The four new coaches in the Southern Crescent are Joe Dupree of Henry County, Ervin Starr of Mount Zion, Andre Pickering of Morrow and Greg Manior of Mundy's Mill.
State title is on Dupree’s mind at Henry County
Joe Dupree knows this isn’t the average first-year head coaching gig.
The former Westside-Macon offensive coordinator was named head coach at Henry County this spring, making a move from one winning program to another. He replaced Mike Rozier, who left to take the head coaching position at Lakeside-Dekalb after 10 seasons with the Warhawks.
Rozier raced through the high school football bucket list in recent years for a long-suffering program — winning seasons, region championships, plenty of scholarship athletes and a couple playoffs wins. He left only the loftiest of goals to accomplish, particularly, advancing past the second round of the state playoffs.
That’s where Dupree hopes to take off from.
“Coach Rozier did a great job,” Dupree said. “He had a winning season the past five years. I want to continue on with the tradition and the winning. I’m just trying to step into his shoes.”
Dupree knows about winning. In his seven seasons at Westside-Macon, the Seminoles went 57-21 and made the playoffs four times, including the quarterfinals twice (2008, 2009). Dupree directed high-powered offenses that never averaged less than 20.5 points a game during his tenure.
That should fit right in with the Henry County look over the years. Dupree said he uses the spread offense, but will spend the spring and summer to find the pieces to run it after heavy graduation.
“My vision is for our team to win state every year possible,” he said. “I want [players] to be disciplined on and off the field and to make sure these young men become successful in whatever it may be.”
Area’s talent attracted Manior to Mundy’s Mill
The majority of Greg Manior’s coaching tenure in Georgia has been along the state’s coastal area.
But the metro area’s talent base is what attracted the former standout North Carolina State fullback to Clayton County. After coaching stops at Savannah, South Effingham and Screven County, Manior landed the job at Mundy’s Mill earlier this year.
“There are some good athletes in this area,” Manior said. “I have a friend that lives in Riverdale, and he was always telling me about the athletes here. I was looking for a change, so I decided to move up North.”
Manior replaces Peniel Dany, who was head coach for three years. Since the school opened in 2003, Manior will be the fifth coach in its history, which includes only one playoff appearance.
“It will be a challenge, because we are under the radar,” Manior said. “We feel we will have something to prove. I think the kids are hungry to win.”
Manior spent two seasons at Screven after a four-year tenure at South Effingham. In 2006, he led South Effingham to the first round of the playoffs, his only playoff appearance as a head coach.
He coached two seasons in the early 2000s at Savannah High. Working in Savannah is what helped him become familiar with coaching in an area with multiple schools.
“It is a big change,” Manior said. “I see a lot of similarity between here and Savannah with multiple teams.”
Manior said the challenge now is molding Mundy’s Mill into a playoff contender. Mundy’s Mill will open spring practice on Monday. It will be the first look at the full squad in action.
“I’m excited about the kids, they have had great attitudes,” Manior said. “I’m anxious to see what we can do. They have been really receptive of me.”
Manior said they will spend the first few days working on fundamentals and then begin installing some of the offense and defense.
“At the end of spring, we will have one-fifth of the offense and defense in place,” Manior said.
Starr has ‘high demand’ for Mt. Zion next season
Ervin Starr didn’t need a big introduction as the new football coach at Mount Zion. His name is quite familiar to the players and parents.
Although he has never coached high school football in Clayton County, Starr’s name is known by the majority of the coaches. During his five-year tenure at Rex Mill Middle School, he helped produce some of top talent in the area. The majority of Mount Zion’s players played for the first-year coach.
“I think that is going to help with the transition of being a new coach,” Starr said. “These guys know me and know what I expect.”
Starr became the fifth head coach in the school’s history when he was named to replace Jamie Aull, a Mount Zion alumnus. Aull led the Bulldogs to the first round of the playoffs in his first season in 2009, Mount Zion has had consecutive losing seasons.
The 2010 team was in a position to make the playoffs, but had to forfeit five games after self-reporting to the Georgia High School Association that it used an ineligible player.
Starr said he is ready to return the Bulldogs back into a playoff contender. Prior to moving to Georgia, Starr was the defensive coordinator at R.E. Lee High in Montgomery, Ala.
When spring practice begins Monday, players will have to compete for starting jobs. He said no job is secure.
“Right now, every position is up for grabs,” Starr said. “Players are going to have to show that they want to a leader. We don’t have any starters. We are all going to have to earn everything. It is going to be a total change.”
The players have seemed to embrace the change.
“Things are really different,” said junior Montel Buchanan, who was last season’s starting quarterback. “Coach has had a good impact.”
Buchannon played quarterback and wide receiver for Starr at Rex Mill.
Expectations are high with 26 rising seniors on the team and a new region.
“The main thing is that we instill some discipline in these players,” Starr said. “We are going to put a high demand on them.”
Pickering says he has tools to build Morrow
Andre Pickering knows about starting a football program from scratch. Try taking two schools, 100 players and having one spring and summer to turn them into the Sumter Central (Ala.) football team.
He did it — Pickering led Sumter to the state playoffs, had 14 players sign athletic scholarships and succeeded in uniting rival schools.
Now, Pickering has a new challenge — starting the Morrow football program over from scratch ... again.
Pickering makes head coach No. 7 in the 13 seasons since Morrow’s last winning campaign. The Mustangs finished 0-10 last season.
But Pickering isn’t deterred.
“What attracted me was the opportunity to turn something around,” Pickering said.
That was his challenge when he became head football coach at Livingston High School in Alabama in 2009. The school had had three winning seasons since 1983. By Pickering’s second year, he made it four, leading the program to a 7-3 record.
Pickering has found the most crucial ingredient to transforming a struggling program is improving the mindset of players who are used to losing, and no opportunity is too small or insignificant to emphasize that message.
“We’ve got to be a winner in everything we do,” he said. “Our players need to become a winner when they’re stretching, when they’re in the classroom, when they’re in the weight room, even when they’re talking. That’s the thing when you come to a losing program. You’ve got to change the mindset.”
He’ll have plenty of minds to change. Pickering said an average of 75 players have been attending spring workouts. The team may lack size, but Pickering said it doesn’t lack athletes.
“This is probably the place wherever I’ve been that has the most athletes on one field,” Pickering said. “We have the athletes that I’ve always wanted to do things in the passing game and on defense.”