By Doug Gorman
The Lovejoy Wildcats and Mt. Zion Bulldogs will be the first high school football teams from the Southern Crescent to get things started when they meet tonight in the season opener at Twelve Oaks Stadium.
For Mt. Zion, it will be the beginning of a new era as Bob Ryan becomes just the second head football coach in school history.
Ryan takes over for long-time coach Jackie Green who started the football program at Mt. Zion in 1989 and eventually became the second winningest coach in Clayton County history, including leading the Bulldogs to the state championship game in 1999.
The Bulldogs' new coach paid his dues at several levels of coaching, including serving as one of Greene's assistants for five years before getting his first chance to run his own program.
Although the Ryan era will begin a day earlier, several other coaches will make their debuts with new teams with teams in Henry or Clayton County.
Two of those coaches will be on the same field as both Forest Park and Morrow open the season with new men in charge.
Former North Clayton assistant coach Steve Cole takes over a Forest Park team that didn't win a game last season. Cole was part of last year's North Clayton squad which went undefeated. Cole also was the head boys' basketball coach at North Clayton, and guided the Eagles to the state tournament last year in that sport.
Kennedy Holt comes to Morrow hoping to restore the school's past football glory.
Holt, who is a former army veteran, is expected to bring a tough brand of discipline to the program which beat Forest Park last year for the team's only win.
When Mundy's Mill was looking for its new coach, the school found a coach with ties to the Southern Crescent.
Kenny Barrow served as an asssistant coach at Morrow before moving on to Martin Luther King High School.
Barrow went there when the school opened and in a short time turned the squad into a winner, guiding the team to a trip to the Georgia Dome last year.
Barrow will have to wait until Saturday to make his debut as the Tigers open the year against rival Jonesboro.
Across the county line in Henry, Steve Collins will take over at Stockbridge and Nick Westbrook has been named the new head coach at Eagle's Landing Christian.
Collins comes to Stockbridge after serving as an assistant coach at Luella. Westbrook was an assist coach at ELCA last year. He was named the Chargers' new head coach when Tim Luke stepped down.
A year ago, Westbrook was part of an ELCA staff that advanced to the Class A state playoffs in the school's first season as a member of the Georgia High School Association.