Marion County's Ricky Ross directed his first game as a football head coach Thursday night but actually is in his second head coaching job, having succeeded Vic Grider at South Pittsburg but resigning two months later. He wound up taking the job at Marion County this spring, succeeding Mac McCurry.
Ross's wife, Sandy, was a three-sport letter winner at Marion, graduating in 1990. He is the seventh head coach since the Warriors' last state championship in 1995, the others being Landon Pickett, Tim Taylor, Dale Pruitt, Jason Evans, Troy Boeck and McCurry.
Ross has stressed leadership since he arrived in Jasper and provides a clear definition of leadership.
"You don't lead by running your mouth," he said. "Are you the first out to practice? Do you line up correctly? Are you teaching other guys how to do things right? That's leadership."
• There definitely is a football flair to South Pittsburg's hierarchy. Former Pirates assistant Danny Wilson, a head coach previously at Heritage, Cleveland and South Pittsburg, is now the school's principal. Vic Grider, who succeeded Wilson in 1997 and who had a long and highly successful streak of his own, is now the school's assistant principal, athletic director and softball coach.
Wilson is still listed as a member of the overall coaching staff although he is not listed as being affiliated with any sport. Between them the pair had 15 seasons with two or fewer losses.
• In his first year as a head coach, Ryan Mallory is in his second year on the faculty at Central. He was not on the football staff but taught English and assisted Purple Pounders wrestling coach John Lennon.
He comes from a football family. His father, Rick, played five years for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and made coaching stops at Washington (his alma mater), Wyoming, Alabama-Birmingham and Memphis before joining Middle Tennessee State last year. Born in Seattle, Ryan Mallory spent three years as a student assistant and two as a graduate assistant at Memphis.
• After so much stability for so many seasons -- Tom Weathers was the coach from 1973 to 2001 and Tim Daniels from 2002 to 2011 -- Red Bank seniors are playing for their third head coach. E.K. Slaughter, an offensive coordinator under Daniels for several years and now head coach at Heritage in Georgia, directed the Lions in 2012 and 2013. New coach Chad Grabowski, though, is just the Lions' seventh head coach in the school's 75-year history.
• Bledsoe County coach Jason Reel is a former Tennessee Volunteer, having spent two years as a defensive tackle under Dan Brooks and three as a student assistant to UT defensive coordinator John Chavis.
"I tore ligaments in my ankles for the fifth time and doctors said they were either cutting the ligaments and taking out all the bone chips or I was done," Reel said. "Coaching under Coach Chavis was an education and a unique experience."
• Lookout Valley has been a jumping-off place for several coaches including Bill Price, the Signal Mountain coach who started his head coaching career with the Yellow Jackets, and current Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe coach Todd Windham, who went from the Valley to Hixson before crossing the state line. Another former LV head coach is current staff member David Dinger. He's now the school's softball coach but gained acclaim as Lookout Valley's baseball coach.
• New Chattanooga Christian coach Rob Spence spent five years as a prep head coach before beginning his college coaching career. His Iona Prep (N.Y.) teams posted a 29-19-1 record. During his time there he taught American history and once arriving here made a trip to Chickamauga Battlefield.
When asked if he had ridden the Incline up Lookout Mountain, he replied, "No, not yet. I'm afraid of heights. But I'll get around to it." He is also an avid runner and ran in the 2004 Boston Marathon.
• Team growth forced Notre Dame coach Charles Fant to search high and low for uniforms. The Irish have gone from 38 players in 2013 to 61 this year, and Fant has just 59 uniforms.
"In the event somebody is injured, we'll give that number to a younger player," the coach said. "We'll have a dress list for away games, but everybody still will travel. I look at the equipment we don't have, but once we have everybody outfitted I'll be happy."
• With 254 wins against 87 losses in his head coaching career, Sequatchie County's Ken Colquette is ranked 12th in win percentage (.745) among Tennessee coaches with at last 100 games.
The Indians at one time had an assistant coaching staff loaded with head coaches, but now Colquette is down to former Central coach Curt Jones. Sam Montgomery (Central/Whitwell) and Tim Taylor (Whitwell/Marion County) have departed. Montgomery has gone to work for the state, and Taylor is now at Warren County as an assistant.
• Calhoun enters Georgia's Class AAA riding strong momentum from its dominant time in double-A. Hal Lamb's Yellow Jackets have won 87 consecutive region games and have made 14 consecutive trips to the playoffs, with six ending in the title game. The program has reached at least the state quarterfinals 10 times in the 14 straight playoff appearances.
• Dalton has one of the most recognizable names in Georgia prep football, and the program's venerable Harmon Field/Bill Chappell Stadium is regarded as one of the toughest places to play in the state. However, though the Catamounts own an all-time home winning percentage of .757, they have not won a home playoff game in nine years.
• On the subject of Dalton, as the Cats move up to Class AAAAA, the state's second-highest level of play, they can take solace in the fact that they own a 22-10 record against teams in their new Region 7 home.
• As Southeast Whitfield hopes to end northwest Georgia's longest playoff drought, coach Sean Gray can turn to a program-record 32 seniors.
• Ridgeland, on the other hand, is likely to start tonight's game at Adairsville with only five seniors and two juniors in the starting lineup. This will be the 25th season of football at the Walker County school.
• North Murray hopes to break into the playoff scene for the first time in the brief history of the program and is coming off a strong summer with three 7-on-7 passing camp tournaments and making the championship bracket of the Cam Newton Foundation national tournament. The Mountaineers hinge their hopes on four returning offensive stars who totaled 46 touchdowns a year ago.
• The pregame routine at Gordon Central includes nap time -- just like preschool. The pregame routine includes a one-hour nap. The players eat as a team, hear a devotional, then return to the fieldhouse.
"We turn out all the lights and make everybody take a nap," coach David Humphreys said. "We wake them up and make them walk from the fieldhouse to the far goal post and back to wake them up."
• Lakeview Fort-Oglethorphe coach Todd Windham began something upon his arrival in 2007 that's become an annual tradition. The Warriors have one of the largest midfield logos in the area -- it covers more than 20 yards -- but a decision had to be made as to which way the spear pointed. Assistant coach Tommy Morrell suggested that it point toward the general direction of the old high school location. Each year, while the logo is being painted, the seniors and coaches talk about traditions of the program and the expectations of the coming season.
• Dade County has installed a new track around the field and a new press box that would make some small colleges jealous. It has two coaching booths, two broadcast booths and climate-control and can fit about 30 people on the front row.
• Only the juniors, sophomores and freshmen on the Christian Heritage team will have competed their entire careers in the GHSA. The fourth-year seniors were part of the team that paved the way for Christian Heritage to join the state athletic association.
• Since 2010, seven of the eight area teams in Tennessee's Class AAA (Bradley Central, Cleveland, East Hamilton, McMinn County, Ooltewah, Rhea County and Soddy-Daisy) have won at least one game in the playoffs.
• McMinn County has four sets of brothers on its 2014 football team: Damese and Datrus Bradley, Jordan and Collin Hockman, Colden and Caleb Dain and Dominick and Damien Isaza.
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