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Georgia High School Football Daily-08/03/11

August 3, 2011
By Calvin Scandrett of Lamar County Trojans

In The News

Deaths of two Georgia linemen

continue tragic week in hot South

The deaths of two Georgia football linemen on Tuesday brought to four the number of high school players who have died in Southern states in the past seven days during near-record heat waves. A fifth high school player died in Pennsylvania last month in hot weather, though heat was ruled not a factor.  


Georgia has been hit the hardest, as tragedy has struck the communities of Fitzgerald and Locust Grove.


Forrest Jones

Forrest Jones /

Atlanta Journal-Constitution

As first reported by WSB-TV, Locust Grove offensive lineman Forrest Jones died Tuesday evening after more than a week in the hospital. Jones had collapsed during a voluntary workout last week. Georgia teams were allowed to have their first mandatory practices on Monday.


"I just don't understand how it could happen to somebody so strong," Jones' father, Glenn Jones, told the TV station.


Earlier Tuesday, Fitzgerald defensive lineman D.J. Searcy died at his team's football camp near O'Leno State Park, about 25 miles north of Gainesville, Fla. He was found unresponsive in his room late in the morning after a practice and was pronounced dead about an hour later, according to several media reports.   


D.J. Searcy

D.J. Searcy /


"Numerous administrators, teachers and coaches describe D.J. as a great kid," Ben Hill County Schools superintendent Nancy P. Whiddon said in a statement published in full by the Tifton Gazette. "He was a good student with a positive attitude who was always smiling. He was an outstanding athlete, a favorite of students and staff. The school, friends and family will miss the smiling face of this beloved young man."


The Georgia deaths - the first that might be heat-related since 2006 - punctuated what has been a devastating past week in high school football in the South as record-setting heat bears down on practices, which are just beginning in most states.


In South Carolina, freshman Tyquan Brantley of Lamar High died Saturday after collapsing at a morning practice. The National Weather Service reported a high of 101 in Lamar on Saturday. Brantley was not practicing in pads.


In Florida, Miramar (Fla.) senior Isaiah Laurencin died on July 29. He had collapsed during a workout the previous afternoon. Broward County has since banned practices held between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.


On July 22, a football player from Boiling Springs High in Pennsylvania died a day after a voluntary workout. Sam Gitt, who was 6 feet 3, 325 pounds, collapsed after returning to his room at a camp at Albright College. A coroner ruled that Gitt's death was not heat-related, although temperatures were near 100 degrees on Friday.

In Texas, an assistant coach succumbed to heat illness in recent days. Wade McClain, 55, died Monday after collapsing during his team's first mandatory practice. He was Prestonwood Academy's defensive coordinator. Monday was the 31st consecutive day of 100-degree heat in Texas.


"It's tragic and it's sad," GHSA executive director Ralph Swearngin told Michael Carvell of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution regarding the Georgia deaths. "When we try to find a solution to a problem like this, we get a little confused or we don't know exactly what to do. There so many different factors when dealing with this type of situation. There are thousands of kids under the same conditions and nothing happens to them. ... We're going to find out as much information [about the two situations] as we can and go from there."



Spotlight: Coaching Hires

There were 67 head coaches hired by GHSA schools over the off-season. This week, MaxPreps GHSF Daily looks at each of them class by class, continuing today with AAA.


Class AAA


Number of hires: 15
Best hire: Milan Turner, Thomson
Hardest to replace: Luther Welsh, Thomson
Best job: LaGrange
Toughest job: Haralson County


*Central of Carroll County hired Mary Persons offensive coordinator Grant Chesnut to replace Mike Ledford, who resigned after finishing 0-10 last season. Chesnut also has been an assistant at Camden County, Thomasville, Pickens and Presbyterian College. Chesnut is a former offensive lineman at Georgia Southern and played in the 1998 Division I-AA championship game. Central was 10-11 in Ledford's first two seasons, which followed an 0-10 finish in 2007, before reverting to a winless finish in 2010. Chesnut is one of two former Brookwood High players to be hired in the off-season. The other is Phillip Jones, hired by Banks County.


*Crisp County hired Dodge County coach Lee Campbell to replace Sean Pender, who left to become Pike County's head coach after only one season in Cordele. Campbell won state titles in 2003 and 2004 at Hawkinsville, his alma mater. Campbell, the brother of Peach County head coach Chad Campbell, was 10-20 at Dodge County. Crisp County was 4-7 last season and hasn't won more than seven games in a season since a 9-4 finish in 2001.


