MAHONE: Championship coaches have area roots

Tonight’s Class AAAAA final between undefeated Creekside and Tucker has some Southern Crescent connections.

Both coaches spent time in Clayton and Henry counties before leading their teams into the 8:30 p.m. championship game.

Two years ago, Tucker’s Bryan Lamar was the head boy’s basketball coach at Stockbridge. Prior to coming to Stockbridge as the basketball coach, Lamar was an assistant on Franklin Stephen’s staff at his alma mater.

Last season, Olten Downs of Creekside was the head football coach at Riverdale, where he lead the Raiders into the postseason for the first time in seven years.

A month after taking the Creekside job in nearby Fairburn, Downs faced a dilemma. His former mentor at Carver-Columbus Dell McGee joined the staff at Auburn, his alma mater. McGee with Downs as his defensive coordinator revived Carver into a state contender — winning the 2007 Class AAA title.

While it would have been great to return to Carver, Downs stayed true to his word, and followed through with the Creekside job. There is no doubt that the Carver faithful would have loved to have Downs back in Columbus.

During his tenure with McGee, Carver built a program that was second to none in our talent-rich state. After a 3-7 start in his initial season, McGee led Carver to seven straight seasons of at least 11 victories.

In 2012, Carver had 33 of its former players on college football rosters.

At Creekside, he inherited a team that had talent, but was going through its third coach in as many years. Johnny White led the program for three years before being replaced by Aaron Whittington for the 2012 season. Prior to White’s tenure, current Stockbridge coach Kevin Whitley led the program.

Aside from his coaching on a state title staff, Downs earned a title in 2000 while playing at Shaw before going on to Tennessee State.

Downs’ tenure at Creekside got off to heartbreaking start. During a scrimmage game in August against Banneker, Seminoles defensive back De’Antre Turman died from what Fulton County Medical Examiner’s office called “blunt force trauma” following a tackle.

Turman was described as a college prospect with an offer from Kentucky.

The Seminoles are fulfilling their dedication of the season to Turman with a trip to today’s finals.

There were surely some doubters when Lamar took over the program at Tucker. The Tigers were coming off a 15-0 state title season, and Lamar was two years removed from coaching football.

It was the first time in a while that Tucker hired a coach with no previous head coaching experience. But the move has seemingly payed off as the Tigers will meet a determined Creekside group for the state crown.

Regardless of who wins the match-up, the Southern Crescent will be represented with Lamar and Downs in the spotlight.

Derrick Mahone is the sports editor of the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached at dmahone@news-daily.com. On Twitter? Follow him @DerrickMahone_