Of the five high schools that field varsity football teams inside the county lines, four of them have new head coaches this season. Furthermore, all five — Griffin High, Spalding High, Griffin Christian, Faith Christian and Skipstone Academy — are in rebuilding years.
This comes a season after three of the four playoff-eligible teams made the state playoffs and two seasons removed from a campaign where all four qualified for the state playoffs.
If there is a buzz word this upcoming season it’s “Uncertainty.”
The cream of the crop in seasons past, the fabled Griffin High program, is no exception to the rule this year according to 11th-year Bears head coach Steve DeVoursney — the only returning head coach in the area. DeVoursney, never one over or under embellish, is picking his Bears to win only six games this season, a fact that could seriously jeopardize the school’s current consecutive state playoff appearance record (10) from reaching 11.
If that comes to fruition, this could be the toughest year on the gridiron locally since 2001 when Griffin finished 6-5 and Spalding High had to win two of its last three games to finish 5-5. Of course, back then Spalding wasn’t playing a full varsity schedule, Griffin Christian didn’t field a team and Faith Christian and Skipstone did not exist. Hey, at least Griffin made the state playoffs that season — DeVoursney’s first as head coach at Griffin.
So who are the new head coaches this season?
— Nick Davis, a veteran coach who most recently comes from Riverdale after guiding the Raiders to a 5-5 record in 2008 and 2-8 seasons the past two years, takes over a program at Spalding High that finished 3-7 last year and didn’t qualify for the state playoffs for the sixth time in seven seasons.
— Bobby Brogdon, who was Griffin Christian’s defensive coordinator under new head coach Sean Word this spring, took over as the team’s interim head coach on short notice this week when the team opened practice a week after Word didn’t come back for undisclosed reasons.
“Coach Sean Word had some personal issues to deal with that won’t allow him to coach at this time,” First Assembly of God Senior Pastor Randy Valimont said Tuesday. “Obviously we don’t like to be in this position, but we are thankful coach Brogdon is there. He brings high character and football experience, and we’re looking forward to what’s going to happen this season.”
The Crusaders finished 6-5 and made the state playoffs for the second year in a row last season under the direction of fourth-year head coach Kerry Phillips. After the season, Phillips retired. Word was hired to replace him in February. The Crusaders will play in ever-rugged GISA Region 2-AAA for the second year in a row.
— Teron Jones, who served as an assistant on the varsity the past two seasons at Faith Christian, took over as the Lions head coach in February. Jones replaces Nelson Grist, who guided the team to a 5-6 record and the finals of the Independent Christian Schools of Georgia and Alabama Athletic Association (ICSGA) 8-man playoffs last season.
Jones, who also coached under head coach Jim McClelland in 2009 as the team went 7-4 and made the playoffs for the first time in school history, coached the school’s junior varsity team to a 7-2 record last season.
— Dan Salvador took over as Skipstone’s head coach on July 15, three days after outgoing head coach Nick Elliott turned in his resignation. Elliott guided the then two-year-old school to its first wins last season as the team posted a 3-6 record, winning games No. 2, 3 and 4 consecutively.
Salvador was slated to be on Elliott’s coaching staff this season. The Warriors will play a non-region scheduled in 8-man football for the second season in a row.
(Sullivan is the sports editor at the Griffin Daily News).