Durham County

Northern taps Hammett as next football coach

Granville Central head football coach John Hammett talks to Yovani Molina (88), Malcolm West (11) and Detroit Yancey (60) during the Panthers' game against the Franklinton Red Rams on Sep. 28, 2015. Hammett was hired to be the next football coach at Northern.
Granville Central head football coach John Hammett talks to Yovani Molina (88), Malcolm West (11) and Detroit Yancey (60) during the Panthers' game against the Franklinton Red Rams on Sep. 28, 2015. Hammett was hired to be the next football coach at Northern. newsobserver.com

Northern has hired John Hammett as the school's next football coach.

Northern athletics director Boo Rigsbee confirmed the hire on Monday.

“We were looking for somebody who had experience as a head coach,” Rigsbee said. “We wanted somebody who we could get on campus as a teacher in the building. We wanted somebody who could lead our guys and get them competitive again.”

Hammett comes to Northern from Granville Central, where he also served as athletics director. He will finish out the school year at Granville Central and then move to Northern.

Hammett said he was looking forward to the new challenge at Northern.

“I am thrilled to death,” Hammett said. “The history, the tradition that’s at the school and with the committment to put Northern back where they believe it ought to be, it’s just one of those special places for high school football in North Carolina. I am just excited to get started.”

Hammett coached at Granville Central for six seasons and posted a 34-40 record. His best season with Panthers came in 2015 when they went 9-4 before losing in the second round of the playoffs at East Carteret. Hammett turned around Granville Central, which had won one game in the two seasons before he took over. After a slow start with records of 3-8 and 2-11, Granville Central posted winning marks in the next three seasons. Granville Central, which finished 6-7 last season in what Hammett called a rebuilding year, lost in the second round of the state playoffs to perennial 1A power Tarboro 61-0.

“Leaving them was brutally difficult,” Hammett said. “I told them that last Friday and that’s always hard. But I know they’re going to get a great coach because they’ve got a great principal. Hopefully what we’ve done there, they’ll build on it. When I got there, they’d only won one game in four years. I feel like we got better every year. But now it is on to a new challenge.”

Hammett takes over for R.J. Wilson, who was 19-30 in four seasons. Northern never finished lower than third in the PAC-6 Conference under Wilson and made the playoffs each season. Northern’s nonconference record suffered by playing one of the toughest slates in the Triangle.

Hammett said his first task at Northern is to rebuild the size of the football team. He said he would like to have at least 100 players on the squad and to do that, he’s got to recruit the halls.

“There are a lot of kids there and we ought to have 100 players,” Hammett said. “I’d like to have 120. We’re going to do our best to get back to platooning.”

Hammett cited former Northern coaches Ken Browning and Gary Merrill as two of his biggest professional influences behind Don Murry, his first boss at J.F. Webb in the in early 1990s.

Hammett also coached at Webb from 2003-2008, compiling a 41-33 mark with four winning seasons, including a career-best 11-4 record.

Hammett has already picked up an assistant coach as Mark Woody also returns after a stint at Jesse O. Carson where he was the first football coach at the school (2006-13) as well as the athletics director. Woody, who teaches English, previously was an assistant at Northern.

Joe Johnson: 919-419-6889, @HPreps

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