Five DeKalb County high school football teams will kick off the 2016 season with new coaches.
Former Druid Hills coach Mark Adams is now the head coach at Cross Keys. This is Adams second run at Cross Keys, where he coached from 1998 to 2001. Myron Burton, who was an assistant coach at Druid Hills for eight years, was promoted to head coach, replacing Adams.
Two years after leaving the program, former Chamblee assistant coach Curtis Mattair is back with the program as head football coach. The newcomers to DeKalb County are Justin Larmond at Miller Grove and Cam Jones at Lakeside.
Larmond spent last season at Griffin High School as an assistant coach and helped lead the team to the state playoffs. Before then, he was an assistant coach at Creekside High School in Fulton County where he won a state championship in 2013. When the Miller Grove job came open, Larmond did not pass up the opportunity.
“First of all, it was a head coaching opportunity and I’ve never been a head coach before,” Larmond said. “And a lot of people who knew the community and knew the players said it was a really good community to be a part of. That’s the main reason I came over.”
Larmond, who has playoff experience, will try to lead Miller Grove to its first playoff appearance. Larmond said his experience is what the program needs to get over the hump.
“Just the experience of being there, being able to help my players, coach my coaches and help us get over that fence,” he said. “Just the experience of being there—being in the playoffs six times out of the last eight years.”
Larmond wears his state championship ring to help motivate the players.
“They love [the ring],” he said. “Every time they see it they’re in awe of it. They want one and I let them know what it takes to get one. It’s always easier to talk to someone who has done what you want to do.”
Jones, the former Norcross High School assistant football coach, was looking to be a head coach again. Jones was the head coach at Chamberlain High School in Tampa, Fla., before moving to Georgia with his fiancée.
“I was craving to be a head coach again,” Jones said. “I was a head coach for two years in Florida and running my own program in my vision was really important for me. A spot like Lakeside coming open late was really appealing to me.
“They’re playing in a Gwinnett region so it will be challenging every week, which is exciting for me,” Jones added. “But [Lakeside] is also rich in tradition. It has strong academics, so a lot of things added up. In my heart this was the best decision for me and I’m really excited for this upcoming year.”
Jones said his goal is to bring back the winning tradition and excitement to a program that has not won a state title since 1991.
“We’re going to play a brand of football that’s pretty unique, so it’ll be exciting,” he said. “People will be excited to go see Lakeside play and wonder how we’re doing things when they see the box score. I’m excited for the kids.
I think the kids have really taken well to it.”
Mattair is also hoping to bring back excitement and winning to Chamblee. He was an assistant coach in 2012 when the team went 8-2, and will work to bring that winning mentality back to Chamblee.
“Of course the main thing is to try to change the culture because I’ve been away from Chamblee football for two years,” he said. “So, just coming in and trying to get the kids to learn the way we want them to do it. [I’m] not saying what was done before was good or bad, it’s just every coach has his style. So we’re getting them adjusted to what we want them to do. But it’s been going well.
“Of course it’s day by day; challenges come up but we try to address them in the beginning and nip them in the bud,” Mattair added. “We believe in sweating the small stuff, so anything we see that we don’t approve of as coaches, we’re on top of because we want to try to get the kids liked-minded like the coaches.”
For Burton, there will be new aspects of the Druid Hills football team but not much. Burton has been with the program since 2007 so the transition was a smooth one for him and the players.
“It [was] a natural progression because I’ve seen them and I’ve known them for quite some time,” he said. “I teach at the school—ninth and 10th grade—so I see them early and then we just continue that relationship up to their senior year.”
Burton said the playbook will remain somewhat similar with some slight changes.
“Since we have a big group of seniors they’re all going to be playing on offense, but we will change some things at the tight end [position],” he said. “We’ll go pro style a little bit, but we’ll stick mostly with our spread [offense].”
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