MILLEDGEVILLE — Dexter Copeland has less time than most high school football coaches to get his team ready for an upcoming season.
But the lure of leading the Baldwin football program was too much to pass up, even if Copeland has less than four months before the opening week of the season.
Baldwin hired the now-former Twiggs County head coach this week to take over its program, nearly two months after Jesse Hicks resigned to take the head coaching job at Dougherty.
“(Copeland) has worked in the system before, and we were very impressed with what he has done at Twiggs County,” Baldwin County superintendent Geneva Braziel said.
Copeland isn’t sure when he’ll be on campus full time. He said he wants to put together some sort of spring practice at some point.
“It’s definitely a concern coming in late, but I’m just going to try to be around and meet the kids and get to know them as much as possible,” Copeland said. “We can hit the ground running that way.”
The former Northside standout goes to Baldwin after nine years as the head coach at Twiggs County. He went 73-32 during his tenure, and he was 70-25 during the past eight years.
Copeland had just two losing seasons — his first year in 2001 when the Cobras went 3-7 and a 4-6 year in 2006.
Copeland won 10 or more games four times, including a high on 12 in 2002. The Cobras went 11-2 last season, and many considered them threats to win a GHSA Class A championship. They were upset by Darlington in the quarterfinals after winning 11 straight games following a season-opening loss to Wilkinson County. The Cobras won the Region 2-A championship and dominated Wilcox County 48-14 in a September matchup. Wilcox County eventually went on to win the state championship.
“I’m very proud of what we did here,” Copeland said. “We built it up from the ground. Leaving is one of the toughest decisions I’ve made. I couldn’t sleep because it was like I was leaving family. But I think it was the right decision.”
Copeland went to Twiggs County after two years as an assistant football coach and head baseball coach at Baldwin.
“I love (Milledgeville) and enjoyed my time there,” Copeland said. “I only left because I got a head coaching opportunity.”
Copeland will replace Hicks, who set the bar high at Baldwin.
Hicks went 70-24 in eight seasons at Baldwin. His teams never suffered a losing season, and he posted three 10-win seasons. His team played in the state semifinals in 2005. The Braves are coming off back-to-back region championships after ending a 22-year drought without a region title.
Baldwin suffered seven consecutive losing seasons before Hicks arrived. The 10-win season in 2005 was the school’s first season with double-digit wins in 19 years.
“It’s going to be hard to follow a legend,” Copeland said of Hicks. “He set some great tradition. We’ll try to build on it.”