Reach, Gillespie among 18 new coaches in Class AAA

(Jason Getz / AJC)

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

Number of hires: 18

Best hire: Rance Gillespie, Hart County

Hardest to replace: Tony Welch, Savannah

Best job: Hart County

Toughest job: Long County

Most interesting: Region 8 grabbed a couple of unexpected big-name coaches. Kevin Reach left the bright lights of Collins Hill, Gwinnett County and Class AAAAAAA to settle down at Monroe Area. Reach lives in Loganville and was driving by three other high schools on his commute to Suwanee. Rance Gillespie also came home, almost. Hired by Hart County, he’s from nearby Rabun. Gillespie won state titles at Peach County and later coached six seasons at Valdosta. In 2016, he was co-offensive coordinator at Georgia Southern. He and the other “co,” David Dean, since have filed a breach-of-contract lawsuit against Southern.

Region 1

*Crisp County promoted offensive line coach Brad Harber as interim coach to replace Shelton Felton, who took a job on UT-Chattanooga’s staff in June. Harber has coached 23 seasons as an assistant coach and joined Crisp’s staff in 2016. Crisp was 16-8 in Felton’s two seasons and reached its first state semifinal in 21 years last season.

*Worth County hired Turner County head coach Ben Simmons to replace Jason Tone, who joined Jeff Herron’s new staff at T.L. Hanna in Anderson, S.C. Simmons’ Turner teams were 8-3 and 8-4 and won a playoff game for the first time in eight years. Simmons was Tift County’s defensive coordinator from 2005 to 2010. He was head coach at his alma mater Raines in Jacksonville for two seasons (2003-04). Tone’s four-year record at Worth was 24-20.

Region 2

*Appling County hired East Paulding head coach Jon Lindsey to replace J.T. Pollock, who took the Long County job. Lindsey has taken Irwin County, Cook and East Pauling to the playoffs in his six seasons as a head coach. Pollock’s teams were 82-49 in 12 seasons.

*Long County hired Appling County coach J.T. Pollock to replace Eric McNair. Pollock’s record at Appling was 82-49-2 with 10-win seasons in 2009 and 2011. Long County, 1-6-2 in 2016, has never had a winning season. McNair is now on Metter’s staff.

*Pierce County hired Fitzgerald head coach Jason Strickland to replace Sean Pender, who took the Brunswick job. Strickland was 54-14 in five seasons at Fitzgerald and led the program to Class AA finals the past two seasons. He was Lamar County’s head coach for four seasons prior.

*Southeast Bulloch hired former Statesboro coach Steve Pennington to replace Randy Collins, who retired from public schools and is now athletics director at Bulloch Academy. Pennington’s record in 29 seasons as a Georgia head coach is 198-127-4. Statesboro had six 10-win seasons under Pennington but was 4-26 over the past three.

*Tattnall County promoted wide receivers coach Nick Tatum, a Tattnall assistant since 2006, to replace Jeff Kaiser, who took the Statesboro job. Tatum won GISA titles as a player (1987) and assistant coach (1997) at Pinewood Christian.

Region 3

*Jenkins promoted offensive coordinator Jason Cameron to replace Tim Adams, who became defensive coordinator at Effingham County. Adams was 63-70-1 in 13 seasons at Jenkins, which surged to 10-2 in 2016 and won the region. Cameron, a New Jersey native, has been on Jenkins’ staff since 2011.

*Savannah hired David Roberson II to replace Tony Welch, who took the Claxton job after leading the Blue Jackets to their first winning season since 1993. Roberson had been Lithia Springs’ special teams coordinator and wide receivers coach. He coached several seasons in college football, including a stint at Savannah State. He was on the support staff at Penn State.

Region 4

*Central of Macon hired Brunswick head coach Larry Harold to replace Jesse Hicks, who took the Baldwin job. Harold is 27-27 in five seasons as a Georgia head coach with stops at Macon County (2012-14) and Brunswick (2015-16).

Region 5

*Stone Mountain hired 21-year teacher and multi-sport coach James Collier to replace Utavius Ingram. Collier, a DeKalb County native, was not on the football staff last season but has been a head coach at the school in wrestling, swimming and diving, softball and golf. He has assisted in football, baseball and wrestling. Ingram is now assistant head coach and co-defensive coordinator at Smiths Station in Alabama. Stone Mountain is 1-29 the past three seasons.

*Towers promoted defensive coordinator Robert Tigner to replace Brian Montgomery, who took the Columbia job. Tigner also has had long stints at M.L. King and Griffin.

Region 6

*Coahulla Creek hired North Murray offensive coordinator Caleb Bagley. Coahulla Creek, which has been winless two of the past three seasons, played the final seven games of last season with co-head coaches Chad Murray and Dan Tierney after the sudden resignation of Chad Barger. Bagley, a Murray County graduate, also had been an assistant at Northwest Whitfield, Southeast Whitfield and Gilmer. Tierney remained on staff. Murray went to Southeast Whitfield. Barger is now an assistant in Tennessee.

*Haralson County hired Oxford (Ala.) assistant and former Madison County (Ala.) head coach Scott Peavey to replace Frank Vohun, who retired. Peavey is 68-55 as a head coach at Madison County, Ashville and Wellborn in Alabama. His Madison County teams reached state semifinals in 2012 and 2014. Haralson was 3-17 last season and hasn’t had a winning campaign since 2007 during Vohun’s first stint as head coach.

*Sonoraville promoted offensive coordinator Denver Pate to replace Jim Kremer. Pate also has been an assistant at Chattooga, Cedartown and East Paulding. Sonoraville was 22-13 in three seasons under Kremer, its best run since the program started in 2006. Kremer, wanting to be closer to family in Florida, is now defensive line coach and strength coordinator at Lee County.

Region 8

*East Jackson promoted offensive coordinator Scott Wilkins to replace Christian Hunnicutt, who took the Grayson job. Wilkins was a head coach at Cedar Shoals over two stints and had a 108-68-1 record there. East Jackson was 4-6 in one season under Hunnicutt. That is the program’s best finish since 2009 (10-2).

*Monroe Area hired Collins Hill head coach Kevin Reach to replace Joey Sulkowski. Reach was 46-36 in eight seasons at Collins Hill and reached the state quarterfinals or better three times. Sulkowski was 7-24 in three seasons. He’s now the wide receivers coach at South Gwinnett.

*Hart County hired former Valdosta and Peach County head coach Rance Gillespie to replace William Devane, who retired. Gillespie was Georgia Southern’s co-offensive coordinator last season. Gillespie won state titles at Peach County in 2005 and 2006 and was Valdosta’s head coach from 2010 to 2015. Hart County was 11-2 as recently as 2014 but 1-9 in 2016.

Coming Tuesday: Class AA

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