There are still four head football coach openings in the PrepsNow 20-county coverage area. There are nine changes total, with Cary, Corinth Holders, North Pitt, Northern Nash and Heritage having filled their vacancies.
Here’s a look at each vacancy and some of the challenges that come with each job.
Note: teams are organized by classification first, then alphabetically.
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Previous coach: Mike Kirst (three seasons)
New coach: Jason Wilkes
What happened: Kirst resigned in mid-December to pursue a career in school administration. Cary announced on Feb. 5 that offensive coordinator Jason Wilkes, who was an assistant at Middle Creek from 2012-15, will be the next head coach.
Record in 2017: 4-7
Record last 3 years: 7-25
The job: The last time the Imps had a winning record was 2011, but the program made a three-game improvement from 2016 to 2017. Under the new playoff format, Cary would need only to finish fourth in the Triangle 6 4A Conference – which it did this season, before the new format was implemented – to make the postseason for the first time since 2012.
Previous coach: Bubba Williams (three seasons)
New coach: Adam Khvari
What happened: Williams resigned in December for what he said was a job opportunity outside of education. Khvari, previously the Pirates’ defensive backs coach for two years, was also a defensive coordinator at Enloe under now-Green Hope coach David Green.
Record in 2017: 3-7
Record last 3 years: 15-19
The job: The Pirates missed the playoffs last season for the second time since the school began varsity football play in 2010. Corinth Holders is the largest school in Johnston County and plays in one of the toughest area football conferences, paired with Wake Forest and Heritage among others in the Northern Athletic 4A Conference. Khvari is just the third head coach in school history.
Previous coach: Dewayne Washington (three seasons)
New coach: Wallace Clark
What happened: Washington announced last week he was resigning to spend more time on his business – DWG Property Services – and with family. Defensive coordinator Wallace Clark was hired this week.
Record in 2017: 12-2
Record last 3 years: 28-12
The job: The Huskies are coming off their best three-year stretch in school history and have gone toe-to-toe with crosstown rival and two-time 4AA state champion Wake Forest. Heritage had an experienced team this year and sent players to Duke, N.C. State and Virginia Tech, but the JV program has done well in recent years. Clark is the third coach in school history and has been at the school since it opened.
Previous coach: N/A
What happened: The new high school opens next fall.
Record in 2017: N/A
Record last 3 years: N/A
The job: South Garner, which opens next fall with a JV-only schedule, has a principal and a building but nothing else. Not even a mascot or school colors, which will be picked by the school’s first athletic director after he or she is hired. The athletic director will then hire a football coach ASAP to get started on offseason workouts. South Garner’s school attendance zone is a promising one for football. It will affect Southeast Raleigh and future conference foes Garner, Middle Creek and Fuquay-Varina.
EAST CHAPEL HILL
Previous coach: Ray Hartsfield (one year)
What happened: Hartsfield, also the school’s boys’ basketball coach, was serving as a one-year interim head coach.
Record in 2017: N/A
Record last 3 varsity years: 2-31
The job: East Chapel Hill had just two seniors in the program last year, so the school made the decision to play a JV schedule only, build some depth, generate interest among underclassmen and hope for a fresh start. It paid off with more players signing up to play, and the team went 6-3-1, even beating the JV teams from Northern Durham and Southern Durham. Hartsfield was the fifth head coach in six years.
Previous coach: Randy Raper (five seasons)
New coach: Andrew Farriss
What happened: In December, Raper announced his retirement and was replaced immediately by his longtime assistant Andrew Farriss.
Record in 2017: 1-10
Record last 3 years: 9-25
The job: Raper came to Northern Nash five years ago after 22 seasons at conference foe Hunt. It proved difficult to try to replicate the success at Hunt – Raper went to three straight 3AA East finals from 2010-12 and was a state runner-up in 2004 – at Northern Nash, where Raper’s best seasons were 5-7 and 5-6. Farriss coached with Raper at Hunt from 2003-2012 and left there to become an assistant at Fike in 2016 and Northern Nash in 2017. The Knights were young last year and return a big group of rising seniors.
Previous coach: Kim Brown (three seasons)
What happened: Brown announced he was retiring in February.
Record in 2017: 5-6
Record last 3 years: 13-21
The job: Brown retires as coach and athletic director on Feb. 28, so it’s unclear how the hiring process will go without an AD. Though his time in Wheat Swamp was short, Brown led a major turnaround. In 2016, Brown had the Hawks within a game of winning their first football conference title in the school’s 53-year history. North Lenoir broke a 10-year playoff drought that same season.
Previous coach: Garrett Wingate (one year)
New coach: Gregory Watford
What happened: Wingate was the interim head coach last season. The school hired Gregory Watford, who had gone 26-13 in his second stint at 1A Southeast Halifax, on Feb. 1. Watford will be making his eighth different head coaching stop since first getting the job at Southeast Halifax in 1992.
Record in 2017: 1-10
Record last 3 years: 4-29
The job: When head coach Brent Wooten left the school just a few weeks before last season, Wingate stepped in as a one-year interim. Prior to the last three seasons, the Panthers had made the playoffs in five straight seasons. Consistency is important: North Pitt will now be on its fourth head coach in as many seasons next fall.
Previous coach: Daniel Robinson (one year)
What happened: Robinson was the interim head coach last season and would have to apply to be the full-time coach next year.
Record in 2017: 3-7
Record last 3 years: 8-26
The job: Robinson was named interim head coach close to the start of the season. The Gators moved up to 2A and into the state’s toughest conference, where Wallace-Rose Hill won the 2A title and East Duplin was runner-up in 2AA. A 3-1 start last year was the best in school history, but the Gators scored just four touchdowns in six conference games. The next hire, if it’s not Robinson, will be just the fourth head coach since the school opened in 2001.
J. Mike Blake: @JMBpreps