After helping build one area program into an annual Georgia power, Ricky Ross is getting a chance to head up another perennial power in the area. Ross has been named the new head coach at South Pittsburg, after five years as Calhoun's defensive coordinator.
Ross, 38, takes over for Vic Grider, who stepped down in December after 16 seasons at his alma mater in which he averaged 11 wins per season, winning three Class 1A state championships and finishing runner-up twice. Grider, who is also the school's athletic director, headed a committee of five people who narrowed more than 140 applicants to a list of seven, then further trimmed it to three finalists before choosing Ross.
"We were all highly impressed by his first interview," Grider said. "Everything he said was exactly what we wanted to hear in terms of his plans for the future of the program. Once we finished all the interviews, it just became obvious that Ricky was our guy. If there's a coaching lottery, we feel like we hit the jackpot with him.
"His football knowledge is off the charts, but most importantly he's a top-notch person. His energy level will make the kids attach themselves to him and he'll fit in right away in the community."
Ross helped the Yellow Jackets win eight straight region titles and since being promoted to defensive coordinator, Calhoun reached Georgia's Class AA state title game each of the past five seasons, including a championship in 2011 with an upset of nationally-ranked Buford. During a 29-game winning streak over the 2011-12 seasons Calhoun's defense allowed just five opponents to score more than 14 points.
"I love Coach Ross because he's just a great person who puts the players before anything else," said Alex Kirby, an all-state linebacker on the 2011 team who currently plays at UT-Chattanooga. "He'll help the kids there to make sure they're doing what they should in school and off the field and he knows the game like nobody else I've played for."
After losing all but one starter from the 2011 defense, Calhoun steadily improved last season, holding seven opponents to one touchdown or less. Prior to coming to Calhoun, Ross had been the defensive coordinator at Landmark Christian and Adairsville.
"There are very few places I would've left Calhoun for," said Ross, who played linebacker at Cumberland University. "But this was just one of those places that has everything you want as a coach. They're rich in tradition, football matters to the kids and the community and I like that. I'm honored to be in this position, and I want to continue the tradition they already have and build on it.
"We will play hard, with a lot of effort and energy and be fundamentally sound and I want to inspire the kids to be great citizens and daddies after they're done playing."