Steve Pennington, Statesboro
Pennington resigned this month after 13 seasons at Statesboro, where he won four region titles and one state championship. Pennington, 59, has coached for 37 years, 29 as a high school head coach in Georgia.
1. What is the most memorable game you’ve been a part of as a player or coach?“Most people would say that winning the state championship in ’05 would be the head’s-on favorite to be the most memorable, and rightly so, but honestly, I’m going to say it was in 2004, when we were playing at Tucker. This was in the quarterfinals. Tucker had four or five D-I players on that team, and we were 12-0 at the time. We were holding our own [trailing 14-10], but going to the last minute or so, they stopped us on a fourth down at the 1. But we still had all our timeouts, and we held them inside their 5-yard line. We had blocked eight or nine punts that year. We were really good at that. So with less than 30 seconds to go, instead of punting, they ran around in the end zone and took a safety. They kicked off to us, and with no timeouts, we got the ball back around the 45-yard line. We get two first downs, and the clock was down to 3.3 seconds. They had to stop the clock just long enough to set the chains, and we ran the field-goal team on [instead of trying to spike the ball]. And with perfect timing, our snapper snapped it [a split second before the horn sounded], and the kicker kicked it. I don’t know if it was 35 or 38 yards. It didn’t look like it got 5 feet off the ground. I thought it was not going to be any good and I was going to congratulate coach Bill Ballard [of Tucker]. Next thing I know our team was going ecstatic all over the field, and Tucker’s players were lying down on the field, devastated.” [Statesboro won 15-14. The kicker was Zach Sanders. It was 34 yards. That was Pennington’s first season as Statesboro’s head coach.]
2. Which high school coach would you want your son to play for, and why?“Mark Stroud. Besides him being successful where he’s always been, his genuineness and sincerity are solid as a rock. He has a great perspective on life. I know he loves the Lord and represents the character of what God is all about and putting people first. Would love for both of my sons to have played for him.” [Stroud is in his first season as head coach at Swainsboro after long stints at Calvary Day and Toombs County.]
3. What is your pet peeve as a coach or favorite saying/motto?“One I’ve always used came from coach Erk Russell during my time at Georgia Southern. ‘Do right.’ Two simple words. What a philosophy for life. You can say we don’t ever pay the price for success. We pay the price for failure. If you’re doing right, you don’t have to pay any price for failures. So that’s always been my saying.” [Pennington was an assistant coach on Russell’s first staff at Georgia Southern.]
4. Which GHSA policy or high school football rule would you most like to see changed?“I’d like to see regulations on the actual hours of practice and limits to the amount of time players are exposed to football [year-round] so that all schools are on equal terms. We’re letting schools do all these camps in the summer. It’s almost hypocritical now to have an acclimation period [in August] that says you can’t do anything in pads, but the week before you can go to a [voluntary preseason] camp for three or four days and get after it. Then if your school starts on Aug. 31, you can get more practice than if your school starts Aug. 12. I’d like to see the GHSA say you have x amount of time each week and put everybody on the same page.”
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