Mallory Tackling Job Of Turning Around Central Football Fortunes

Heeds Dad's "Follow Your Gut" Advice While Leading Pounders

Monday, August 4, 2014 - by Larry Fleming

(This is the first 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)

Ryan Mallory had been an assistant coach for 14 years until KiJuan Ware presented Central High with a sticky situation this past spring.

Ware left Eastern Michigan University to accept the vacant Purple Pounders job on March 7. By April 2 the deal between Central principal Finley King and Ware had gone sour. 

Five days later King turned to Mallory, who was a finalist when Ware was tapped to succeed John Allen after he high-tailed it to Knoxville to take over the Powell program, to calm the storm.

So, Mallory is the guy now and nothing that happened a few months ago matters. He’s got the job, is enthusiastically tackling the job of restoring the Pounders’ football fortunes.

That may not have sunk in yet.

“It probably won’t hit me that I’m a head coach until that first game and I have to make my first big decision,” Mallory said. “I’m starting to get a heavy feeling, about like when I was getting married. When the lights go on and all the eyes are on us it will hit me that this is pretty important.”

Mallory, 32, has been preparing for his first head coaching opportunity for more than a decade, starting with a graduate assistant job at the University of Memphis. Then he spent a year at Fayette Academy, moved to North Brunswick (N.J.) for a couple years, O’Dea High School, his alma mater, for two years and was at Union City (Tenn.) before coming to Central as a teacher and assistant wrestling coach before the 2013-14 school year.

“Patience,” Ray Davis once said, “is not passive waiting. Patience is active acceptance of the process required to attain your goals and dreams.”

Mallory waited, waited and waited until the Central job landed in his lap in a non-traditional way.

When King came back to him, Mallory quickly accepted the challenge of trying to turn around a team that has gone 46-93 since 2000 with only two winning seasons – 2003 (7-3) and 2010 (6-4) in that span.

“I heard rumors and stories about that situation,” Mallory said. “I was around when (Ware) was supposed to arrive. Whatever issues, whatever prevented him from coming here, whether he didn’t want to be here or got another opportunity, for me it was a non-issue.”

Clearly, Mallory – and everyone else around the school – knew “something was up” with Ware and he hoped King might yet offer him the job.

“Sometimes things happen quickly. Sometimes it takes a long time,” Mallory said.

Maybe Mallory is fulfilling his destiny at Central.

His father, Rick, played at Lindberg (Wash.) High School was a three-year letterman at the University of Washington – he played or coached in 15 bowl games – and was an All-Pac 10 offensive lineman his senior season in 1983. He was drafted in the ninth round of the 1984 NFL draft and spent five seasons with the Tampa Bay Bucs.

By 1992 the elder Mallory was an assistant coach at Washington, went to Memphis in 2000 and followed up with stops at Wyoming, Alabama-Birmingham and he’s currently the tackles/tight ends coach at Middle Tennessee State.

That’s a wealth of football knowledge his son can – and will – tap into.

“I talk to him almost every day,” Mallory said of his dad. “He was more excited when I got this job than I was. He was all jacked up. ”

What was the best advice his father offered?

“Follow your gut,” Mallory said. “If it’s something you believe in, that’s what you should be doing.”

Mallory’s first test leading the Pounders into action came last month during the Southeastern 7-on-7 Championships in Dalton, Ga.

“That gave us a chance to compete,” Mallory said. “I think we did pretty well for our first time out playing against teams that had been together quite a while. We worked out some offensive kinks. The kids have a better understanding about the attention to detail. When they didn’t execute the right way, ran a lazy pass route, took a play off or use the wrong technique they ran into trouble.”

That entire weekend of stiff competition, plus every practice, is taped and the coaches can use that visual coaching aid with the players, who also have the opportunity to study the tapes online at home.

Mallory has been impressed with his players’ willingness to be coached.

“They’re investing their own time into getter better,” he said.

It appears the Pounders are thrilled with the coaching staff Mallory has put together– Courtney Braswell, defensive coordinator; Gary Bloodsaw, offensive coordinator; Glen Carter, quarterbacks; Aaron Powell, receivers; Rick Rogers, defensive line; and Connie Hay, kicking game. Mallory is coaching the offensive line.

