Forest Park football acclimating quickly under first-year head coach Martez Edwards

Martez Edwards has been pleased with how players in the program have responded to him during his first month as head football coach at Forest Park High. (Special Photo: Hakim Wright Photography)

FOREST PARK — It has been a whirlwind for Martez Edwards since he was hired in June to take over the Forest Park High football program.

Edwards has hit the ground running since his appointment — something he’s had to do at each of his previous head coaching stops.

“This is my third head coaching job and I’ve kind of been thrown in the fire in all three of them,” Edwards said at Clayton County Football Media Day. “This one was later than most — most of the jobs I’ve taken have been in May, this was in June. I’m just going to do what I normally do. I’ve built up programs in the past and just let the rest fall into place.”

Edwards’ track record suggests the program is in good hands. While coaching at Bessemer City High in Alabama from 2013-2016, Edwards posted an overall record of 30-18 and was a state finalist for Coach of the Year in 2013. Prior to his time at Bessemer, Edwards led Jackson Central-Merry High in Tennessee from 2011 to 2013.

Many of Edwards’ tasks since accepting the job have been centered around housekeeping aspects of running a program — equipment, facilities and paperwork to name a few.

But the Panthers strapped on helmets for the first time under Edwards earlier this month at a Cam Newton 7-on-7 Tournament. It was Edwards’ first time seeing his players in a game-like environment, albeit without pads or linemen.

Edwards said he was happy to get onto the field and was pleased with what he saw from his players.

“Considering our guys, it’s their first 7-on-7 since I’ve been there, they went out there and had only had helmets on three or four times before that — it was a very beneficial thing to see where we were and it was a great opportunity to bond with the guys,” Edwards said.

Edwards spoke highly of the players in the program at Clayton County Media Day, expressing their desire to want to be coached. Senior Kendarious Redden and juniors Justin Eboigbe, RayShawn Meiser, Buck Cooper and Jacquez Bailey joined Edwards at the event, and are part of a young, talented core that has the program optimistic.

“We have a great group of receivers — a freshman kid who can be one of the best to come through,” Edwards said. “The defensive line is strong. We have two great defensive ends — one has SEC offers in Justin Eboigbe and Buck Cooper will probably play his way into a scholarship — and we have a few tackles who can play ball. We’re a young group of guys. Out of the 70 guys we may have on the roster, we only have six or seven seniors. Everything is in front of us.”

Forest Park hasn’t won multiple games in a season since 2013 and the program has had 11 coaches in 15 seasons. Edwards isn’t expecting a turnaround overnight, but did reiterate that his goal is to change the narrative surrounding the program.

“The community is behind me, the administration has been very, very supportive,” he said. “The players are coming to practice and we’ve increased our numbers — we should field a team of 60 guys. There is improvement. We started at a place where we couldn’t start much further but we’ve been able to get some things going.”

Luke Strickland is the sports editor of the Clayton News in Jonesboro and the Henry Herald in McDonough. He went to school at the University of Georgia.

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