*Haralson County promoted offensive coordinator Alan Lane to replace David Harvey, who resigned after a 3-7 finish in his only season. An Alabama native, Lane has coached in Georgia for more than 20 years, mostly in south Georgia, with stops at Bryan County (head coach 1989-94), Coffee, Dodge County and Pierce County. Lane had joined Haralson County's staff last season from Cherokee, where he had worked for six seasons. Harvey is now an assistant coach at Wheeler in Marietta.


*Howard of Macon has hired Pike County assistant David Cape to replace Bobby Hughes, who resigned in April. Cape has been a head coach at Jones County (1996-97) and was an assistant on Washington County's 1994 state championship team. Cape played on the 1975 Central of Macon team that was the last Bibb County public school to win a state title. Hughes started the Howard program in 2008 and was 5-25 in three seasons.


*LaGrange promoted defensive coordinator Donnie Branch to replace Steve Pardue, who left to become an assistant at the University of Kentucky. Branch had been Pardue's defensive coordinator for 17 seasons, including the Class AAA championship years of 2001, 2003 and 2004. Branch has been an assistant at LaGrange since 1986 and head baseball coach since 1989, winning a state title in that sport in 2004. LaGrange was 161-45 under Pardue but slipped to 5-6 in 2010.


*Murray County promoted line coach and former defensive coordinator John Hammond to replace John Zeigler, who was 4-16 in two seasons. Hammond has coached at Murray County since 2002. Before that, he was an assistant for 11 seasons at Richlands (Va.). Hammond will be the fourth head coach in six seasons at a school that has gone 5-45 the past five seasons amid declining enrollment with the opening of new schools.


*North Atlanta hired Booker T. Washington coach Stanley Pritchett to replace Brian Montgomery, who took the same position at Shiloh in Gwinnett County. Pritchett, a former Falcons player, was 19-13 in three seasons at Washington. North Atlanta was 16-14 in three seasons under Montgomery and 7-3 in 2010, marking its best three-year stretch in school history.


*North Springs hired former Army major, coach and recruiter Todd Powers to replace Charles Parks, who was 4-36 in four seasons. Powers has a unique background among Georgia's head coaches as he is a retired Army major who coached Army's sprint football team (players must weigh 172 pounds or less) in 2006. He was a recruiting commander in Marietta from 2007 to 2009. In the past academic year, Powers headed North Springs' Army ROTC program, a role in which he will continue. He has been a baseball assistant coach at North Springs, a north Fulton County school. 


*Spalding hired Riverdale coach and Spalding County native Nick Davis to replace Clint Ashmore, who resigned in November. Davis, a Griffin High alumnus, has been a coach at Burke County (1999-2001), Columbia (2003), Riverdale (2004-05, 2008-2010) and Shiloh (2006-07). His record is 47-67-1. Ashmore was 12-19 in his three seasons at a school that hasn't had a winning season since the 12-2 finish of 2003.


*Thomson hired Milan Turner, who won a state title at ECI in 2007, to replace the late Luther Welsh, the 333-game winner who retired at age 79. Turner's record was 65-12 at ECI in six seasons, and the '07 state title was the school's first. Turner had been an assistant at Screven County, Southeast Bulloch, Fitzgerald and Warner Robins before taking the ECI job. Welsh, who began his head coaching career at Warrenton in 1955, won state titles at Thomson in 1984, 1985 and 2002. Welsh passed away in July.


*Walnut Grove of Walton County hired Grayson offensive coordinator O.J. Soto to replace Harris Rainbow, who started the Walton County program in 2009 and resigned for personal and family reasons. Soto, a Walton County native and Loganville graduate, has been an assistant at Monticello, Lamar County and Loganville. He had been Grayson's offensive coordinator the past three seasons, during which the Rams were 35-6 running Soto's Wing-T offense. Rainbow resigned unexpectedly in November, citing his parents' health problems, and later took the head coaching job at Campbell in Cobb County.


*Washington of Atlanta hired North Clayton head coach Rodney Hackney to replace Stanley Pritchett, who took the head job at North Atlanta. Hackney was 29-7 in three seasons at North Clayton, which experienced its best three-year run since the 1960s. Hackney will be the only head coach who has been at seven schools the past decade. A graduate of Atlanta's Mays High, Hackney also has coached at Riverdale (2001-03), Osborne (2004), Mays (2005) and Lithonia (2006-07). Hackney is 55-56 for his career, or 63-48 not counting forfeit losses from 2002. Washington was 19-12 in three seasons under Pritchett.


*West Laurens hired Bleckley County assistant Stacy Nobles, its fourth head coach in four seasons, to replace Chad Simmons, who resigned. Nobles coached at West Laurens for two seasons (2006-07) before going to Bleckley. He was an assistant at Villa Rica from 2001 to 2005. Nobles is a Laurens County native and graduate of Trinity Christian in Dublin. He was an All-America player at Liberty University. West Laurens was 4-6 last season under Simmons, who originally left to join Milan Turner's staff at Thomson, then changed his mind and got out of coaching. West Laurens' only winning season since 2000 was a 6-5 finish in 2005.


