By Anthony Rhoads
In the years Rodney Hackney has been a coach in Clayton County he has been associated with winners.
He was an assistant on the 1999 Mt. Zion football team that made it all the way to the Class AAA state championship game. In the spring of 2000 as head coach of the track team, he guided the Mt. Zion boys to the state title.
Hackney then went on to become head football coach at Riverdale in 2001 and led the Raiders to the playoffs in each of the three years he was there.
"Riverdale was good to me; Mt. Zion was good to me and I'll always remember them," Hackney said.
In 2001, the Raiders went 8-2 in the regular season and beat Camden County in the first round of the Class AAAAA state playoffs, then lost to Valdosta in the second round.
In 2002, the team made it to state again but lost to Valdosta in the first round. The team finished 8-3 but the season was wiped out because it was later discovered the Raiders used an ineligible player (Cedric Mason, who is now at Duke). Riverdale then had to forfeit all its games except one.
In the 2003 season, Riverdale again made it to state with a 6-4 record but the Valdosta again spoiled the Raiders' postseason hopes.
In the 2004 season, Hackney won't be at Riverdale as he has accepted the head coaching job at Osborne High School in Marietta.
"Clayton County has been good to me," Hackney said. "I've made a lot of friends here; it was a hard choice. I think it was a good career move. I've admired Cobb County from afar for a long time. It's a good school system and they do a good job academically and athletically."
Unlike Riverdale, Osborne has perennially struggled, including posting a 1-9 campaign last year.
"It's definitely a different situation," Hackney said. "I met with the kids today and I was impressed with the kids they have coming back."
The Cardinals won two games each in 2001 and 2002 and went 1-9 in 2000. They went 0-10 in 1999 and 1-9 in 1998.
Hackney said a key to turning around the program will be the mental part of the game. It's going to be key to change the attitude before the team can be successful.
"The great Bear Bryant said football is 85 percent mental and 15 percent physical but there aren't too many coaches focus on the mental," Hackney said.