(This is the sixth in a series of preseason stories on new high school football coaches, or veteran coaches at a different school, and top players in the Chattanooga area)
JASPER – Ricky Ross seems to be right at home on the
football practice field next to Marion County High School.
The 41-year-old Ross is legitimately happy as the Warriors
newest head coach, but it was a long and winding road he had to take to get
Ross had been the defensive coordinator at Calhoun for the
past 10 years before he was offered the head coaching job at South Pittsburg a
couple of years ago. He and his wife
Sandy both resigned their jobs and prepared to move to Tennessee.
For whatever reason, things at South Pittsburg just didn’t
turn out as planned and Ross resigned shortly after taking the job. As he is quick to explain, his family had to
do some scrambling in a hurry to find work and that’s how he ended up at Mary Persons
High School in Forsythe for a year as its defensive coordinator.
The job at Marion County came open after last year’s
incident involving South Pittsburg and Ross applied and was hired at the
beginning of the year. It was really a
dream come true for him and Sandy as she’s a Marion County graduate and her
family lives in Jasper.
Ross started work in late February, but he and his staff of
assistant coaches had to deal with sanctions handed down by the TSSAA and they
started out behind the eight ball, so to speak.
Unfortunately, innocent people were forced to pay a high
price for the insane behavior of the previous coaching staff and the Warrior
program was not allowed to have spring practice and the Dead Period was
extended by two weeks.
Despite all of those negative circumstances, Ross and the
rest of the Warrior faithful have chosen to move forward, knowing that hard
work and doing things the right way will correct any negative issues from the
“It was a double whammy for us as we weren’t allowed to have
spring practice and then the dead period was extended for two weeks, but
they’ve been resilient,” Ross said earlier this week after a
grueling late-afternoon practice had ended.
“It’s been a good experience so far as you learn a lot. The first thing is that there’s a whole lot
more to being a head coach than just conducting practice. But we’re progressing and we’re all striving
to get better every day.
“One of our biggest challenges is our tempo as we’re just
too slow at times. I want every kid to
be moving on every play as they do their job and that’s how we’ll get
better. We want every player to get
“We’re not focused on any single opponent as I’m not real
familiar with teams in this area, but we want to be great and we’re taking
steps in that direction. If we do that,
wins and losses will take care of themselves.
We just want to learn how to be great students, stay out of trouble and learn how to give
“We have 14 seniors and they’ve been through a lot as I’m
their third head coach in the past four years.
We have about 54 young men on our team right now and they are all
willing to do their part. We’ve got to
come together as a team, but I feel good
about where we are right now,” he added.
One of those 14 seniors is a young man named Blake Zeman,
who returns as Marion’s best running back and a monster on defense at
linebacker. Zeman, who is 5-10 and
weighs about 225, was All-State a year ago and a Mr. Football finalist.
“Blake is a man who can play, but we aren’t just a one-man
show. We have a lot of kids who can and
will hurt you. I just wish we had more
freshmen out,” Ross expressed.
While Zeman will be the focal point of Marion’s offense,
Bryce Massengale is a junior who’s getting the early nod as the starting
“He’s brand new, but I just want him to be level-headed and
to be a great competitor. I couldn’t ask
for more so far,” the coach praised the 6-1, 185-pound signal caller who has a
“I know that Marion County has had great success on the
football field in the past and we hope to get back to where we used to be. We embrace what these teams have done in the
past and we’re hoping to build on it.
There’s a great tradition here and these kids know what it takes to be
successful,” Ross nodded.
The Warriors would like nothing more than to have a repeat
of last year’s record, which ended up at 10-3 and to the quarterfinal round of
Non-district games include Chattanooga Central, Bledsoe County,
Grundy County, Sequatchie County, Copper Basin and Chattanooga Christian, but
Ross just hopes his kids stay focused on the next opponent and nothing further.
“Our strength is that we have pretty good chemistry and
outstanding leadership from our older guys.
We have a lot of guys who have paid the price.
“These guys lost to Trousdale County in the third round last
year, so we want to set our goals high.
The harder we work, the more it means, but our goal is to be as good as
we possibly can. If we go out on Friday
night, give our best effort and lose, we can still hold our heads high,” the
new coach concluded.
The Warriors will be involved in the Sequatchie Valley
Jamboree on Friday night at Whitwell while the season opener will be at home on
Thursday, Aug. 21 against Grundy County.
Monday: Whitwell coach R.C. Helton.
(E-mail John Hunt at firstname.lastname@example.org)