High School Sports

One of state's best coaches goes back to small-town roots

The coach stood 25 yards away from his team with his hands on his knees and his headset firmly fastened to his bald head.

He watched the next play in isolation, focusing on the next few moves he'd need to make like any great tactician, despite this only being a practice game.

The play ends and he moves up and down the sideline, but his eyes never leave the field. The quarterback heads to the huddle. The coach assumes the same position, hands on knees.

The coach's temperament changes when the defense takes the field. He walks to the middle of the scrum of coaches and players who make up the Lamar County High School football team. Decked out in a T-shirt and shorts, he assumes command of the defense. His intensity heightens. A player is out of position. The coach stares right through him. The player won't make that mistake again.

More than 50 yards away behind the end zone closest to the fieldhouse at Lamar County's stadium, Principal Derick Austin doesn't stop smiling. He knows the caliber of the coach standing on the other side of the field.

Franklin Stephens, a championship football coach and a guy many of his peers consider one of the great high school football coaches in Georgia, is the new head coach at Lamar County, a school devoid of a football pedigree. The Trojans have won 10 games in a season twice since 1970. Stephens has won 10 games in a season four times since 2007.

"I know why he's here," Austin said. "Some other people may think, 'Why is Franklin Stephens coaching football in Barnesville?'"

Read the story in Sunday's Telegraph

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