December 9, 2009 10:37:00 AM
Danny P Smith -
Bill Lee and Pat Byrd weren''t going to run and hide from losing records.
Their decisions to leave Starkville and Amory high schools, respectively, were difficult despite what was perceived as the poor status of their programs.
The coaches will now move on to other challenges. Lee has decided to retire and spend more time in the ministry and his family, while Byrd will try to resurrect the program at Saltillo High.
The Lee County School Board approved Byrd''s hiring at Saltillo High at its meeting Monday night and he was received well.
"It was an enthusiastic crowd and about 20 of them showed up with parents and a couple of kids," Byrd said. "Anytime you''ve got change I understand the honeymoon phase, but it was good to see interest like that."
Byrd looks forward to trying to turn around a program that hasn''t experienced consistent success since Willis Wright was coach there in the late 1970s and early 1980s before he left for Starkville High.
"They haven''t been very good for a couple of decades," Byrd said. "It''s kind of a blank slate."
As for what he''s leaving at Amory High, Byrd is encouraged about what the school will produce despite its 3-9 record this season.
"I think the program is in good shape," Byrd said. "The wins and losses this year wasn''t exactly what we were looking for, and a lot of things played into that, but Amory is a great school system and a great town with a good football program. I think whoever comes in there may have some tough times for a year or so, but there are good kids and better athletes coming down the road."
Byrd was a part of three Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 3A state championships as an assistant coach at Amory High in 1994, 1995 and 1998. As head coach, he reached the championship game in 2002, but the Panthers lost to Collins.
With the memories of good times and bad, Byrd calls the move to Saltillo "bittersweet."
"There are a lot of good people in Amory and I have a lot of good close friends," Byrd said. "I''m the only coach the kids that are coming through have ever known, as far as football is concerned. It was a tough decision, but something I felt I needed to do for my family."
Byrd will hold the combined role as football coach and athletic director at Saltillo, or be given the responsibility of athletic director over football, which means he''ll have control over the high school and the middle school at Guntown.
The only teaching responsibility Byrd anticipates is having a physical education class.
"That will be new to me because I''ve always been a social studies guy or driver''s education guy," Byrd said.
Lee has filled out the retirement form and let Starkville School Superintendent Judy Couey know his plans. The Starkville School Board met this morning to accept Lee''s retirement. His retirement is effective at the end of the school year. He won''t fill out the official retirement papers until February.
The Yellow Jackets finished 4-8 this season and lost to Madison Central 63-27 in the first round of the Class 6A North Half State playoffs.
Even if Starkville had been 8-4 instead of 4-8, Lee said it was time for him to make this decision.
"I''ll miss it, but I''m going to move on and do something different," Lee said. "I had been thinking about putting more time into the ministry and I knew I had the years in. It''s always good to do things on your own terms."
n Starkville players make All-Region: Five Starkville High football players made first-team Class 6A, Region 1, District 2.
Wide receivers Chuck Tillery and Justin Rogers, running back Billy Shed, linebacker Billy Shed, and offensive lineman Jarrod Atterberry were named to the first team.
On the second team were lineman Dennis Thompson, running back Prinston Henderson, tight end Martavius Foster, linebacker D.J. Jordan, quarterback Jaquez Johnson, punter Wesley Montgomery, lineman Tevin Hodges, lineman Chris Prater, lineman Adonnis Scales, and long snapper Jessie Coffey.
Wide receiver Perez Young, wide receiver Bryce Henderson, wide receiver Brandon Johnson, defensive back Stanley Childs, kicker Cody Berryhill, linebacker Blake Johnson, lineman Eric Rogers, lineman Bennie Henderson, lineman Kelvin Young, and lineman Cody Smith were honorable mention.