BY THE NUMBERS
• Averaged 11 wins per season in 16 years as head coach at South Pittsburg
• Won 3 state championships (1999, 2007, 2010) as head coach, one other as defensive coordinator (1994). Also won 10 district or region titles
• Coached 14 Mr. Football finalists, 46 all-state players
• The Pirates led the area in scoring during his 16 seasons as head coach, scoring 50-plus points 71 times, 60-plus 24 times and 70-plus 10 times. South Pittsburg also led the area in fewest points allowed during his tenure, holding opponents to 10 points or fewer 121 times, including 52 shutouts.
VARNELL, Ga. -- It took just one season and the right opportunity for Vic Grider to decide he was ready to return to coaching football. One of the area's most accomplished coaches has become the head coach at fledgling Coahulla Creek High Schol.
Grider was introduced as the Colts' coach at the conclusion of Monday night's football banquet. The longtime South Pittsburg High School coach takes over for Jared Hamlin, who was was let go after the Colts finished 2-8 in each of their first two varsity seasons.
"This past season was a good time for me to step away and recharge my batteries," said Grider, who resigned after the Pirates' 2012 season. "Coaches love challenges, and I was ready for a new one. There's no two ways around it: This is going to be a challenge. But we'll roll up our sleeves and get to work.
"South Pittsburg will always be my home, and I'm proud of everything we accomplished there. I was not out actively looking for a job, but when this one came along, things just fell into place and it felt like the right opportunity to get back into it. I'm not getting any younger; you only get so many great opportunities, and this is one of those for me and my family."
Coahulla Creek administrators contacted Grider about a month ago to discuss the job. After he turned down their initial offer last Monday, the school's officials made a second pitch. This time, after taking two days to evaluate the offer, Grider decided to accept it.
The 47-year old Grider has spent his entire 23-year coaching career at his alma mater, including 16 as the head coach. While there, he won 81 percent of his games (162-43 overall) with three Class 1A state championships and two runner-up finishes, taking the Pirates to the title game in four of his last six seasons there. He was the defensive coordinator on another state-title team in 1994.
Grider guided the Pirates to at least the quarterfinal round of the playoffs in 13 of his 16 seasons, averaging 11 wins per season. In his first season as head coach, with only two assistants on staff, he worked as both offensive and defensive coordinator for a team that reached the quarterfinals. Two years later he won the first of his three state titles as head coach.
While he called the offensive plays in 1998, the Pirates led the nation with a scoring average of 51.1 points per game. The 2007 state-title team averaged 48 points and scored on 31 of 38 offensive possessions in the playoffs, finishing with 41 touchdowns of 30-plus yards.
"When our committee first met to review the people who had applied and discuss those who we might be interested in that hadn't applied, Coach Grider was the first name mentioned as someone we should pursue," said the Coahulla Creek principal, Dr. Stanley Stewart. "Everyone on the committee had heard a lot about him, so he was the number one guy we wanted. We've been in the process of pursuing him for a few weeks.
"This is the biggest hire I'll ever make here. I was sent to this school to evaluate all the areas and make as many improvements as we could academically and athletically, and we certainly feel like we've done that today."
The Coahulla Creek players liked Monday's news.
"We can definitely tell he has high expectations to do great things here," said Luke Brock, who was a sophomore quarterback for the Colts this season. "I heard a rumor about [the hiring] this morning and got online to look him up, and that got a lot of us excited, seeing what he's done before. You can just tell the way he speaks, he's a winner."
Grider said he will finish the current school year at South Pittsburg, where he serves as assistant principal, athletic director and softball coach.
A total of 46 players earned all-state recognition with him as head coach, and 14 became Mr. Football finalists. In the six years after the TSSAA implemented a 35-point "mercy rule," Grider's teams beat 53 of 83 opponents by that margin.
Coahulla Creek competes in Georgia Region 5-AAA, which includes Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe, Murray County, North Murray, Ringgold and Sonoraville and beginning next season will add traditional power Calhoun. The Colts have won just one region game in each of their first two seasons and were outscored by an average of 18 points last year.
"I'm sure there isn't a lot of confidence in the program yet, but that's part of our job as coaches to build that," Grider said. "We've got to sell what we're building toward as a program.
"I'll get to know the kids, the school and the community, and then there's a staff to build so we're ready for offseason workouts. I think all the pieces are in place to be successful at some point. It's going to be a huge challenge, but I like the commitment by the administration and I'm looking forward to the possibilities."
Contact Stephen Hargis at email@example.com or 423-757-6293.
Stephen has covered local sports in the tri-state area for more than 24 years, having been with the Times Free Press since its inception, and has been an assistant sports editor since 2005. Stephen is among the most decorated writers in the TFP’s newsroom, winning numerous state, regional and national writing awards, including seven in 2013 and a combined 12 in the last two years. He was named one of the top 10 sports writers ...