The past few weeks have been especially tough for Dr. Stanley Stewart, the principal of Coahulla Creek High School in north Georgia. In addition to the day to day duties of being responsible for more than a thousand high school students, Dr. Stewart has also headed up a committee to find a new head football coach for the Colts and on Monday night will introduce former South Pittsburg Coach Vic Grider as the school’s new head coach at its annual football banquet.
Just over a year ago, Grider announced his retirement to a huge crowd at South Pittsburg’s annual banquet. Most people, including myself felt his retirement would not last long at all. After all, he is only 47 years old, yet his coaching record looks like he should be a much older man. Sixteen years as a head coach at his alma mater, 162 wins and just 43 losses, (81%), three TSSAA State Championships and ten district or regional titles.
“All along, Vic Grider was at the top of our list of candidates. To get someone with his record and of his caliber is just fantastic. We have some challenges, but we feel that we have the guy to get things done,” Dr. Stanley Stewart said on Monday morning. Grider was chosen from a list that included more than sixty applicants, including Hixson coach Jason Fitzgerald.
The Hixson coach was one of four finalists for the job, according to a story in Tuesday's Dalton Daily Citizen.
Coahulla Creek is a fairly new high school in Whitfield County. The school opened in 2010 and has grown steadily since opening its doors. The Colts have had just two varsity football seasons, going 2-8 both years. Grider replaces Jared Hamlin who was the school’s first head coach.
Vic Grider has a great background in football. He played at South Pittsburg for his father, Don Grider. He attended the University of Tennessee and was the Vols’ head manager under Coach Johnny Majors. He was the Pirates’ defensive coordinator on Danny Wilson’s staff when they won the 1994 State Championship. The total of 354 wins by Vic and his father is the most of any father-son combination in Tennessee High School Football history.
When one looks at the storied South Pittsburg program, it is difficult to see just how the Pirates win year after year. They have one of the smallest student bodies in Tennessee, yet, they continue to develop talent. As one coach said, “They never have to rebuild, they just reload.” The Pirates have won more state championships, (five) than any other school in the area. They have also played in more state championship games (12) than any other school, and their total number of playoff wins (71) is 19 more than runner-up Dalton.
Grider plans to finish this school year in his present position of assistant principal and athletic director at South Pittsburg. He will start to build his program next summer. “Right now, I’m going through every emotion possible.” Grider told me today. “I’m anxious, nervous and excited, but now I’m reenergized. Every coach likes a challenge, and I’m looking forward to getting things started.”
More important than all the wins and championships is this fact; Vic Grider cares about the young men he helps to mold as their head football coach. Eddie Moore, a former Pirate and first round NFL draft choice after leaving the University of Tennessee, is now a vice-president at First Volunteer Bank in South Pittsburg. He also has a great relationship with his former coach. “I don’t know any of my friends that are former players that can say their high school coach is one of their best friends. But I can and I can’t thank him enough for that.”
For Coahulla Creek, the next step in the life of the football program will begin soon; very soon. And with a proven winner like Vic Grider leading the way, they should be in good hands for a long time.
Randy Smith has been covering sports in Tennessee for the last 43 years. After leaving WRCB-TV in 2009, he has continued his broadcasting career as a free-lance play-by-play announcer. He is also an author and is a media concepts teacher at Brainerd High School in Chattanooga. He is also the Head Softball Coach at Brainerd. Randy Smith's career has included a 17-year stint as scoreboard host and pre-game talk show host on the widely regarded "Vol Network". He has also done play by play of more than 500 college football, basketball, baseball and softball games on ESPN, ESPN2, Fox Sports, CSS and Tennessee Pay Per View telecasts. He was selected as "Tennessee's Best Sports Talk Show Host" in 1998 by the Associated Press. He has won other major awards including, "Best Sports Story" in Tennessee and his "Friday Night Football" shows on WRCB-TV twice won "Best Sports Talk Show In Tennessee" awards. He has also been the host of "Inside Lee University Basketball" on CSS for the past 11 years. He was the first television broadcaster to ever be elected to the "Greater Chattanooga Area Sports Hall of Fame", in 2003. Randy and his wife, Shelia, reside in Hixson. They have two married children (Christi and Chris Perry; Davey and Alison Smith). They also have three grandchildren (Coleman, Boone, and DellaMae).