Derrick Davis, who turned Polk County High School from a struggling football program into one of the Chattanooga area's most consistent winners, has resigned after 19 seasons.
Davis, a 1990 Polk County graduate and a former University of Tennessee manager, informed his players Thursday afternoon that he would no longer be their head coach.
"This is one of the hardest things I've done in my career," Davis said. "The biggest thing is leaving the kids. It was a tough thing to do, having to tell those players. It's even scarier to know that I'm stepping down without knowing where I'll go from here. I'm hoping something will come open. This time of year there are a lot of coaching changes, so I'm going to wait to see if something comes open where I would be wanted.
"I do want to thank all our former players who gave everything they had for us to be successful. I'm really proud of that."
Davis took over at his alma mater in 2000, and in his second season he guided the Wildcats to nine victories for their first winning season in eight years. That was the first of 13 straight winning seasons for Polk County, a stretch that included the program's first undefeated regular season (2009) and five region championships.
Davis, who also coordinated the Wildcats' defense throughout his time as their coach, led that 2009 team to six straight shutouts. The program reached the playoffs in 14 of his 19 seasons, and he compiled a 123-88 overall record.
His father, Larry, was the coach at Polk County for 27 years and came out of retirement to work on Derrick's staff as offensive coordinator. The school's football complex is named in honor of Larry Davis.
"When your dad's name hangs over the complex, you take a lot of pride in maintaining the program," Derrick said. "It's like saying goodbye to a piece of your family. I've grown up around this program. It's been a part of my life for as long as I can remember.
"When I got hired, I asked him to come help me until I get my feet on the ground. I always had him there as somebody to lean on, and we've had a lot of good memories together. Being able to coach with him is something that is very rare to get to do, and it was just a great feeling.
"When I first started, I never dreamed I would make it 19 years, but even now it's awfully tough to have to step away."