Sandy Creek, Jefferson among 13 Class AAAA teams with new head coaches

(Jason Getz / AJC)

GHSF Daily is chronicling the many coaching changes in the offseason. We continue today with Class AAAA.

Number of hires: 13

Best hire: Tyler Aurandt, North Oconee

Hardest to replace: Chip Walker, Sandy Creek

Best job: Sandy Creek

Toughest job: Shaw

Most interesting: Chip Walker of Sandy Creek and Ben Hall of Jefferson left the security of successful AAAA programs for bigger schools in slumps – Walker to Newnan and Hall to Flowery Branch – but as far as new coaches in this classification, the saga of Carver of Columbus is fascinating. The Tigers welcome their fifth coach, Calvin Arnold, in six seasons. That counts one, Reggie Barlow, who was hired right after the 2015 season but resigned three months later to take another job. That’s a lot of turnover for a program that has achieved 11 consecutive winning seasons, dominated Muscogee County football and become a state power that Columbus schools hadn’t seen since integration. The revolving door began in 2013, when rising star Dell McGee left for the college ranks. Under McGee, Carver went to state semifinals or better five times in one six-season stretch. Joe Kegler, well-respected among his colleagues, was let go despite a 27-7 record in three seasons. Dremail King was 7-5 last season but not retained. The newest coach is Arnold, who was promoted from defensive coordinator.

Region 1

*Carver of Columbus promoted defensive coordinator Calvin Arnold to replace Dremail King, who was not retained despite a 7-5 finish in one season. Arnold, an alumnus of Shaw of Columbus, had been Spencer’s head coach for three seasons (2012-14) and had a 9-21 record. Arnold was a Carver assistant in 2006 and has assisted at Troup and Dougherty. King is teaching in Tuscaloosa, Ala., and not coaching.

*Shaw promoted defensive coordinator Al Pellegrino to replace Chuck Stamey. Pellegrino has been a head coach in Georgia for eight seasons at Savannah (1999), East Hall (2000-02) and Heritage of Conyers (2004-06). He took head-coaching jobs at Lake County, Ripley and Sycamore in Tennessee before joining Shaw in 2016. Shaw was 6-15 under Stamey, who remained at Shaw as a teacher.

Region 2

*Perry hired Houston County defensive line coach Kevin Smith to replace Carl Dixon, whose teams were 5-15 in two seasons. Smith was an assistant at Northside of Warner Robins, his alma mater, for 18 seasons and at Griffin for two years prior.

*West Laurens promoted defensive coordinator Kagan McClain to replace Stacy Nobles, who become an assistant athletics director and assistant coach at Bleckley County. McClain, a Norcross graduate, has been at West Laurens since 2010 and previously assisted at Americus-Sumter. West Laurens has made playoff appearances each of the past three seasons, the program’s best run since 1994-96.

Region 3

*Baldwin hired Central of Macon head coach Jesse Hicks to replace Lee Hannah, who was 15-18 in three seasons. Hicks is 93-72 in 16 seasons at Baldwin, Dougherty and Central. His Central teams just completed the first back-to-back winning seasons for the program since 1996-97. Hannah is now coaching defensive backs at Flowery Branch.

*Cross Creek promoted assistant Tavis Cummings to replace Robert McCarty, who joined Crisp County’s staff after leading Cross Creek to its best finish (6-5) in nine seasons. Cummings has been at Cross Creek for 10 years and served as head baseball coach for nine. He’s held various positions in football, including defensive coordinator.

Region 4

*Luella hired Central of Carroll County defensive coordinator Jason Jackson to replace Nick Vasilchek, who became head coach at Mount Vernon High in Washington state. Luella was 28-44 in seven seasons under Vasilcheck. Jackson was the linebackers coach on Cartersville’s 2015 state-championship team and previously coached at Northwest Whitfield and Villa Rica.

Region 5

*Cedartown hired 26-year assistant coach Doyle Kelley to replace Scott Hendrix, who became the school’s principal. Kelley also replaced Hendrix as athletics director and remained the team’s baseball head coach through 2017. Hendrix’s record in seven seasons was 37-37. Cedartown peaked at 9-2 with Nick Chubb as its star running back in 2013.

*Central of Carroll County hired Newnan assistant Darius Smiley to replace Larry Kesler after an 0-10 finish. Smiley, a former Georgia Southern quarterback, was Central’s offensive coordinator in 2014 and 2015, when the program went 11-2 and 9-2. He was Central’s head boys basketball coach and assistant football coach from 2011 to 2015. Kesler is now offensive coordinator at Sandy Creek.

*Sandy Creek promoted defensive coordinator Brett Garvin to replace Chip Walker, who took the Newnan job. Garvin has been an assistant at Sandy Creek for 16 seasons, three state titles and four future NFL players, including Calvin Johnson. Garvin’s son Cole was an all-state quarterback on Sandy Creek’s 2012 state-championship team.

 

Region 7

*White County hired Leon (Tallahassee, Fla.) head coach Tim Cokely to replace Bill Ballard. Cokely has been a head coach at Colquitt County (2005-07) and Greater Atlanta Christian (2010-11). He has a 185-73 career record and won six state titles at North Florida Christian. Ballard is now defensive coordinator at Flowery Branch.

Region 8

*Jefferson promoted offensive coordinator Gene Cathcart to replace Ben Hall, who took the Flowery Branch job. Cathcart was a head coach for five seasons at Greenwood in South Carolina and won a state title there in 2011. His coaching record, which includes a stay at Habersham Central in Georgia, where he won two region titles, is 109-39. Cathcart came to Jefferson in 2014.

*North Oconee hired Parkview offensive coordinator Tyler Aurandt to replace the retiring Terry Tuley. Aurandt spent the 2011-13 seasons at Grayson, including the ’11 state-championship team, and was offensive coordinator in 2013. Aurandt is a Greater Atlanta Christian graduate who played on two national-championship teams at Valdosta State.

Notes: In our series on coaching changes, we attempt to report the whereabouts of all former coaches. We were missing that information for two in Class AAAAA on Thursday. Marvell McKelphin of Banneker is now on Jeff Herron’s staff at T.L. Hanna in Anderson, S.C. Dale Myers of Forest Park stepped down to take care of his mother and is not teaching. Also, we do not include new head coaches who were hired officially in the offseason after serving as interim head coaches in 2016. One is Gilmer’s Casey Wingard in AAAA. He was named head coach on Dec. 15 after seven games as the interim coach.

Coming Monday: Class AAA

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