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PAGLIA: Morrow’s Foster could be the one — again

Sports writer Brian Paglia

Sports writer Brian Paglia

Leroy Foster, the 14th head coach of Morrow football, won’t be the Mustangs’ last, but he might be their most pivotal one.

The urgency doesn’t comes from the string of losing seasons — 13 and counting.

It doesn’t come from the lopsided losses — 68-0, 41-0, 71-0 and 59-0, just to name a few from last season.

It comes from the litany of coaching changes that’s put Morrow in transition mode ever since 2002. That was the end of Tom Van Tone’s four-year tenure, the last semblence of stability Morrow has felt.

Since then, the Mustangs have had two years of Dorwyn Lyles (now defensive coordinator at Drew), two years of Kennedy Holt (now athletic director at Griffin), one year of Daryl Steward (now coaching in Alabama), two years of Larry Mortonson (now athletic director at Forest Park) and two years of James Livingston (the school’s respected basketball coach). That doesn’t count Niketa Battle, who was hired in the spring of 2010 but never officially the acting head coach.

Do the math — five head coaches and an 11-79 record in nine seasons.

Foster got a taste of the turmoil this summer. He was brought in as part of the school’s overhaul of the football staff to be an assistant to Andre Pickering, who was hired from Sumter Central in Alabama in the spring.

Turns out the school couldn’t offer Pickering the health and physical education teaching slot it thought it could, leaving Morrow without a head football coach — again.

Luckily for Morrow, it had a capable replacement already on staff.

Foster has a history of success in Florida, where he led Pahokee High School to three state championships in 2003, 2004 and 2006 during a five-year tenure as head coach.

That’s the kind of resume Morrow hasn’t seen in awhile.

So, if Foster knows how to build a winner, then Morrow needs him now more than ever.

But it needs Foster beyond this season.

It needs him to be here in 2015 greeting the next freshmen class and plugging in holes in the lineup from starters who have graduated. It needs him to purchase a home in Clayton County and to find a good church, if that’s his sort of thing. It needs him to be a part of the Morrow community by 2015, someone middle school football players will know they can expect to get coaching and leadership from.

In Van Tone’s four seasons at Morrow, he went 12-28 and never finished better than 4-6. No, Van Tone didn’t turn Morrow back into the dominant team of the late 1980s. But he saw a freshmen class through until their senior season.

Of course, coaches leave for all sorts of reasons — sometimes to find a challenge, sometimes to find a promotion, sometimes to improve the family life, sometimes just to escape. Foster has that same right, just as every Morrow coach before him did.

Or he could stay.

He could install an offense that sticks from year to year. He could establish a practice routine and offseason conditioning program. He could create traditions and foster stability.

Would Morrow win more?

Maybe.

But would Morrow be better off?

Absolutely.

Brian Paglia covers sports for the Clayton News Daily and Henry Daily Herald newspapers. He can be reached at bpaglia@news-daily.com. On Twitter? Follow him at @BrianPaglia.