Larry Harold hadn’t seen or spoken to Central’s football players prior to meeting with them Wednesday. But as he addressed them for the first time as the Chargers’ head coach, he found a hook he could use for a bit of motivation.
Harold, who put a nearly winless Macon County program on the path toward a state title before spending the past two seasons as Brunswick’s head coach, used the experience of facing a common opponent as a springboard to telling players what they could accomplish if they bought into his system.
In 2012, Harold’s first year at Macon County, the Bulldogs were coming off a 1-9 season. The Bulldogs were no match for a Peach County squad that reached the Georgia Dome the previous December, losing 49-0 in a non-region contest in Montezuma.
Given a chance to go through a full offseason program, however, Macon County came back much stronger. The teams met again in 2013 in Fort Valley, and the Bulldogs took an early lead on the Trojans. While Peach County prevailed 17-14, the Bulldogs gave the Trojans all they could handle.
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The point behind telling that story? Central also has to play Peach County, except the teams’ meeting is a region game. Peach County has won 12 straight against Central, with most of those games turning into lopsided affairs.
“The Valley is a special place,” said Harold, whose hire was confirmed Tuesday night in a called Bibb County School Board meeting. “I’ll never forget my first time over there and the game it turned out to be. It was exciting for both communities.”
In highlighting what that game will mean on the Central schedule, he said, “Just watching the film, you can tell there’s a little rivalry between Central and Peach that’s grown through the years.”
Harold wants Central’s players to buy into the idea that the Chargers can do something similar to what Macon County did: rise past previous adversity and accomplish big things. In Macon County’s case, that climb led to a state championship last fall under head coach Dexter Copeland’s leadership. It also produced several college signees, including Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith and Arizona-bound quarterback K’Hari Lane.
Unlike his beginnings at Macon County and Brunswick, Harold starts his stay at Central with a program that has a solid foundation. The Chargers are coming off back-to-back 6-4 seasons, with the season prior to that being a playoff qualifying season.
Harold challenged his new team to build on that foundation. He held up as an example Central’s 1975 state championship team, the most recent Bibb County public school to win a GHSA football title.
“We’re going to build that family foundation,” Harold said. “We’re going to make it fun for the boys, but we’re going to get out there. Everyone knows that Coach Harold’s teams are fundamentally sound. We’re going to be tough, play fast, and we’re going to put some points on the board.”
One thing Harold, a Southern University product, will have to figure out as he moves from Brunswick to Macon in the next couple of weeks will be the assistant coaches he keeps from previous head coach Jesse Hicks’ staff and the assistants he brings in.
Harold is giving Hicks’ assistants the option to stay at Central. But he also anticipates some of those assistants moving on to Baldwin, where Hicks returned in February after five seasons as Central’s head coach.
“Coach Hicks is a friend of mine,” Harold said. “I thanked him. He left a solid foundation for us to build on. He left a loaded team. Eighty-six percent of the team returns, which is exciting to be a part of. The only downside is, that region is really tough.”
Instead of a formal spring practice session, Harold said he will use spring workouts as time to work on agility and other skill-building exercises while beginning to implement the playbook. By GHSA rule, a team that doesn’t conduct a formal spring practice schedule can participate in an extra preseason scrimmage, and Harold said he plans to take advantage of that rule.
The April hire makes for a quick transition, but it’s a move Harold welcomes.
“I was actually thinking about, me and my wife the other night, feeling like LeBron James coming home,” Harold said. “It’s been a long journey. I’ve learned a lot in two years at Brunswick, and now I’m ready to take what we learned down south and bring it back north and make the Chargers great again.”