Carl Dixon is like many longtime assistant coaches.
He wants to win, but he also had sights set on being a head coach. And most head coach openings come because of a lack of wins.
Dixon has been on the sidelines or in the coaches’ booth for a roller coaster ride at Perry, which had three head coaches and five winning seasons since he returned to the school in 2005.
Now, he’s the man, succeeding Erik Soliday, who returned to be head coach at Americus-Sumter after two seasons at Perry.
Dixon took over as head coach -- one of nearly a dozen new head coaches in Middle Georgia this season -- and athletics director in January, and he isn’t complaining about finally getting to spend more time, heat or not, on the field.
“I’m loving every minute of it,” he said. “The kids have been tremendous. I can’t ask for any more.”
Dixon’s career has been a diverse one, with stops at Jones County, East Laurens, Central and Macon County, as well as twice at Perry. All that experience still doesn’t completely prepare one to take over the head coach’s whistle.
“It’s a lot different,” he said. “But I am really, really blessed to have a seasoned coaching staff.”
Tony Byram, former head coach at Crawford County, stayed as offensive coordinator, and Randy Moss moved up to defensive coordinator to replace Dixon in that role. David Thrower, who coached at Perry a few years ago, leads the offensive line, while Frankie O’Neal (receivers) and Perry alum Tyler Rogers (secondary) have also joined the staff.
“It’s not a lot of young coaches,” Dixon said. “But the experience of that staff has made my job easy. I have really been blessed.”
Numbers aren’t want Dixon would like to see, with about 65 players in grades 10-12, but he has roughly 45 freshmen to go with a large sophomore class and decent-sized senior class, with about a dozen juniors.
The Panthers went 1-9 last season under the program’s fifth coach since the turn of the century: George Collins, Chuck Conley, Andy Scott, Stacey Harden and Soliday.
The last time Perry went 1-9 was in Scott’s final season, 2009. The Panthers went 6-5 a year later in Harden’s first year, something Dixon would certainly like to repeat.
The Panthers lost 24-7 to Houston County in an early scrimmage last week. Dixon said Houston County head coach Von Lassiter was complimentary of what he saw from the Panthers, but Dixon is still thinking about that 24-7.
“I said, ‘Coach, I appreciate it, but anytime those lights come on and that scoreboard’s on, we want more points,’ ” said Dixon, whose team had two days in pads beforehand. “Obviously, we’re disappointed from that aspect. But we were happy with the effort of the kids.”
Perry opens the season on Aug. 21 when Monroe of Albany visits. The Panthers took a 21-14 win a year ago at Hugh Mills Stadium, and they hope to break a long streak. They haven’t won consecutive openers since 2004-05 when they topped Stephens County 17-12 and 10-7.
A 98 percent attendance rate for summer workouts helps those odds.
“That’s a big improvement,” Dixon said. “We tell them every day the things we can’t control are their effort and attitude. So far, their effort and attitude have been outstanding.”
NEW HEAD COACHES IN 2015
Crisp Academy: Price Jones
Crisp County: Shelton Felton
East Laurens: Buddy Sorrow
John Hancock: Bob Peck
Macon County: Dexter Copeland
Perry: Carl Dixon
Taylor County: Mark Wilson
Trinity Christian: Jimmy Fields
Twiggs County: Ashley Harden
Wheeler County: Randy Grace
Westside Christian: Kelvin Hill
MOVIN’ ON UP
The lone head coach who was on staff and was promoted was Dixon, who has been at Perry twice, first for five seasons and then returning in 2005.
Felton is a Crisp County alum, and is one of the seven -- including Dixon -- with a previous connection to Middle Georgia.
Sorrow is back at East Laurens for the second time, after going at least .500 in nine seasons with the Falcons from 1994-2002. In 15 seasons as a head coach, Sorrow has yet to have a losing season.
Copeland has led Twiggs County twice and Baldwin once, and he takes over the most successful team that had an opening. Macon County reached the polls late in the season.
Wilson returns to the area, having been head coach at Lamar County from 1996-2002. The Trojans went 1-9 in his first year, 9-1 in his last.
Grace began his head coaching career at Montgomery County, took over for a season at Crisp Academy six seasons later, then was hired as head coach at Pacelli five seasons later, going 19-23 at the Columbus-area school.
Peck spent 11 seasons as head coach at John Hancock, also serving as headmaster, before leaving in 2009.
AN INTERESTING ROAD
Peck has also been head coach at Flint River Academy near Thomaston, Johnson County and John Milledge, as well as Barnesville Academy, all leading to induction into the GISA hall of fame in 2013.
But he had quite the full plate while at John Hancock the first time, as headmaster and head coach. He left John Hancock in 2009, and returned after several years of coaching girls basketball and track.
Now, he just has football and the athletics director job to deal with. He is 171-171-3 in 30 season.
ON THE GROUND RUNNING
Peck and Crisp Academy’s Jones got the latest start, getting hired in June.
Jones has been the head coach at Pelham and Decatur, going 53-64 in 11 seasons.
Ron Drummond went 13-20 in three seasons, including 1-10 in 2014.
This year’s class of coaches is one that knows the ropes, with six having been a head coach for at least 10 seasons.