Marion County's Ross Ready To Move Forward With Warriors

First-Year Coach Looking For Greatness Despite TSSAA Sanctions

Sunday, August 10, 2014 - by John Hunt

(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 here.

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 past.

“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 quality instruction.

“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 great effort.

“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 quarterback.

“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 better-than-average arm.

“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 the playoffs. 

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

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