Mark Farriba made one of the toughest decisions of his life when he left Stratford in 2007.
It turns out that goodbye wasn’t forever.
Farriba will return to lead his alma mater after landing the Eagles’ head coaching job Thursday. He will replace Rodney Collins — who stepped down after the season — after spending the past six seasons at Prince Avenue Christian in Bogart.
“I’m really looking forward to coming back home,” said Farriba, who is 147-97-3 in his career. “We’ve thoroughly enjoyed our time in Athens. At the same time, Stratford has been my home. I’m really excited about the opportunity and the future. This is a good opportunity to come home and be an Eagle again.”
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Stratford interviewed seven individuals for the job, including internal candidates, according to Stratford athletics director Grady Smith. Smith said Farriba jumped to the top of the list when he decided to pursue the job.
“I was so excited when he threw his name in the hat,” Smith said. “I tried not to get too optimistic because you don’t want to get hurt if he decided not to come. But I just got excited because I know what kind of coach he is and what kind of character he brings.”
Farriba built Prince Avenue football into one of the top private school programs in Class A. The Wolverines lost to Eagle’s Landing Christian in the GHSA Class A private school championship game in December. He led Prince Avenue to the Class A semifinals in 2011.
The team went 2-8 in its first full varsity season in 2006. Farriba arrived in 2007 and went 11-18-1 in his first three seasons. The Wolverines went 31-8 over the past three seasons.
“I told our players that what we’ve all been able to do (at Prince Avenue) is one of the things I’m most proud of in my life,” Farriba said. “It’s even sweeter, because the first few years were so hard.”
The 56-year-old went 27-20 in four seasons as Stratford’s head coach from 2003-2006. He led the Eagles to the GISA Class AAA championship in 2004, beating rival FPD 35-34 in overtime in the championship game. He landed the Stratford job in 2003 after Collins left for a job at Riverside Military. Either Collins or Farriba has been the head football coach at Stratford since 1987.
Farriba started out as a head coach at Stratford’s biggest rival FPD. After serving as an assistant to his high school coach, Bobby Brown, for six years, Farriba won 83 games in 11 years for the Vikings. He led the Vikings to the GISA Class AAA championship in 1985, beating Albany’s Riverview Academy 7-0 in the title game. FPD also played for the championship in 1988, losing to Tattnall Square. He left for one season to work as a graduate assistant at Kentucky before returning to FPD in 1992 to coach the Vikings for another five seasons. He left to work for Collins at Stratford in 1997.
Farriba was a standout baseball and football player at Stratford, and his father was instrumental in the founding of the school. He went on to play football at Georgia.
Farriba replaces Collins for the second time.
Collins went 158-95-2 in 21 seasons (in two stints) as the head coach at Stratford. He won three state championships and five region titles at Stratford. He went 247-160-5 overall.
“It has been kind of an odd cycle, replacing each other,” Farriba said.