Sale Creek High School took its first significant step toward the plan to begin a varsity football program Thursday, naming Ron Cox as head coach and Roy Shipley as an assistant.
Cox has been Soddy-Daisy Middle School's coach for three years, with Shipley working as his offensive coordinator.
"We wanted somebody who was familiar with the community, the school and the kids that will be in the program," Sale Creek principal Tobin Davidson said. "We needed it to be somebody who would have the patience of starting a program and seeing it built the right way from the ground up.
"These two guys are top-notch character guys. If I had a son playing, they're who I would want him to play for."
After discussing the idea for more than a year, Sale Creek officials began the process recently and decided to begin playing a junior varsity schedule next fall. Depending on how many players they have on the first team, and how well the Panthers compete in their first season, the program could make the move to playing varsity in two years.
"We'll see how our first year goes before we make any plans beyond that, but it's exciting," said Cox, who teaches at Sequoyah High School in Soddy-Daisy. "My plan is to meet every boy in the school and get as many as we can out there working out and playing. We should have plenty of interest, because they've always wanted to have football there.
"It's an honor to be chosen as Sale Creek's first high school football coach. I don't want to let anybody down, so all I know to do is work as hard as we can."
Cox is a 1984 Soddy-Daisy graduate who played football and wrestled for the Trojans. Shipley also is a Soddy-Daisy graduate; he went on to play at West Point.
Sale Creek has an enrollment of 239 students, which is more than Copper Basin and Lookout Valley, the area's two smallest schools that play football now. The Panthers have had successful athletic programs in baseball and basketball, and the school will now invest around $30,000 for new equipment and to upgrade the current weightroom.
There are plans for a home stadium and to begin clearing off an area that will become the team's practice field, and until then the Panthers will hold spring practice in the outfield of the baseball field. The team will travel for each of its JV games next fall.