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Staff file photo / Chad Barger, an East Ridge football assistant the past three seasons, is now head coach of the Pioneers. Barger has been a head coach in 12 of his 23 years working at the high school level, most recently at Georgia's Coahulla Creek.

East Ridge High School didn't have to look far to find a new leader for its football program. Chad Barger, who has been a Pioneers assistant the past three seasons, has been named the head coach.

Barger takes over for Tim James, who earlier this week stepped down to accept a position as the Hamilton County athletic director.

"I'm excited, it's been a few years since I've been a head coach, so I'm ready to get going," said Barger, who has been the team's offensive coordinator since joining the staff and has been a head coach for 12 of his 23 years working at the high school level. "I stepped back from being a head coach for a few years to give me more time to watch my kids, but my daughters have graduated from high school now, so I can dedicate the time it takes to run a program.

"Coach James is East Ridge High School football, and I am forever grateful that he brought me here to work with the young men here. I hope to continue to build off the stability and foundation that Coach James established. We will continue to work to build a program that our school, community and county are proud to call their own."

The Pioneers finished 6-5 each of Barger's first two seasons as offensive coordinator, reaching the Class 4A playoffs both times, but injuries led to a disappointing 1-9 finish last fall.

Prior to coming to East Ridge, Barger was the head coach at Georgia's Coahulla Creek for three seasons and also guided Tennessee's Sequatchie County, Clay County and Cannon County.

Barger has shown a penchant for rebuilding programs. He led Cannon County to its first winning record in 29 years, then took over a Sequatchie County program that had been led by four coaches in six years and had gone 1-19 the two seasons before he became head coach. The Indians went 6-5 in his first season — their first winning record in eight years — and followed that with their first consecutive winning seasons in 13 years.

"Chad Barger brings a wealth of experience and previous head coaching experience to the program," James said in a news release. "I am confident he will lead the program with enthusiasm and a work ethic second to none. East Ridge is lucky to have him."

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

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