(This is the eighth 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)
The Red Bank Lions have always had a proud tradition in
football and have won a lot of games through the years.
But that once-feared team has been going in
the wrong direction for the last few years, including last year when the Lions
finished with just three wins in 10 games and only 28 players on the roster.
Chad Grabowski has plans and hopes to turn that situation
He was hired as the new head coach in February after E.K.
Slaughter resigned and took the job at Heritage. The 37-year-old Grabowski had been coaching
at Mt. Dora High School in Orlando where he compiled a 33-20 record as their
head coach for the past five years.
But Chad’s wife Amber is from Atlanta and they were wanting
to get a little bit closer to the family and that’s what led him to seek a job
in this area.
The Red Bank opportunity appears to be just what he was
“It was time for me to move on. We went to the playoffs twice in my five
years there, but the tradition for winning just wasn’t there. They were satisfied with just making the
playoffs. I want more than that,”
Grabowski said during a brief break on Monday afternoon.
“I want the expectations to be higher and this is a place
that has done that. I just want to see
if I can get them back to where we need to be.
I had come through Chattanooga on several occasions and I had to look it
up to see just where Red Bank was, but I’m glad to be here.
“We got here in February and everything has been great so
far as I couldn’t ask for more. Right
now we have about 60 young men on our roster, which is about my target
number. Our biggest challenge is helping
them get past adversity. We can’t let
one bad play ruin our day. We must keep
fighting on every down,” the father of four added.
“I’m their third coach in the past four years and I’m just
trying to regain their trust. Some of
these kids aren’t real sure about me right now, but they’re learning that I’m
here for them and my strength is getting kids into college with their football
skills. We’ve had some really good
practices so far and we have plenty of room to grow, but we just want to get
the program back to where it used to be,” he continued.
So what are the immediate goals for the new coach and his
“We want to improve on the number of wins, get to the
playoffs and work toward winning a district title. Then to see what we can do from there, but
this situation is real similar to the one I started with at Mt. Dora.
“I’m here for the kids.
We have some really good ones and I’ll be the first to admit that they’re
bigger and stronger and faster than I thought they’d be. This may be one of the best teams I’ve ever
had. I’m excited about the
possibilities, even though have still haven’t played anybody yet.
“We’re learning how to come back. We just can’t give up, but it’s a matter of
confidence in the program we’re trying to install. We have a staff who cares about the kids and
we want to set a good example. But these
young men are more than football players to us,” he added.
Grabowski currently has 16 seniors on his roster, but the
starting quarterback will be a lanky junior named Caleb Tate, who played safety
and tight end last year.
“Caleb is doing a great job.
He’s very coachable and he’s a smart kid. We have a lot of new faces out this year, but
we have a lot of really good athletes.
And we have a lot of promise at the middle school, so the future is
promising for us. We still have a lot of
“Other teams don’t know what to expect from us, but I’ll
adjust to what we have and go from there.
This is a tough district, but I feel like we can compete with any team
out there. I’ve been impressed to far,”
The Lions have five returning starters on offense and six on
defense. A road game at Boyd-Buchanan
opens the season on Aug. 22. Other
non-district games include Soddy Daisy, Signal Mountain and Rhea County.
Red Bank’s last playoff appearance came in 2011 and ended
with a first-round loss to Sequoyah.
Grabowski wants and plans to turn those fortunes
around. And with a pretty good group of
athletes on his first team at Red Bank, he’s ready to get started.
Wednesday: Boyd-Buchanan running back Austin Jackson.
(Email John Hunt at firstname.lastname@example.org)