Daniel not ready to end football coaching career

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Two years ago, Mark Daniel told The McDuffie Mirror he thought Thomson was the place he and his family could put down roots.

Steven FastenauSports reporter for Columbia County News-TimesJanuary 23, 2008  Jim Blaylock/Staff
Jim Blaylock/Staff
Steven FastenauSports reporter for Columbia County News-TimesJanuary 23, 2008

"But the Lord works in mysterious ways," he said during a February 2008 interview. "And I've tried to follow his path."

Daniel, a former Thomson football assistant, thought he would take over as head coach when Luther Welsh hung it up. But Welsh, who had been having medical problems, turned a corner and renewed his commitment to the program. He gave Daniel his blessing to look for other head coaching jobs.

Daniel had the experience. He coached Screven County to a perfect 15-0 record and the 2002 Class AAA football title. It didn't take long for him to garner an offer at Wayne County High.

The Yellow Jackets brought Daniel on as head football coach and athletic director. Daniel said he connected with the superintendent, a man Daniel said understood Wayne County's resurrection would be a process.

Problem: That man retired, and incoming Superintendent Morris Leis decided the program needed a new direction. Exit Daniel, to a full-time teaching gig -- at an elementary school. Enter former Lakeside football coach Jody Grooms, who was confirmed Feb. 9 as the Yellow Jackets' next coach.

The demoted coach recently said that he would like to continue his career as a head football coach. He said he would apply for Lakeside's vacancy, that he liked the Augusta-area schools, and that it "would be fun to swap with Grooms."

Daniel has his administrative certificate. He said he could fade away into a principal's role, but that he didn't feel ready to quit football.

The odds of a switcheroo with Grooms likely are not in Daniel's favor. First, the move would require a significant pay cut from the almost $105,000 salary he earned his last year as Wayne County's football coach. Second, there seems to be significant support among Lakeside football parents to continue what Grooms wrought during his three-season tenure.

Following that thinking, the most logical choice would be Jarrett Troxler, a Grooms assistant with a similar up-beat style and someone who knows the playbook (except, maybe, for the play that has been mentioned a time or two the past week. That page has been torn out).

But Lakeside principal Jeff Carney has shown he isn't afraid to go after a big name. Carney targeted Westside legend Gerald Barnes during the 2008 search for a Panthers baseball coach before hiring from within. Things could play out similarly this time.

Carney said following Grooms' approval in Wayne County he had already received numerous phone calls. Some of those expressing interest are bound to have solid resumes in Daniel's mold.

The pay and parents' feelings both will play parts in determining Lakeside's next coach. The search committee will conduct interviews the first week of March.

Until that second week, like Daniel, we will play the waiting game. In the end, someone's path will change.


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