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Jones unanimously approved by board to become Westover's new football coach

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

ALBANY -- Westover Principal William Chunn had a message Monday night for anyone who objected to his school's choice -- Monroe's Octavia Jones -- for its new football coach.

"Coach Jones was the overwhelming favorite of the selection committee,'' Chunn told The Herald. "Every committee member had a voice and a vote, and coach Jones was the overwhelming choice.''

The Dougherty County School Board agreed.

In an unanimous decision Monday night during the board's meeting in downtown Albany, a 7-0 vote was cast in favor of Jones being hired as the Patriots' next coach.

Jones was picked out of a final pool of seven candidates, including himself, that the selection committee had narrowed the search down to. The six who were passed over, according to the board's memorandum handed out Monday, included Danny Blaylock, James Alford, Calvin Poole, Mark Daniel, Tony DeCristofaro and Scott Anderson.

"I think I can make a difference, and build a program and do the same as I did in track,'' Jones said last week after being told he was the top candidate. "I have the ability to inspire and get the best out of student-athletes.''

Jones, who currently coaches girls and boys track & field and is an assistant football coach at Monroe, is coming off a weekend in which his Lady Tornadoes won their second consecutive GHSA Class AAA track *& field state title, while his boys head to Jefferson this weekend to their defend their 2009 state championship.

The search committee for the job opening consisted of eight people, including Chunn, who once coached Jones at Monroe as a player in the early 1990s.

Chunn said Jones, in his eyes, emerged as the best choice among the finalists.

"During the interview process, I am always looking for the best teacher in hiring any position. Our No. 1 goal is academics. It's very important that the coach works hard on Friday nights, but it's just as important that he works hard in the classroom," Chunn said. "I believe the best coaches are the best teachers. When coach Jones interviewed, he showed confidence. He (also) showed energy and knowledge, and showed he has the ability as a motivator and as winner.

"I believe in order to be a leader you must first be a winner. He had a great high school career and was a leader and was successful in three sports. He was a winner and an All-American at the collegiate level, and he became very successful as a high school coach.''

According to Jones' resume submitted to the board, which was attached in its memorandum Monday night, he received a bachelor of science degree at Albany State in May in 1999 in health and physical education, then completed his master's in the same field in December 2008. He's been a teacher and coach at Monroe since 1999 and was also an accomplished football player there from 1989-1993. Jones went on to help lead the ASU Rams to the SIAC Championship all four years he played there (1994-97) and was named the Ed Hayes Black College Freshman of the Year in 1995. He was also a member of the SIAC All-Conference Team in 1995 and '96.

In 1998, Jones was hired by the university as an assistant football coach, before being offered a job in 1999 by Monroe, where he's coached boys and girls track & field and assisted in football ever since. He was an assistant on the team that won the school's first state track title in 2001, then -- after being promoted to head coach the following year -- he led the Lady Tornadoes to back-to-back state titles in 2002 and '03, and then did it again the last two years. He won his first state title with the boys last year, while leading the Tornadoes to a runner-up finish in 2005.

Jones told The Herald last week he does not intend to coach track & field at Westover, which is currently headed up by longtime respected coach Harley Calhoun. Instead, Jones says he is focusing solely on football as he takes over for outgoing coach Jeff Caldwell, who resigned after last year's football season in which the Patriots went 3-7.

Chunn said Monday he was surprised when Caldwell decided not to return after being with the school since 2004.

"I'm very surprised we're at this point. I fully expected coach Caldwell to be the coach for the upcoming year,'' Chunn said. "At the end of the football season after the last game, I met with coach Caldwell and pledged my support for the upcoming year.''

As reported by The Herald on Sunday night, Caldwell's next job will be at Class A Geneva County in Alabama, which officially hired him this past Friday.

Chunn said Jones knows the work that lies ahead of him at Westover in turning around a football program that has had just four winning seasons in 45 years.

"I'm sure (Octavia) will experience a lot of tough days on the job, but I'm confident he will remain positive and serve our school and community as a role model,'' the Westover principal said. "We felt like we needed to go in a new direction and get a fresh start. As an administrator, when something is wrong you have to be able do something to change it. If you keep doing what you're doing, you are going to keep getting what you're getting."

The hiring of Jones on Monday completes a whirlwind offseason for Albany high school football programs as the head coaching jobs at three of the four public city schools came open after the 2009 season ended.

Charles Flowers resigned at Dougherty, which hired former Baldwin coach Jesse Hicks, while Albany High School searched for a new coach after initially telling interim coach Felton Williams he would not be promoted.

The Indians' job was instead offered to former Windsor Forest head coach Mike Martin, who initially accepted the job, then backed out. Williams was then promoted to Albany's full-time head coach within two weeks of AHS being turned down by Martin.

Albany's other public school football team, Monroe, still has its longtime head coach, Charles Truitt, intact. However, Truitt did apply for the open job at nearby Americus-Sumter during the offseason, but that job went to former Cook coach and Valdosta A.D. Michael Pollack.

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Herald sports writer Mike Phillips contributed to this report