Former North Gwinnett defensive coordinator Maurice Dixon, who spent seven seasons with the Bulldogs building one of the state’s premier defensive units, was named to the post Tuesday.
Dixon takes over for Rocky Hidalgo, who stepped down after five seasons to become head coach at Glynn Academy in Brunswick.
Dixon spent the 2013 season as the defensive coordinator at Byrnes High School in Duncan, S.C., and helped the powerhouse Rebels program to a 12-2 record.
“We had more applications than we expected, with Rocky leaving so late,” said John Woods, speaking on behalf of the search committee.
Woods’ nephew, Bailey, and stepsons, Daron and Zack Blaylock, all played for Hidalgo. Another stepson, Dominick Blaylock, is in Walton’s middle-school program.
“Mo stood out, head and shoulders, above everyone else in the building,” Woods said. “We’ve always played physical, hard-nosed football and we have a lot of skill players at Walton.”
While coaching under Bob Sphire at North Gwinnett, Dixon helped lead the Bulldogs to three straight region championships and advanced to the Class AAAAA state finals in 2007. Three times, Dixon-coached defenses beat Walton’s typically stout offenses.
Dixon is only Walton’s third head coach since 1995, when Ed Dudley began his 14-year tenure. Seven assistant coaches — Joe Goydish, Bill Bellus, Shane Amos, Rob Nichols, John Evans, Jeff Imperial and Mike Davis — have been on Walton’s coaching staff since at least 2002.
Dixon plans to meet today with the staff, players, parents and booster club.
“I have been in this thing a long time and I’ve been head coach at a couple of schools in Kentucky and south Florida,” Dixon said. “Of course, the first game I coached in Georgia was (in 2006) against Walton, and they were one of four Georgia schools I have always heard about. That school had been a model school for schools such as North Gwinnett. They are a great leadership school. I’m excited to be here.”
Dixon will anchor a Walton team that has made the state playoffs 12 of the last 13 years, including a trip to the state championship game in 2011 and semifinal appearances in 2004 and ’07.
At North Gwinnett, Dixon normally ran a 3-5 front and had many players that could play a variety of positions. Dixon said he’s not looking to make changes to Walton’s 3-4 front right away, at least until he’s more familiar with the personnel.
But he did say Walton’s expected to play “hard-nosed” football on the defensive side of the ball.
“My intent is to see what is best for the kids,” Dixon said. “We will be aggressive on defense. My base is usually the 3-5, but I’m not going to make wholesale changes on anything. My intent is to go in and see how things are.”
In regards to the offense, he’s taking the same approach.
Walton has been run-oriented in recent years, behind former standout running backs Tyren Jones, Michael Boydston and J.J. Jackson. Rising junior K.K. Brooks took over in the backfield last season and rushed for 1,263 yards and 16 touchdowns.
“There are a lot of ways that we can do the offense,” Dixon said. “Our tempo is going to be up-tempo. We’re going to run the ball when we want to, and we will run the ball when we have to. We will pass the ball when we want to and will pass the ball when we have to.”
Marietta Daily Journal sports editor John Bednarowski contributed to this report.