When looking at the top five teams that top the Cobb Football Friday Team of the Decade list, the continuity among the coaching staffs really tells a story.
Allatoona, McEachern, Kell, Mount Paran Christian and Hillgrove had it. Teams at the other end of the spectrum did not. The top five squads combined to have two coaching changes over the last 10 seasons. The bottom five — Osborne, Campbell, Kennesaw Mountain, Pebblebrook and South Cobb — combined to have 21 different head coaches that collectively posted only four winning seasons.
For the Buccaneers, the overall CFF Team of the Decade, coach Gary Varner said his team has been blessed to keep nearly the entire staff in place over the 12 year history of the program. To that note, six of his assistants — Troy Peterson, David Cintron, Brett Hubinger, Barry Cox, Erik Fridborg, and Mike Dennison have been with him since Day 1.
“I got to bring in some guys together and they stayed,” Varner said. “The credit goes to them.
“The success and consistency of our staff, some of it goes to football, but it’s a culture we are trying to build. We want it to be fun in the building and on the field. The coaches are teachers so we want them enjoying 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. as much as football.”
Varner said everyone likes each other and the camaraderie has afforded the ability to identify potential issues and adjust more quickly than if there were constantly new personalities in the coaches room.
“We’ve been around so long we can make adjustments,” Varner said. “One year a team may understand what we are trying to do while the following year it doesn’t. Instead of trying to get the kids to adjust, we say let’s change how we are giving our message.”
It has helped Allatoona win 99.5 games over the last 10 seasons, including 20 playoff games.
It is a similar story at Hillgrove, where Phil Ironside just stepped down after 14 seasons. He said there have been four coaches that have been there nearly the whole time — Tarve Riggins and Joe Gerda have been with him all 14 years while Luqman Salam and Jeffrey Wishon have been there 13. That’s made it easier because Ironside doesn’t have to micromanage things. Everyone knows what needs to be done, and they do it.
“If I wasn’t there I know practice will go off without a hitch,” Ironside said. “If I have to step off the field to take care of a situation, I know we’re getting everything done we need to get done.”
Mount Paran’s Mitch Jordan has had a few guys from his staff move on and take head coaching jobs, but he still has a core, with Logan Beer, Connie Arnold and Kevin Cunane, that has been with him nearly from the beginning.
“The familiarity is very important,” Jordan said. “The kids, and the coaches know what to expect. We all seem to be on the same page.”
Varner, Ironside, Jordan and Harrison coach Matt Dickmann all agree to have a winning program, football is only one variable. Each agree that the community plays a big part, as well as school administration. Without their support, they say, the situation becomes extremely difficult.
“When we first got here we were told to build a community,” Ironside said. “There was no Hillgrove. Up to that point there was just McEachern in Powder Springs and Harrison to the North of us. But that’s what we did. Everybody bought in and I think if you look at athletic departments, not just football, we’ve become one of the most successful because of the community and the support of the administration.”