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East Ridge head coach Tracy Malone talks to his captains before the Jamboree. The second night of the Chick-Fil-A High School Football Jamboree was played at Finley Stadium Saturday night.
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East Ridge head coach Tracy Malone claps his hands after a play during the Smith County game Friday night.
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Whitwell High School has found its new head football coach. Former East Ridge coach Tracy Malone met all the criteria school administrators were looking for and has been named the Tigers coach.

"He was the clear choice for several reasons," Marion County schools superintendent Mark Griffith said. "He has prior head coaching experience and is a proven winner, which were both big qualities we wanted. But we also had a conversation about needing someone who would stay with the program, because having that consistency and stability is what's best for the boys.

"He's committed to be a part of the community and the school family, and having known Tracy for about 10 years, I think he's a good fit at a rural school."

Malone becomes Whitwell's eighth coach in the last 13 years. He succeeds R.C. Helton, who resigned in mid-February after compiling a 12-11 overall record in two seasons that included reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2005 and winning a playoff game for the first time in a decade.

Malone coached at East Ridge from 2012 to 2015, guiding the program to a 12-1 finish last season, the best in school history. The Pioneers advanced to the Class 3A quarterfinals last year and Malone ended with a 23-21 overall record and two trips to the playoffs during his tenure there, before resigning last month.

"I'm so thankful for the opportunity Mark Griffith and (principal) Teena Casseday have given me," Malone said. "It's a tremendous honor to be named the head football coach at a place with the tradition of Whitwell, in one of the strongest football counties in Tennessee."

Malone began his coaching career as an assistant at Murfreesboro Riverdale, helping the Warriors reach the state title game three times with a championship in 2001. He also has coached at White County and Ardmore (Ala.), taking White County to back-to-back playoff berths and directing an Ardmore team that had gone winless the year before his arrival to an 8-3 finish and a spot in the playoffs. He has worked as offensive coordinator at two Georgia schools, Mundy's Mill in Jonesboro and Gray High in Gwinnett County.

"Unlike some of the other places I've worked, it's not a program that has to be completely rebuilt," Malone said. "They've had success lately and I know football is important in this county. I look forward to the challenge ahead of us and hope to make our community a true partner in our program.

"I want them to know it's never been my style to go somewhere and leave right away. I like the area and want to be somewhere that I can put down roots and build a program."

Contact Stephen Hargis at shargis@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6293. Follow him on Twitter @StephenHargis.

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