By Brian Paglia
When he was an assistant football coach on several deplorable Henry County teams, Clint Satterfield religiously checked the Saturday morning newspaper for the score of the Jonesboro game. He was a Satterfield, after all, the last of a progeny of Cardinals football players. Habit brings them to the sports pages every Saturday during football season to check on their Cardinals, deplorable or not.
That won't change now that Satterfield was hired to become the first head football coach in the history of Locust Grove when it opens this fall. Satterfield was approved by the Henry County Board of Education Monday night, along with the majority of Locust Grove's athletic department, including Dutchtown baseball coach and co-athletic director Stephen Phillips, who will hold the same positions at Locust Grove next season.
Satterfield left Henry County four years ago for Jonesboro, returning to his alma mater as somewhat of a prodigal son. He knew well the morass of the Cardinals program and the misfortune that had plagued it since 1948. Jonesboro was coming off a winless season in 2005, but Satterfield orchestrated a remarkable turnaround in just three years, culminating with last year's first-round victory in the state playoffs, the first in school history.
Satterfield knows well the travails and uncertainty of standing a program back on its feet.
"I'm a realist," Satterfield said, "and going into a situation like this is going to take some time. What you want to try to do is much like what I did at Jonesboro. When I walked in at Jonesboro, they were struggling. The first thing I tried to do was build the morale up. And I'll do the same thing with the new program.
"I want them to look forward to trying to be a Locust Grove Wildcat. That's what I did at Jonesboro. I wanted them to have some kind of pride of wearing that jersey and that helmet."
Satterfield went 12-20 in three years at Jonesboro, but his Cardinals teams improved every season. They won 2 games in 2006, then 3, then 7 last season. Satterfield acknowledged this past season that much of Jonesboro's turnaround could be attributed to the coaching staff he assembled in the offseason, and he made that a priority when applying for the Locust Grove job, he said.
Two members of that staff will join Satterfield at Locust Grove: Jamie Reed, the offensive coordinator Satterfield brought in last season, and John Bishop, who was also an assistant boys basketball coach at Jonesboro.
Satterfield said other members of his coaching staff will be Karsten Bailey, a former NFL player with the Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers; Ronnie Daniels, a former NFL and AFL player; Craig Melton, who will also be the Locust Grove golf coach; and Greg Shook, a former assistant basketball coach at Morrow and Clayton State.
"One thing I wanted to make sure before I took the job was that I could have a good staff," Satterfield said. "The school has done everything I asked them to do."
Indeed, they showed him the brand new football stadium he'll have all to his own, just like he used to enjoy at Henry County. They showed him the brand new weight room and the brand new lockers. They showed Satterfield enough to convince him Locust Grove has raucous crowds and championship banners in its future.
But on Saturday mornings this season, Satterfield will still go looking through the local paper, hoping his alma mater is doing just fine without him.
"The Satterfields are always looking in the newspaper to find the Jonesboro score," Satterfield said. "No matter where I've been, no matter where my brothers have coached, we always look for the Jonesboro score on Saturday. That'll continue to be the same way."