Niblett, Rogers among 13 new coaches in Class 6A

Head coach Justin Rogers spent three seasons at Colquitt County before taking the job at Thomas County Central.

Credit: Adam Krohn

Combined ShapeCaption
Head coach Justin Rogers spent three seasons at Colquitt County before taking the job at Thomas County Central.

Credit: Adam Krohn

Number of hires: 13

Best hire: Josh Niblett, Gainesville

Hardest to replace: Robert Edwards, Riverwood

Best job: Gainesville

Toughest job: Paulding County

Most interesting: Gainesville, which has lost its state-power status since its glory days with coach Bruce Miller and quarterbacks Deshaun Watson and Blake Sims, struck offseason gold with the hire of Josh Niblett, a seven-time Alabama champion. Niblett is best known for his 14 seasons at Hoover, where he won titles in 2009, 2002, 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2017. Niblett also won his first state championship at Oneonta in 2004.

Region 1

*Houston County hired Warner Robins offensive coordinator Jeremy Edwards to replace Ryan Crawford. Warner Robins was 40-4 with two state titles with Edwards running the offenses the past three seasons. The 2021 team averaged 47.7 points per game. Edwards previously had been Cairo’s offensive coordinator. Houston County was 20-37 in five seasons under Crawford, who is now director of feeder operations and head sixth- and seventh-grade coach at Cartersville.

*Thomas County Central hired Colquitt County coach Justin Rogers to replace Ashley Henderson, who became head coach at Jasper County. Rogers’ Colquitt teams were 26-7 over three seasons with a region title in 2020. Rogers also coached at Jones County from 2014 to 2018, going 45-15 at a program that had never won 10 games in a season but did twice under him. Thomas Central was 19-22 in four seasons under Henderson and 5-6 in 2021.

*Veterans promoted Josh Ingram, its offensive coordinator the past four seasons, to replace Milan Turner, who joined Georgia Southern’s staff as director of high school relations. Ingram is a former Eagle’s Landing and Maryville College player who previously coached at Thomson and Lakeside of Evans. Veterans was 2-9 last season, two years after a school-record nine wins.

Region 2

*Brunswick promoted offensive coordinator Garrett Grady to replace Sean Pender, who became head coach at North Hall. Grady was Brunswick’s assistant head coach and offensive line coach the past five seasons under Pender. Grady previously had coached at alma mater Pierce County. He was part of national championship Valdosta State teams as a player in 2007 and a graduate assistant in 2012.

Region 3

*Alcovy hired Newton assistant head coach and defensive coordinator Spencer Fortson to replace Jason Dukes, who became an assistant principal at Thomas County Central. Fortson, who played at Elbert County, had been with Newton since 2009 after a shorter stint at Westover in Albany. Alcovy broke a streak of seven losing seasons in 2021 with a 5-5 finish and won the school’s first region title.

*Forest Park hired one alumnus, Corey Johnson, to replace another, Rex Robertson, who became Lovejoy’s offensive coordinator. Johnson, who played at Forest Park with Hines Ward before both went on to play at Georgia, was head coach for Heritage on Conyers from 2016 to 2020 and had a 24-25 record with a 2016 region title. He has been an assistant coach at Jackson and Greene County.

*Mundy’s Mill promoted defensive coordinator Earthwind Moreland to replace Dwayne Davis, who remained as athletic director. Moreland was Mays’ co-defensive coordinator from 2018 through 2020 and was head coach at alma mater Midtown from 2014 to 2017, compiling a 24-19 record and 2016 region title. Moreland was on Midtown’s staff for three other region titles since 2005. He played at Georgia Southern and in the NFL and Arena League as a wide receiver.

Region 4

*Riverwood promoted defensive coordinator Michael Young to replace Robert Edwards, who became head coach at Washington County. Young also has coached at Carrollton, Milton and his alma mater, Collins Hill, where he was a standout defensive back. Riverwood won two region titles in Edwards’ four seasons and finished 9-2 in 2021.

Region 5

*East Paulding hired Walton offensive coordinator Chris Hirschfield to replace Billy Shackelford. Hirschfield also has been offensive coordinator at Alabama’s Madison Academy (2010-15), where he was part of three state-championship teams, and at Elbert County (2016). He’s from Tennessee and played quarterback at Murray State and West Georgia. East Paulding was 23-29 in five seasons under Shackelford, 2-8 in 2021. Shackelford is now Gordon Central’s athletic director.

*Paulding County promoted defensive coordinator Umbrah Brown to replace Van Spence, who became East Paulding’s offensive coordinator. Brown had been Paulding’s defensive coordinator since 2019. A graduate of Central (Carrollton) and West Georgia, Brown has coached at Hiram (2011-17) and New Manchester (2018). Paulding County was 19-42 in six seasons under Spence, 3-7 in 2021.

Region 6

None

Region 7

*Johns Creek hired Milton defensive coordinator Drew Connell to replace Matt Helmerich, who became head coach at Peachtree Ridge. Connell had been on Milton’s staff since 2017 and became defensive coordinator in 2018, when Milton won a state title. Connell has been on staffs at Manchester, Villa Rica, Troup and West Forsyth. Johns Creek was 35-20 in five seasons under Helmerich, 9-4 in 2021.

Region 8

*Gainesville hired Hoover (Ala.) head coach Josh Niblett to replace Heath Webb, who became head coach at Lumpkin County. Niblett’s record at Hoover was 171-26 with six state titles over 14 seasons. His overall record is 236-58. Gainesville has gone 18-25 over the past four seasons, the past two while competing in Class 7A.

*Lanier hired Norcross offensive coordinator Tyler Maloof to replace interim coach David Willingham, who became Milton’s defensive coordinator. Maloof had been on Norcross’ staff since 2014 under his father, Keith Maloof, for whom he also played. Tyler Maloof was a baseball player at Georgia and graduate and student assistant coach on the football team for two seasons. Lanier was 4-6 in 2021, the Longhorns’ second losing season in a row after a streak of seven winning campaigns under Korey Mobbs.

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