Not a single player has left the team, Mallory said, and the roster has actually grown in recent days.

The coach said several players made “great progress” over the offseason and believes that positive trend will continue in preseason practice leading up to Central’s season opener at home against Franklin County on Aug. 22.

He pointed to linebackers Caleb Morgan and Jamel Metcalf; defensive backs D.J. Baxter, Dayquan Witcher, James Walker and Jeffrey Gaines; offensive linemen Wyatt Green, Andrew Wilson, Austin Banther, Eddie Gillette and Patrick McGhee are among players who have worked themselves into starting freshmen.

The offensive line and secondary players mentioned are underclassmen, with Banther beinga freshman.

Mallory also noted that wide receiver/cornerback Xavier Norwood, quarterback Scout Morgan, outside linebacker Devin Swafford and athlete Isyah Funk also have been impressive.

“The job is Scout’s to lose,” Mallory said prior to the 7-on-7 tournament in Dalton. “He’s a senior and we’re confident Scout can lead this football team. We’d like to build some depth behind him though.”

Mallory said that Funk is perhaps the team’s best and most versatile athlete. He’s been working at running back, quarterback and safety.

“He’s an explosive player on offense,” Mallory said.

Any surprises for Mallory in his first stint as a head coach?

“It takes a lot of time, I won’t lie,” he said. “As an example, I was here at 6 a.m. the other day and didn’t leave until 2 the next morning. That’s not normal, but it happens. You want to get it right.”

(Tuesday: Howard coach Mark Teague)

(E-mail Larry Fleming at larryfleming44@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @larryfleming44)

 


Hamilton Heights Girls Win Twice In Hoops For Harvest Event

The Hamilton Heights Lady Hawks continued their unblemished start to the basketball season Saturday with two wins in the Hoops for Harvest event in Kentucky. The Lady Hawks beat Mercer County 76-65 as the two teams combined for 18 3-pointers and then walloped Mercy Academy 78-41 that saw Hamilton Heights drain 11 3s. Those two wins pushed the Lady Hawks’ overall record ... (click for more)

Lee Men Win 86-70 In Gulf South Opener

Getting plenty of balance from up and down the lineup and knocking down 12-of-21 3-point attempts, the Lee men’s basketball team opened its portion of Gulf South Conference play with a convincing 86-70 victory over previously unbeaten Shorter University.   Spurred on by an excellent Saturday evening crowd, the Flames led 39-28 at the halftime break and built an 18-point ... (click for more)

Signal Mountain Council Looking Into Taking Over Schools

A new group of Signal Mountain Town Council members is looking into taking over county schools within the town boundaries.   Two newly elected board members, Amy Speek and Dan Landrum, joined the council Friday afternoon at the first work session after the election. The election of mayor and vice mayor for the next two years came first on the agenda. Dick Gee, mayor ... (click for more)

East Ridge Meth Dealer Gets 168 Months In Federal Prison

A man that agents said was dealing large quantities of meth from his East Ridge residence has been sentenced to serve 168 months in federal prison. Kenneth Lemons appeared before Judge Curtis Collier. Agents said they made several controlled drugs buys from Lemons at his residence in 2015. On Oct. 27, 2015, he drove up to a residence where DEA agents were making a controlled ... (click for more)

Tennessee River Gorge Trust Trail Warriors Make You Want To Take A Hike

Trail warriors of the Tennessee River Gorge Trust make you want to take a hike.  The Tennessee River Gorge Trust staff and volunteers make a huge difference in the Chattanooga community and have been making the outdoor areas around the River Gorge clean and protected for more than 30 years.  They deserve to be recognized and praised for all of the hard work they have ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Why Our Schools Stink

Cheryl Roddy has spent her lifetime, for the biggest part, as a teacher for the Hamilton County Department of Education and, more specifically, at East Ridge High School. She has loved teaching there for nearly 40 years and is hardly “average;” she has her master's degree in education, was twice East Ridge’s teacher of the year, was the first teacher at East Ridge to reach the first ... (click for more)