Updated with more information at 5:30 p.m. on April 23, 2020
South Pittsburg's football program has replaced one proven defensive whiz — with a pedigree as a successful former head coach — with another who boasts similar credentials.
After Shawn Peek resigned as defensive coordinator in January to take over as head coach at Chattooga in northwest Georgia, Pirates head coach Vic Grider began an extensive search for a replacement. Pending Marion County school board approval Monday evening, former Trousdale County head coach Brad Waggoner will become South Pittsburg's defensive coordinator.
After guiding Trousdale County to the TSSAA Class 2A state title game in 2018, Waggoner spent last season in Georgia as the head coach at Elbert County, a GHSA Class AA program.
"I'm sure outsiders might wonder why I would make the move to go from being a head coach back to being an assistant," Waggoner said. "It's real simple. I want to coach in a place where football is important, and the tradition at South Pittsburg speaks for itself. From my time coaching at Trousdale, I'm well aware of what South Pittsburg's reputation is around the state because they're going to be in the mix to play for a championship every year. I want to be a part of that and help them win another state championship.
"Honestly, I didn't even know they were looking for anybody, but when Coach Grider calls, you listen. For me, getting to learn from a hall of fame coach like him was a big deal. He sold me on the program and how this was something that would be good for me in the future. Really it's the only place I would've left Elbert County for."
The Pirates will also add two other assistants, former all-state players Raquis Hale and Terrell Robinson, to the staff, pending school board approval Monday.
Robinson, the former University of Tennessee at Chattanooga quarterback who was named Southern Conference freshman of the year in 2011, was a state Mr. Football award winner for the Pirates who helped them win a state title in 2007. Hale, South Pittsburg's single-season rushing leader and the MVP of the 2010 Class 1A championship game, helped the program play for three state titles in his four years, winning two.
Waggoner will work as both defensive coordinator as well as strength and conditioning coach, filling the roles Peek left vacant. During Peek's five years, the Pirates went 57-10 overall and won four region titles. Last season, South Pittsburg reached the state semifinals for the third time in four years and allowed an average of nine points per game.
A native of Fayetteville, Georgia, Waggoner graduated from Atlanta-area prep program Landmark Christian graduate before playing linebacker for two seasons at Georgia Tech and then finishing his college playing career at Liberty University. He has spent 17 of his 23 years as a coach at the high school level, with college assistant stops at Georgia Tech — where he was part of a staff that won a Coastal Division title in the Atlantic Coast Conference — Alabama, Virginia Military Institute and West Alabama.
"My family, we're small-town people," Waggoner said. "South Pittsburg is also less than an hour from my wife's family, and we want our son to get to grow up in a place like that."
Waggoner, 45, has been a head coach at the high school level for 13 seasons — including three at Chattooga — guiding 10 teams to playoff appearances, winning four region titles and taking Trousdale to a runner-up finish in 2018, when the Yellow Jackets beat Marion County, Tyner and Meigs County in the playoffs.
Six of his former players — including Senorise Perry, Kedric Golston and Calvin "Megatron" Johnson — have gone on to play in the NFL, and he has sent more than 30 players on to college rosters.
"It says a lot about who we are and where our program is that a guy would be willing to leave a very good situation as a head coach to come here as DC," Grider said. "I've been very fortunate through the years to be able to hire former head coaches to come on as an assistant, and there's no replacing that type guy because of their experience.
"Brad checks all the boxes, so I'm glad we were able to figure out how to make it happen. His track record speaks for itself because he's coached at the collegiate level and some top-notch high school programs and been successful everywhere he's been. I think we hit a home run with this hire."