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Mitchell head football coach Pinkins leaving program for Valdosta

Former star Dondrial Pinkins came back to his alma mater Mitchell County four years ago as head football coach and helped turn the Eagles into a contender, but now he's leaving to take two assistant coaching jobs with the football and basketball teams at nearby Valdosta High.

Former star Dondrial Pinkins came back to his alma mater Mitchell County four years ago as head football coach and helped turn the Eagles into a contender, but now he's leaving to take two assistant coaching jobs with the football and basketball teams at nearby Valdosta High.

CAMILLA — Dondrial Pinkins, the Mitchell County alum who played quarterback at South Carolina and then came back home to coach his Eagles, is leaving the program and the school.

Pinkins is headed for Class AAAAA Valdosta High School, where he will coach receivers and also be the assistant basketball coach.

“I sat down with my family and we talked about it, and I really feel this is the best move for me and my family right now,’’ Pinkins told The Herald on Thursday. “They call Valdosta Title Town. (Valdosta) had some coaches leave, and they had some jobs open, and I talked with the head coach there. They were interested in me, and I was interested in the job, so I decided it was time to move on. It’s a better opportunity for me and my family, and a decision I couldn’t turn down.’’

The Eagles always flew under Pinkins, who brought a wide-open spread offense to the program and watched his teams have great success over the past two seasons.

He spent four years coaching at his alma mater, and after winning seven games in his first two seasons as one of the smallest Class AA teams in the state, Pinkins’ teams took care of business and became a power in Class A when they dropped down a classification two years ago and began playing schools closer to their own size.

The Eagles won the Region 1-A title in 2010, going 9-2 before losing to state runner-up Savannah Christian in the state playoffs. They were the Region 1-A runner-up last fall behind state-power Seminole County, finished 7-4 and made the playoffs for the second consecutive season.

“The thing I will remember the most is the kids I helped teach and learn more about football,’’ said Pinkins, who led Mitchell to the region title when he was a senior in 2000. “And I’ll remember how good it felt to turn the program around after it had dropped off. We won the region in 2000, and then they went 0-10 the next year.’’

Mitchell County won only eight games from 2005 through 2007 before Pinkins took over, and he made the program not only competitive again but a region power.

It was emotional for Pinkins to leave his kids.

“I’m going to miss it,’’ he said. “I talked to my kids, and that was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do since I became a coach. It started to bring tears to my eyes, so I hurried up my speech and ended it and got out of there. I will miss it.’’