Milton, Archer, Lowndes among 10 teams in Class 7A with new head coaches

Former Johns Creek head coach Matt Helmerich, now at Peachtree Ridge, celebrates a touchdown with offensive lineman Tyler Gibson (75) during the second half of a 2021 game against Riverwood. Johns Creek won the game 40-32.

Credit: Jason Getz/Special to the AJC

Combined ShapeCaption
Former Johns Creek head coach Matt Helmerich, now at Peachtree Ridge, celebrates a touchdown with offensive lineman Tyler Gibson (75) during the second half of a 2021 game against Riverwood. Johns Creek won the game 40-32.

Credit: Jason Getz/Special to the AJC

Number of hires: 10

Best hire: Dante Williams, Archer

Hardest to replace: Adam Clack, Milton

Best job: Lowndes

Toughest job: Berkmar

Most interesting: Adam Clack led Milton to a 54-12 record, four region titles, the school’s first state championship and national prominence in five seasons, so it was a shock when he stepped away in January, saying he was pursuing other opportunities. “I made a commitment to always give this program my 100% undivided attention, energy and effort; anything else would be unacceptable, but I always knew the day would come when my ultimate career ambitions would lead me to a crossroads,” Clack stated on his Twitter account. Five months later, Clack joined UNC Charlotte’s staff as an analyst. In other Class 7A news, two of the state’s highest-paying and most highly sought jobs turned over in South Georgia as Colquitt County and Lowndes had openings, but that’s the second time that’s happened in the past three years for each. Both hired a former Rush Propst offensive guru from Colquitt County’s 2014 state championship team.

Region 1

*Colquitt County hired Vestavia Hills (Ala.) head coach and its former offensive coordinator, Sean Calhoun, to replace Justin Rogers, who became head coach at Thomas County Central. Calhoun was Colquitt County’s passing game coordinator in 2014 and offensive coordinator in 2015, when the Packers completed back-to-back 15-0 seasons under coach Rush Propst. Calhoun was Carrollton’s coach from 2016 to 2020. He compiled a 51-12 record and led the Trojans to five consecutive quarterfinal appearances. Calhoun was a Collins Hill assistant from 2010 to 2013. His lone Vestavia Hills team was 4-6, the same record as the season prior. Colquitt was 26-7 in three seasons and 8-3 in 2021 under Rogers.

*Lowndes hired Thomasville coach Zach Grage to replace Jamie DuBose, who became head coach at Orange Beach in Alabama. Grage’s Thomasville teams were 54-23 with three region titles in six seasons. In 2021, he led Thomasville to its first championship game in 28 years. An Indiana native, Grage was on Colquitt County’s staff from 2009 through 2014 and was the co-offensive coordinator for the 2014 team that won Class 6A. Grage was Gilmer’s coach in 2015 and led the Bobcats to a 4-6 record. Lowndes was 10-2 and 10-3 in DuBose’s two seasons.

Region 2

*Westlake hired Kennesaw State assistant Rico Zackery to replace Bobby May, who became head coach at Kell. Zackery spent the past three seasons as defensive ends coach and special teams coordinator at KSU under coach Brian Bohannon. KSU was 26-6 during Zackery’s three seasons and won the Big South Conference in 2021. Zackery has been a high school head coach at Villa Rica and Central in Carroll County, where his teams were 40-16 across five seasons. A Newnan native, Zackery worked in 2016 as the recruiting operations director at Georgia Southern, where he played. Westlake was 10-3 last season in Class 6A under May.

Region 3

None

Region 4

*Archer hired Collins Hill offensive coordinator Dante Williams to replace Andy Dyer, who started Archer’s program in 2009. Williams was the offensive coordinator on state championship teams at Grayson (2016) and Collins Hill (2021). A former Duluth and Samford University quarterback, Williams worked the past three seasons with Sam Horn and Travis Hunter, one of the most prolific QB-WR combinations in state history. He worked previously on Collins Hill’s staff with future NFL quarterback Taylor Heinicke. Archer was 97-52 with four region titles under Dyer, who is now assistant head coach at Elbert County.

Region 5

None

Region 6

*Lambert promoted offensive coordinator Marc Beach to replace Tommy Watson, who became Harris County’s coach. Beach was Tift County’s offensive coordinator from 2015 to 2020. He had been head coach at Seabreeze, Fla., where his teams were 98-59 with 10 playoff appearances. Lambert was 7-4 last season and made its first playoff appearance since 2016.

*Milton promoted offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Ben Reaves to replace Adam Clack, who is now an analyst at UNC Charlotte. Reaves came to Milton with Clack in 2017. The Eagles were 54-12 in that time and won the 2018 Class 7A championship. Reaves played at Newton under his father, Ben Reaves Sr., and was a University of Georgia walk-on and student assistant. He has been on staffs at Collins Hill, Berrien and Bay Shore, Fla.

Region 7

*Berkmar hired Cambridge assistant Cole Meyer to replace Willie Gary. Meyer, a Canadian, played quarterback at the University of British Columbia, where he finished in 2018 and then coached for three seasons. Meyer, 27, also has worked in metro Atlanta as a private football trainer. Berkmar was 8-30 under Gary, who ended the program’s 48-game losing streak in his first season. Gary remains at the school as a P.E. teacher and athletic liaison and won’t coach this season.

*Meadowcreek hired Collins Hill assistant head coach Todd Wofford to replace interim coach Terrence Banks, who became head coach at Greene County. Wofford was All-America wide receiver Travis Hunter’s position coach last season and was head coach at Central Gwinnett from 2009 to 2019. He was Gainesville’s offensive coordinator from 2005 to 2009. Meadowcreek was 5-6 last season.

*Peachtree Ridge hired Johns Creek head coach Matt Helmerich to replace Reggie Stancil. Helmerich’s Johns Creek record was 35-20 in five seasons with region titles in 2018 and 2019. Helmerich had been a head coach at Fort Pierce and defensive coordinator at national power St. Thomas Aquinas in Florida. Peachtree Ridge has had losing seasons each of the past five seasons and was 3-7 in 2021 under Stancil, who is now on McEachern’s staff.

Region 8

*Central Gwinnett hired Cedar Shoals offensive coordinator Larry Harold to replace Jason Thompson. Harold has been an offensive analyst at Tennessee (2020), assistant at Kentucky State (2019) and head coach at Sumter County (2018), Brunswick (2015-16) and Macon County (2012-14), where he was Roquan Smith’s high school coach. Central was 1-9 last season under Thompson, who is now a defensive assistant on Camden County’s staff.

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