SOUTH PITTSBURG, Tenn. -- All the folks in this small town take their football seriously. If you ever wanted to rob a bank here, Friday night would be a good choice because everyone goes to Beene Stadium to watch the hometown Pirates.
Next to religion, South Pittsburg football ranks real high on the priority list.
The Pirates have built quite a reputation for their football success in recent years. Going to the playoffs is just an extention of the regular season and the Pirates have captured five state titles since 1969, the last in 2010.
A playoff record of 64-25 just proves how successful they've been on the football field.
The late Don Grider was the coach for the Pirates for many years while his son Vic followed in his footsteps and won 169 games while losing just 40.
The younger Grider decided to step down as the head coach following 2012. They named a replacement earlier this year, but things didn't work out and the new coach resigned shortly after taking the job.
That was like a blessing in disguise for former South Pittsburg star Tim Moore.
Moore was an All-State lineman for the Pirates before graduating in 1978. He then headed to Vanderbilt where he played for Fred Pancoast and later George McIntyre.
Since that time, Moore has coached in college for nine years and he spent seven years as the head coach at Battle Ground Academy. Last year, he was the defensive coordinator at LaVergne High School.
And now the 53-year-old husband of Kim and father of two grown children named Katie and Connor has made the full circle as he returns as head coach for the school where he starred as a teenager.
"It's exciting to come back and see people I've known from years ago," Moore said before practice earlier this week.
"I didn't even know the position was open the first time and I missed the deadline to apply. When the job became available again, I applied and now I have the job.
"So far, it's been an adjustment period for me and the players as we're still getting to know each other, but I can promise you they couldn't find anyone for this job who loves South Pittsburg any more than I do. We have a lot of talent on this team with 12 of our 38 players being seniors.
"They know what it takes to win. It's my job to make sure they're prepared every Friday night. Those 12 who are seniors were freshmen on their last state championship team. Even though they probably didn't play much then, they know what it took to get there," the stout 6-3, 295-pound Moore said matter of factly.
"We just want to represent our school and this community well. We have enough experience on the team to be good, but we're ready to play somebody. We've done all the scrimmages and all the jamboree stuff, but we're ready to play a game for real to see what happens.
"My goal for this year is for us to be as successful as we can be. To be able to play as long as we can and go as far as we can. If we can do that, I'll be happy," he continued.
The Pirates will be on the road Friday night for a game at Bell County, Kentucky. They return for their home opener next Friday against the Hixson Wildcats.
South Pittsburg is picked atop the District 6-A standings along side arch-rival and neighboring Marion County. These two teams used to open the season against each other, but this year's battle will take place in Jasper on November 1, the final week of the regular season.
"That's always been a big game for South Pittsburg. And now that we're in the same district, it makes it even bigger and more significant," Moore reflected.
Kitt Grider is a junior who has earned the job of starting quarterback, Grider, no kin to the former coach, started at North Jackson for the past two years before transferring to South Pittsburg.
Moore is looking for positive production from guys like JaJuan Langford and Kahlil Mitchell, a pair of seniors who'll get plenty of chances at halfback and fullback. Junior Corbin Fitzgerald will also get a chance to help out and may even play quarterback at times.
The Pirates have the manpower to be a force once again. And now that a former Pirate is back on the sideline as the head coach, there's a positive buzz all around town.
"It's good to be back in the role of head coach and for it to be here at the school where I played makes it even more special. The stadium has changed a little bit, but the field is still the same. It's still the same ground where I played my high school football," the new coach concluded.
(Email John Hunt at email@example.com)