The six finalists for this year's Scrappy Moore coach of the year award are GPS basketball and softball coach Susan Crownover, South Pittsburg football coach Vic Grider, Gordon Lee softball coach Dana Mull, Baylor cross country coach Heather Ott, Cleveland wrestling coach Eric Phillips and Signal Mountain football coach Bill Price.
The winner will be announced at tonight's annual Best of Preps awards banquet, with New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees serving as guest speaker.
Despite having only one senior, Crownover guided GPS to the Division II-AA state basketball tournament for the third time in her seven seasons as coach. The Bruisers trailed Briarcrest Christian by 15 late in the second quarter and rallied from a 13-point second-half deficit for the program's first state championship in 11 seasons.
"You just never know how a team that is so young will react in big-time situations like that," said Crownover, who has seven softball state titles. "All things considered, I think they did very well to fight back. And to win the whole thing is just outstanding."
Grider directed the Pirates to their third Class 1A state championship in his 14 years as coach. But this one seemed unlikely after the team was soundly beaten at Polk County in week nine. Led by all-state running back Raquis Hale and a group of nine seniors who won 50 games in their careers, South Pittsburg rebounded to beat four of its last five opponents by the state's 35-point mercy rule, including a 41-6 win in the state-title game.
In her eighth year as Gordon Lee's coach, Mull's Lady Trojans went 38-0 as the first undefeated state titlists in Georgia softball history. They hit well over .400 as a team, and top pitchers Brenna Nation and Kalei Kimbrell had a combined ERA under 0.70.
Ott's 20th season heading the Lady Red Raiders cross country program was by far her best. The team won its third consecutive Division II-AA state championship and sixth overall and had six all-staters in the process. Baylor also won the PowerAde Invitational, the Tennessee Classic and the Southeast Showdown and finished second in the Berry Invitational - its best-ever finish - and fourth in the Maymont Invitational.
Phillips is more interested in spreading the credit than taking any for Cleveland's run to the traditional state wrestling championship, its first since the mid-1990s.
"The kids never doubted. They had a lot of faith in what we do," Phillips said. "I'm getting a lot of credit, but so much should go to our parents and assistant coaches."
Price's Signal Mountain team got to the state championship game faster than any new school in TSSAA history and rebounded from a 21-7 deficit for a 56-28 win in the Class 2A final. The Eagles posted a 14-0 record in 2010, making them 24-2 in the program's two varsity seasons.
Contact Stephen Hargis at email@example.com or 423-757-6293.