There’s no need to be embarrassed when asking for a program listing which coaches are leading area high school football programs next season.
The area has seen the most turnover at head coach in recent memory with seven schools with new leaders in 2013. Two of the changes came in Bay County, including at Mosley, which is the largest among the five public high schools in the county. Two coaches stayed in the Panhandle but at new destinations, and four of the fresh hires have area ties.
Arnold and Mosley garnered many of the headlines as longtime coaches James Hale and Perry Brown stepped away from the Marlins and Dolphins, respectively. Their replacements called Bay County home at one time in their lives, Josh Wright takes over at Arnold after serving under Brown at Mosley, and Jeremy Brown (no relation), a former Rutherford and Bay athlete, was chosen to lead Mosley.
The new blood adds to a list that lacks tenure in Bay County. Bay’s Jimmy Longerbeam enters his third season with the Tornadoes and Rutherford’s Alvin Dempsey his second in 2013. Bozeman’s Loren Tillman now is the elder statesman among head coaches in Bay County with eight seasons behind him at the Sand Hills school.
Arnold and Mosley were only two of the dominos that started ripples in the coaching ranks. Wright’s departure from Franklin County, where he was head coach for four seasons, was one of four changes involving Rural Class 1A schools. Graceville, Sneads and Vernon also have new head coaches entering spring drills in two months.
Graceville’s Mark Beach swapped his office for one in Marianna when Tim Cokely left for an opportunity at Tallahassee Leon. Beach and Cokely were fresh hires at their previous stops with each moving on after one season. Graceville won a District 2-1A title and Marianna narrowly missed the Class 4A playoffs.
Bobby Johns, remembered for building Blountstown’s program into a force through the middle of the 2000s, took over at Vernon following subsequent successful stops at his alma mater, Baker County, and recently in Georgia. Johns helped Blountstown increase its impressive regular-season winning streak that stretched beyond 30 games. The Tigers finished as the 1A state runner-up in 2004 and advanced to the regional finals the next season under Johns.
He inherits a program that has had moderate success. The Yellow Jackets have made only two regional appearances since 2005, the year of the eighth and final season of consecutive advancement. Vernon dipped to 1-9 while playing without its best offensive weapon, Hunter Dobbs, for the majority of the season.
Perceptive fans also will remember Bill Thomas, who was passed over for the Arnold job and was hired at Sneads. Thomas was an assistant at Arnold since the school opened in 2000. He also led Arnold to two state boys weightlifting championships during his tenure with the Marlins.
Thomas has the chore of turning around a Sneads program that has had even less playoff success than Vernon. The Pirates last played in the regional in 2003 and fell in the second round to Port St. Joe. They have advanced past the district stage only five times.
The new coaches, and the one soon to be hired at Franklin County, will guide their teams into spring practice which begins May 1.
A roundup of area football coaching changes:
- Arnold: James Hale resigned after 13 seasons and 80 victories; former Franklin County head coach and Mosley assistant Josh Wright named to position.
- Franklin County: Wright leaves his post after four seasons to move to Arnold; no new coach has been hired, as of Wednesday.
- Graceville: Mark Beach left after one season to take over at Marianna; Bratt Northview assistant coach Ty Wise fills his slot.
- Marianna: Tim Cokely departs after one year to lead Tallahassee Leon; Beach settles in at the Jackson County school.
- Mosley: Longtime mentor Perry Brown is forced to step away due to regulations associated with the state’s DROP program; Jeremy Brown, a Bay High School graduate and who led Jefferson County to a Class 1A state title in 2011, returns to Bay County to lead the Dolphins.
- Sneads: Don Dowling, who also coached at Marianna, was not retained after five seasons; former Apalachicola head coach and Arnold assistant Bill Thomas, at the Panama City Beach school since 2000, takes over a program that hasn’t advanced to the playoffs since 2003.
- Vernon: Ryan Boyd wasn’t brought back after a 1-9 season; Bobby Johns, who helped re-establish Blountstown’s formidable program, is charged with turning around the Yellow Jackets.