*White County hired Peachtree Ridge coach Bill Ballard to replace interim coach Tommy Flowers. Ballard, a DeKalb County native, was 36-14 in four seasons at Peachtree Ridge, where he took the team to the 2008 final and lost to Camden County. Ballard is 89-22 in nine seasons overall. He's one of the few coaches to take two schools, including Tukcer in 2003, to the state semifinals in the past 10 years. Flowers helped lead White County to its first nine-win season since 1980 after Gregg Segraves resigned in midseason. Flowers was expected to remain at the school as an assistant.


*Woodward Academy of College Park hired John Hunt, a former SEC assistant coach under Steve Spurrier at Florida and South Carolina, to replace Mark Miller. Hunt most recently had been an assistant in Florida at New Smyrna and Suwanee high schools. He was a line coach at South Carolina form 2005 to 2008 and also coached on Florida's staff in 1999 and 2000. In between college stops, he was a high school head coach at Buchholz and Dr. Phillips in Florida. Woodward was 41-25 in six seasons under Miller, who left to be head coach at Strong Rock Academy.

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In This Issue

In The News: Deaths of two Georgia linemen continue tragic week in hot South

Spotlight: Class AAA coaching hires

List: Longest-tenured coaches in AAA

Trivia: Spring football

Scrimmages: Help needed on preseason games

They Said It ...



Longest-tenured coaches

Most consecutive seasons at one school in Class AAA:


16 - Frank Barden, Cartersville

16 - Jimmie Lewis, Harlem

16 - Mike Parris, Jackson

11 - Ronnie Millen, Grady

11 - Mike Rozier, Henry County

11 - Bob Christmas, North Hall

11 - Paul Standard, St. Pius

10 - Rayvan Teague, Carrollton

10 - Anthony Hines, Central (Macon)

10 - Bruce Miller, Gainesville

10 - Steve Sewell, Pickens



North Springs' new head coach, Todd Powers, coached the Army's sprint football team in 2006. Sprint football is a varsity college sport for players who weigh 172 pounds or less. According to Wikipedia's list of former players, which former Georgia high school student (and governor) played sprint football in college? (Answer Thursday)


Answer to Tuesday's question: In 2010, Dacula defeated Brookwood in the regular but failed to make the playoffs. Brookwood won the Class AAAAA title. The last team before Dacula to beat the eventual state champion from the highest classification but fail to make the playoffs was Baldwin in 1988. Baldwin defeated Warner Robins, which went on to win Class AAAA under hall-of-fame coach Robert Davis. Baldwin finished 6-4 and failed to make the playoffs.



Help needed on

preseason games 

With your help, we've trimmed the list of missing scrimmage games considerably since running our list Tuesday. Here are the schools for which we don't have a scrimmage game confirmed. If you have information on the scrimmage plans of these schools, please let us know. We will run the schedule next week.


Also, we hear that Our Lady of Mercy, Mike Earwood's Class A school in Fayetteville, is looking for a scrimmage opponent. If there's a team available and interested, let us know.






Class AAAA

Lithia Springs


North Clayton


Class AAA


Central (Carrollton)

Cross Creek




New Manchester

Woodward Academy


Class AA

Early County

Fannin County



North Murray


South Atlanta


Class A

Baconton Charter

Calhoun County

Central (Talbotton)

Hancock Central

Jenkins County

Landmark Christian

Macon County

Mount Zion

Our Lady of Mercy

Pace Academy



SW Atlanta Christian

Stewart County

Terrell County

Towns County

Turner County

Warren County


They Said It ...

"Bill Conley was one of my heroes. He was one of the stars on the first of Murphy's football teams. I was in grade school, and Murphy coach Max Ivey used to bring some of his players around once a week for an after-school program [Gra-Y, sponsored by the YMCA]. Conley was one of them. They looked HUGE to us. We looked up to them like they were movie stars."

   - Former AJC sportswriter Kent Mitchell on Bill Conley, the former Lovett head football coach who died last week. Conley and Mitchell are graduates of Atlanta's old Murphy High.



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About Us

GHSFD logoGeorgia High School Football Daily is a free e-mail newsletter produced
and owned by Todd Holcomb and Chip Saye. Holcomb is a former lead high school football writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and co-founder of the Georgia High School Football Historians Association. Saye is a 25-year veteran of the newspaper industry who has covered high school sports for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Athens Banner-Herald, Anderson (S.C.) Independent-Mail and Gwinnett Daily News.

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