After leading Harris County to the best seasons in school history, Tommy Parks was named the new head football coach at Upson-Lee Friday.
Parks returns home to Thomaston to take over an Upson-Lee program that hasn’t won more than six games since 2005 and has made the playoffs only once since then. He played for Tommy Perdue at R.E. Lee and was on the Rebels' 1988 state championship team.
"Obviously, one of my main reasons for joining the coaching ranks is (Perdue)," Parks said. "He molded me from a teenager into a young man."
Parks has plenty of checkmarks on the “what have you done for me lately” scorecard.
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He went 37-46 in his first eight seasons at Harris County, but he found a renaissance in 2012.
Harris County lost its first four games of the season before beating Douglas County in triple overtime. That win became the catalyst for an eight-game winning streak that resulted in a region championship and playoff wins over Northgate and Warner Robins before losing to eventual state champion Gainesville in the quarterfinals.
The Tigers had another memorable season in 2013, going 9-3 with a playoff win over Glynn Academy before losing again to the eventual state champion, which was this time Creekside.
The school had never won more than seven in a season – the Georgia High School Football Historians Association data goes back to 1956 – before Parks led the school to the best seasons in school history.
Harris County made the playoffs three other times in Parks’ first eight seasons.
Parks played defensive tackle alongside Steve Devoursney, now the head coach at Griffin, for the Rebels during the championship run in 1988. They went 14-1 in 1987, losing in the state championship game to Central-Carrollton.
"I remember the pressure," Parks said. "We just went 14-1. We were ranked No. 1. There were expectations for everyone to be successful. It was a long season, but it was extremely gratifying."
Upson-Lee has struggled to recapture the magic former head coach Tommy Perdue delivered at R.E. Lee and in the first few years Upson-Lee was open.
Perdue went 11-2 in 1993, still the best season since R.E. Lee and Upson County consolidated in 1992.
Perdue led one of the area’s best programs at R.E. Lee. The Rebels won a state title in 1988, lost in the state championship in 1987 and had six 11-win seasons under Perdue.
An impressive pedigree of coaches followed Perdue.
Mike Earwood took over in 1996 and went 1-9. He had already won a state championship at Cartersville and would leave Thomaston to start the successful program at Starr’s Mill.
Hal Lamb followed Earwood and went 5-15 in two seasons. After two years at Upson-Lee, Lamb took over at Calhoun and turned it into one of the best programs in the state. He won a title there in 2011, played in three other championship games and has won 10 or more games in 13 straight seasons.
Mike Majors followed Lamb and had the longest run of success in school history. He went 54-24 and never had a losing season in seven seasons. But the Knights went 2-6 in the playoffs during that run.
The Knights have only had two winning seasons since 2006.