VARNELL — It’s Danny Wilson’s first year as the head coach of the Coahulla Creek High School football team, but it isn’t his first go-around as the leader of a program.
Before serving the last three seasons as defensive coordinator at Coahulla Creek, Wilson spent 12 years coaching at Cleveland, Maryville Heritage and South Pittsburg in Tennessee, even winning a state title in 1994 with the latter.
Coming into a year plagued with lingering questions about the state of the season during the outbreak of the new coronavirus (COVID-19) and inheriting a roster that returns just seven starters from a 2-8 season in 2019, taking over at Coahulla Creek is Wilson’s most unusual, if not toughest, job yet.
“Obviously it pops into your head constantly,” Wilson said of the COVID-19 pandemic. “I wish we had spring to evaluate these guys, too, but everyone is dealing with the same thing, too.”
Wilson is excited to help build the Colt program. He is coming from a defensive background as the former coordinator, and he’s familiar with that side of the ball. That’s where he sees the strength of his young team.
“Fortunately, I’ve been here, and that’s helped the transition,” Wilson said.
Mason Milstead and Titus Underwood both return at linebacker for the Colts, while defensive lineman Adam Alexander is back up front.
On the offensive side of the ball is where Coahulla Creek will really feel the sting of departing players. Four of five starters on the offensive line have graduated, with junior center Will Bates the only returnee.
“If there’s a key loss, it’s there, without a doubt,” Wilson said. “Bates is going to have to take a leadership role in building that line back.”
The Colts will have a top runner in Tyler Locklear back in the fold.
“He’s a kid we expect a lot of on the offensive side of the ball,” Wilson said.
Coahulla Creek plays in a region starting this season that has turnover to almost match the Colts’ roster.
Longtime football power Calhoun, which had been in Creek’s region, exited with this season’s classification reshuffling.
Calhoun, which won 18 consecutive region titles before North Murray stopped that streak in 2019, will bump up two classifications to Class 5A.
It’s still a tough region road for any team to make it to the playoffs in Region 6-3A, with Adairsville, Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe, Murray County, North Murray, Ringgold and Sonoraville all returning, while LaFayette and Rockmart also join the fray.
Wilson has championship experience at his previous stops, and he said a big step in making that happen at Coahulla Creek has already been accomplished.
Wilson credits previous coach Caleb Bagley, who he worked under for three years, with getting it started.
“The big thing is changing a culture to a winning culture, and I feel like coach Bagley had already done that,” Wilson said. “Now it’s just about keeping it going.”
Colors: Navy and silver
Classification: Region 6-3A
Head coach: Danny Wilson
Last year’s record: 2-8
RB Austin Hernandez
OL Isaac Wiley
LB Boone Cresswell
RB Tyler Locklear, senior
RB/LB Titus Underwood, senior
WR Wright Nelson, senior
LB Mason Milstead, senior
DL Adam Alexander, senior
Circled on the schedule
@ Southeast Whitfield, Sept. 11
• Coahulla Creek’s second and final non-region game is against Southeast Whitfield in a battle of Whitfield County schools with a first-year head coach. Todd Murray is at the reins of the Raiders.
Murray County, Oct. 16
• The Colts get Murray County, a region foe and rival from the neighboring county, at home on Oct. 16
@ Ringgold, Nov. 6
• Coahulla Creek’s penultimate game in 2020 is against Ringgold. One of the Colts' two 2019 wins came against the Region 6-3A opponent.