For the first time since the end of the 2007 season, Kell is looking for a new football coach.
Derek Cook, the winningest coach in program history, resigned his position to pursue a career in administration.
“It’s bittersweet,” said Cook, who had an 89-23 record in his nine years at Kell. “It was a long, hard, thought-out decision.”
Before taking the Longhorns’ reins, Cook spent two years in the same capacity at South Cobb. He was an assistant at Kell in 2005, under then-coach Irv Sigler.
“I’ve been coaching for 11 years,” Cook said. “It’s a year-round process, and I feel the need to step back and I feel this is what’s best for our family.”
Cook said he hopes to stay in Cobb County or the surrounding area, but he will explore his options. He also made clear that if the pursuit of an administrative post comes up empty, he would not rule out a return to coaching at some point in the future.
“I have had the opportunity to coach some outstanding young men,” Cook said. “I’ve worked with some outstanding coaches and administrators, and I’m grateful to have done that.
“We’ve been part of some great teams and great games. Those are memories I will treasure forever.”
Under his care, Kell won four region titles and made five quarterfinal appearances. Twice — in 2013 and again last season — the Longhorns went 11-3 and advanced to the state semifinals.
Cook’s teams also made it difficult on opponents when they came to play at Cobb Energy/Corky Kell Stadium. The Longhorns only lost seven home games — four in the regular season — during his tenure.
“He’s got to be one of the winningest coaches in Cobb County history,” said Jep Irwin, the coach at neighboring rival Lassiter. “His teams always played at a high level. Every once in a while, they may have been out-executed or out-talented, but they were never outcoached. Whoever comes in there, it’s going to be hard to follow him.”
During Cook’s nine-year tenure, Kell averaged 9.8 wins per season, and the Longhorns had 48 all-state performers, according to the Georgia High School Football Historians Association. Those products of Cook’s program include safeties Brian Randolph, Quincy Mauger and Taylor Henkle, along with cornerback Brendan Langley and linebacker Bryson Armstrong.
Henkle, a two-year starter at Kennesaw State, said he was surprised to hear that Cook was stepping down, but he expects his former coach to be a success at whatever he does.
“He always knew how to get the most out of all of his players,” Henkle said. “That was the most impressive. He found ways to use people in ways they didn’t even think they could play.
“He’s moving on to a new chapter in his life and he will be as successful, if not more, in his new role, because he knows how to connect with high school students.”
Cook said he would begin his search for an administrative position immediately. Assistants on the Kell coaching staff will lead the program through offseason workouts until a new coach is hired.