Kerry Sandifer admits that he scours the Georgia Varsity Sports Vent from time to time.
It’s a good thing, too.
If he didn’t, he might not have gotten his current job and the shot to pull his alma mater out of a playoff slump.
Sandifer, who was hired by the Raiders before the season, graduated from Northeast in 1978. While he laughs at the thought of how long it has been since, he recognizes the value in how his players view him because he was in their exact same place years ago.
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“I think having graduated from Northeast and knowing the area, I can mentally relate to our kids,” Sandifer said. “I think, in turn and I didn’t know it would be this way, but I think they have responded very well. I don’t get all nostalgic on them and everything, but I think they have responded better than I could have expected.”
It comes as no surprise then that the Raiders are off to a 12-1 start this season in Sandifer’s first year. It all started with Sandifer’s occasional habit to check out gavsv.com, a Web forum dedicated to Georgia high school sports.
While perusing the content one day, he saw that the head coaching position at Northeast had come open. Without hesitation, he sent an e-mail to Northeast athletics director Alvin Copeland and got the ball rolling.
“I was probably more interested in trying to get ahold of him than he was trying to send me an e-mail,” Copeland said. “I had followed his career, and I’m always looking for people that we can bring back to Northeast who have come through here.”
After graduating from Jarvis Christian College in Hawkins, Texas, Sandifer stuck around the state to coach for five years. He returned to Georgia to go to graduate school in 1989 before coaching in the Atlanta area from 1990-98.
From 1998-2006, Sandifer was the head coach at Stephenson, a GHSA Class AAAAA program in Stone Mountain. He struggled in his final year with the Jaguars but went 18-4 during the 2004-05.
Upon leaving Stephenson in 2006, Sandifer decided to take some time off for family reasons. He continued to teach at Stephenson but he left coaching behind for a little while.
When he got the itch again, he accepted the head coaching job at Griffin — a job he had turned down once before accepting it — and went through coaching summer practices before deciding the timing wasn’t quite right.
The job at his alma mater, however, was the perfect fit. And with it, he got the chance to coach one of the best players in the state in Mike Palmer.
“I don’t think I’ve played with, and I definitely have not coached, a player with his intelligence,” Sandifer said of Palmer. “I think that’s what separates him. He’s never in a hurry. He makes great decisions. He has the skill to complete it all.”
That’s what Sandifer is hoping for most in his first season with Northeast — completion. The Raiders have struggled in past years to get out of the first round of the GHSA playoffs.
With the success Sandifer is already having, he might just be the coach to break that curse.
“I believe he’s the guy that can get it over the hump, and you never can tell with young people in terms of what they’re going to do,” Copeland said. “But I think with him and the kind of success that he’s had, his calmness and his coaching style he brings to the team, I think he’ll be real focused and be able to get past the first round this year.”