Photos Andy Calvert
“At this point in my career, I need to look out for what’s best for the program,” he said. “It would be to the best benefit of the school and its young group of football players to allow a new head coach to come in now and establish themselves, instead of starting all over when I retire in a year or two.” Wheeler went on to become a defensive line coach at Pepperell High School.
For Mathis, this is a homecoming of sorts as he had played and coached in this area before he took a coaching job in Marion County, Tennessee, where he went 26-23 in four seasons and made the playoffs each season. “It’s a great feeling to be back here,” he says. “Coosa is a good program with a lot of tradition in Floyd County. And that tradition is something that you can build on here.”
The changes and adjustments have not been as big a burden as one might imagine. “The players’ attitudes and attendance have been great this offseason,” Mathis says. “They are learning new systems on both sides of the football. The attitudes and leadership has been where it needs to be. Our coaches are doing a great job also, so we are looking forward to getting out there and seeing how we improve each week and seeing where we end up at the end of the year.”
According to Mathis, the team’s seniors have really stepped up. “I believe some of them have seen how quickly thing can be taken away,” he says. “When that happens, you receive a different perspective on stuff like summer workouts, summer practices, and just the little things that we take for granted. So, when those things were taken away, it lit a fire under some of them. Our seniors have been great, our senior leadership has been particularly good. We have several that play multiple sports and they saw how quickly those sports were shut down and know it could happen in football. There is some pep in their step when it comes to practice, and the weight room and those things.”
It’s the start of a new era for Coosa High School football, on the field and off. “We are in the business of raising young men. In high school football, we just use that as a tool to create these young men and to shape them into husbands, fathers, employees and community leaders,” Mathis says. “We want to be known as a hard working group. The fundamentals of our football program is based on relationships between coaches, between players and hopefully between the community. We can win the community over by the way that we play, the way that we conduct ourselves and the way that we go about our business.”