Justin Barnes is still familiar with some of the shortcuts and back trails in the Soddy-Daisy community, and those that have changed he'll learn soon enough.
A former football and baseball player at Soddy-Daisy Middle School, Barnes was confirmed Friday as the football coach at Soddy-Daisy High.
"It's exciting, very exciting," Barnes said Friday morning. "It's been a whirlwind the last week but an exciting one."
Barnes succeeds Kevin Orr, who resigned following the Trojans' second straight losing season.
"I'm excited because we're continuing with assigning young and goal-oriented coaches to positions within the faculty and athletic staff," Soddy-Daisy assistant principal and athletic director Steve Henry said. "Justin seems to be the total package, and that's what we're after."
Barnes went from Soddy-Daisy Middle to Red Bank High, where he played for four years under coaching legend Tom Weathers. He was twice named to Free Press all-city teams and was the region's offensive player of the year in 1997.
From Red Bank, Barnes went to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and tied a team and conference record with six touchdown passes in a single game. He then served as a student assistant in 2003 and 2004.
His coaching stops since, all in Georgia, include serving as quarterbacks coach at Central Gwinnett, offensive coordinator and quarterback coach at Oconee County and wide receivers coach and passing game coordinator at Dacula, Ga.
"Why Soddy-Daisy? Why not? I told myself any time it came open I was going to apply," Barnes said. "There is history and tradition, and Soddy-Daisy is a great place to be. I knew the place, knew the atmosphere Soddy-Daisy had on Friday nights, and when I met with Mr. [John] Maynard (the principal) and Steve Henry and some of the students, that meeting told me that Soddy-Daisy was where I wanted to be. The way [the administration] views things is right in line with what I want to do."
Barnes was impressed with the administrators' plan for the future.
"Their vision for facilities and what they want to do really sold me -- reaffirmed my belief in wanting to be there," he said.
He wasn't put off by the school's sagging football stadium or its dismal training facilities.
"I'm seen worse weight rooms, but I've also seen a lot better," Barnes said. "I know what a place like Soddy-Daisy can and should be."
As for goals, Barnes wants to see a solid foundation in place.
"I want to win this season, but I want that foundation," he said. "I'm never going to say it's a state championship because so many things out of your control go into that -- avoiding injuries, having a few lucky bounces -- but whether we win the region or go 5-5, I want to improve and start building that foundation for the future."
Barnes has solid ideas on citizenship as well.
"I want to be sure we're doing things right in the classroom, on the field and in the community," he said. "I've been around a bunch of good coaches and seen how things are done the right way. If I can't trust a player to do the right thing in the classroom or out in the community, how can I trust him when it's fourth-and-1 out there on the field?"
Ward Gossett is an assistant sports editor and writer for the Times Free Press. Ward has a long history in Chattanooga journalism. He actually wrote a bylined story for the Chattanooga News-Free Press as a third-grader. He Began working part-time there in 1968 and was hired full time in 1970. Ward now covers high school athletics, primarily football, wrestling and baseball and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling. Over a 40-year career, he has covered ...