Craig Chatman has spent the last 15 years as an assistant coach at Lovejoy High. He was recently named the head coach at Douglas County’s Lithia Springs High for the upcoming season. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)
HAMPTON — One of the architects of Lovejoy’s powerhouse offense is leaving.
Longtime Lovejoy offensive coordinator Craig Chatman has accepted the head coaching position at Lithia Springs High in Douglas County.
Chatman, a 1994 graduate of Lovejoy, will try to turn around the misfortunes of the program. The Lions were only 3-27 the last three seasons under previous coach Scott Dean.
Chatman said he is excited about the new chapter in his coaching career.
“It is an awesome opportunity for me,” Chatman said. “Lithia Springs is a great place with some beautiful facilities. They have some great kids in the program, and I’m looking forward to getting started.”
Because of his baseball obligations this spring at Lovejoy, Chatman’s assistants are running the offseason conditioning program. He will likely join the squad for spring practice, which will run May 5-16.
This coming season, Lithia Springs will compete in Region 5-AAAAA, and will be subdivided with other Douglas County schools — Alexander, Chapel Hill and New Manchester. Also competing in the subregion will be Villa Rica while the other subdivision will consist of Allatoona, Paulding County, East Paulding, Hiram and South Paulding.
The Lions will be trying to snap a 13-game losing streak, the longest in school history since the program started in 1976. Chatman’s former boss, Al Hughes, believes he has what it takes to set the program on solid footing.
“Craig is going to do a great job,” said Hughes, who retired after this past season. “He is very prepared for this opportunity.”
At Lithia Springs, he will face a building job as the Lions went winless last season, and haven’t had a non-losing season since going 5-5 in 2010. The Lions last winning season was in 1999 when they finished with a 6-4 record.
Lithia Springs has never made the state playoffs, although they lost in the 1981 Region 5-AAA finals to Douglas County.
“Coach Hughes and coach (C.W.) Campbell instilled in me some good work ethic,” Chatman said. “We are going to bring in a system that I think can be successful. As coach Hughes says, ‘We are going to scratch where it itches.’ We have the ability to be flexible with what we do.”
The school has had some talent with former defensive end Calvin Pace currently playing for the New York Jets. Former 2008 quarterback Kelton Hill, who played at Georgia State, has signed a contract with a Canadian league team.
Because Hughes allowed his assistants flexibility in coaching, Chatman said that has prepared him for this opportunity. Last season, Chatman took on the added title as associate head coach.
“We let those guys do their job,” Hughes said of his former assistants. “I think they really appreciate you for that. I’m sure Craig will do a super job.”
Chatman is the third assistant in the last two years to get a head coaching job off of the Lovejoy staff, which has won four straight region championships. During the 2011 and ‘12 seasons, the Wildcats reached the finals of their classification.
In 2012, former Wildcats defensive coordinator Kevin Jones was named the head coach at Dutchtown. He is currently starting his first season at Mount Zion. Last season’s defensive coordinator Edgar Carson is now the head coach at Lovejoy.
Because of his close ties to Lovejoy, Chatman said it was a tough decision to leave a school where he has coached the last 15 years. Chatman is also the school’s head baseball coach. Chatman’s only other coaching job was as an assistant baseball coach at LaGrange College.
“I’m a Lovejoy guy, and I’ve been there my whole life,” Chatman said. “I feel this is an awesome opportunity for me. I’m thankful to Dr. Garris Askew (school’s principal) and Alton Bias (athletic director) for the opportunity. The job at Lithia Springs is a blessing from God.”
In addition to serving on the football staff, Chatman was also the school’s baseball coach. This season, the Wildcats are in contention for a playoff spot, and could possibly host a first round game.