Reggie Mitchell, who went 2-28 the last time he coached at a GHSA school at Albany High during a three-year span, was hired to be the next coach in Americus on Thursday night.
AMERICUS — After spending more than half of the 2012 season with an interim coach and taking almost four months to find a replacement for Michael Pollock, Americus-Sumter High School finally has a new football coach.
And he is a familiar face to Southwest Georgia.
The Sumter County Board of Education voted 8-to-1 to hire former Albany High and Sherwood Christian Academy coach Reggie Mitchell on Thursday night.
“I’m thankful and humble right now,” Mitchell told The Herald exclusively moments after being contacted by Sumter County Superintendent Donnie Smith and told he had the job. “I am thankful that God has given me another opportunity to be in this position. It’s overwhelming just to think about being at a place like Americus-Sumter. It’s a place very rich in tradition. The standards and expectations are high. I am excited to not only be in Americus, but to be part of the community here.”
According to sources, there were three finalists for the job — first reported by The Herald last month — and there was speculation that Monroe coach Charles Truitt, who had been an assistant at Americus for 10 years and a head coach at Sumter High for two seasons before the two schools merged in 2004, would get the job. According to sources, the third finalist was Darren Alford, an assistant coach at West Laurens High School in Dublin.
Truitt was an assistant coach at Americus from 1991 through 2001 and then was the head coach at Sumter High school for two years before coming to Monroe. Truitt went 9-11 at Sumter and is 53-47 in nine years at Monroe, where he led the Tornadoes to the second round of the playoffs the past two seasons.
Mitchell said he expected people to be surprised Truitt didn’t get the job.
“I’m quite sure some people will be surprised by that,’’ Mitchell said. “Without a doubt, they will be surprised.”
Mitchell will be hired as the head football coach and also assume the role of athletic director.
“We have always done it like that,’’ Smith said. “(Mitchell) is a fine man, a fine gentleman. We feel we’re getting a good football coach. We’re excited about him coming to Americus.’’
Mitchell went 2-28 over three years at Albany High but left the GHSA for a job at Sherwood Christian Academy, where he went 11-8 in two years at the GISA school. Mitchell then left Sherwood after the 2010 season to become an assistant coach at Tift County. He will be expected to calm the storm at Americus-Sumter, where the program had a bumpy season.
The Panthers went through turmoil last fall when Pollock was fired in October for kicking a player in the rear during practice. The Panthers haven’t had a permanent coach since.
According to sources, offensive coordinator Chris Wade, who took over the team when Pollock was fired, was not one of the three finalists for the job. Wade won his first three games while Pollock was under suspension, but after Pollock was formally fired, Wade’s team lost the final five games of the season.
Mitchell believes he is the man for the job, and that he can restore order after such an uneven season.
“Your best programs are your most disciplined programs, and they are the most organized,’’ said Mitchell when he was asked what he could bring to the program at Americus. “We are going to bring a lot of organization and discipline. We are going to work as hard as we possibly can for these kids. They want a winner, and we are going to work hard to give them that.”
Americus-Sumter went to the playoffs in back-to-back seasons, finishing second in the region to state-ranked Cairo twice in Pollock’s first two seasons before going 4-6 and missing the postseason last fall under Pollock and Wade.
The Panthers are loaded with talent and will return their two best offensive players, running back Wesley Fields, who rushed for more than 1,200 yards, and Jonathan Thomas, who is an electric player who plays at running back, receiver, quarterback and is a leader on defense in the secondary.
There will be high expectations for next year’s team.
“My job at this point is to go out and try to find the best assistant coaches available for our student athletes,’’ Mitchell said. “That’s what we are going to do and work extremely hard to give those kids the best experience in football we can give them.’’
Mitchell said he is in for the long run and hopes to make a name for himself with the Panthers.
“The job came open, and I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I wanted to apply,’’ he said. “I wanted to become a head coach again. I want to go to Americus, and I want to retire there as a coach. We want to be there a long time.”