macon, Brunswick and alma mater Macon County. Chattahoochee County was 8-2 and 8-3 under Coffey.
*Greenville hired Newnan running backs coach Alexander Ogletree to replace Tyler Wynn, who became offensive coordinator at Florida’s Warner University. Ogletree, a former Georgia player and brother of NFL player Alec Ogletree, had been on Newnan’s staff for seven seasons, or essentially since graduating from Georgia, where he played with brother Alec. Greenville was 12-17 under Wynn, 6-4 in 2021.
*Taylor County hired Cairo quarterbacks coach Brandon Byram to replace interim coach Robert Yevak, who now coaches the middle school program. Byram also has coached at Spalding, Griffin and Lovejoy across a nine-year career. Taylor County was 3-6 last season and ended a streak of five playoff appearances.
*Greene County hired Meadowcreek interim coach Terrance Banks to replace Larry Milligan, who retired. Banks was Meadowcreek’s offensive coordinator before being promoted in midseason to replace Jason Carrera, who took a job in administration. Banks is best known for his time at Newton (2013-18), where his teams won a region title and went 38-27-1. Greene County won a region title in 2018 in Milligan’s first season but went 7-23 thereafter.
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