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McCluskey becomes head coach at Ripley


Adam Minichino



The coaching dominoes continue to fall at Columbus High School. 


Less than two weeks after Bubba Davis retired after two seasons as the school''s head football coach, assistant football coach Grady McCluskey has accepted the job as head football coach at Ripley High. 


The South Tippah School Board approved McCluskey''s hiring Thursday. 


"I wanted to be a head coach and I am excited about the opportunity to do so," said McCluskey, who also was the powerlifting coach at Columbus High. "It looked like a good situation and I applied for it. I am excited about being a head coach again. I enjoyed it when I did it." 


McCluskey, who played for Davis at West Point High School, served as offensive coordinator at Columbus High School for the past two seasons. He resigned from his job as head football coach at Franklin County after three seasons (six years at the school) to come to Columbus. McCluskey guided Franklin County to the Class 3A state title game in 2006 and 2007, and won the championship in 2006. He also coached for one season at West Point and with Davis at Walker County High School in Jasper, Ala. 


McCluskey said Davis'' decision to retire "most certainly" had an impact on his pursuing the job at Ripley. He said he had planned to interview for the head football job at Columbus but wasn''t sure of his chances. When he was offered the job at Ripley on Tuesday, he didn''t feel he could leave a job offer unanswered while Columbus completed its job search. 


"I have to protect myself and make sure I have a job so I can take care of my family," said McCluskey, who will be a health teacher at Ripley High. He is married and has two children. "I hate it for the kids at Columbus because we had some really good kids. They were doing what we asked them to do in the weight room. I thought we had things going in the right direction and that we were heading for a breakout year (this season)." 


Columbus went 1-10 in 2008 and 3-8 in ''09.  


McCluskey hopes Columbus assistant football coach Tony Stanford gets a chance to be the school''s new head football coach. He believes Stanford would do a great job maintaining continuity and keeping the program on the right track. 


The Columbus Municipal School District is conducting interviews for the Columbus High head football job. A committee of community members and school district administrators will recommend a candidate to the Superintendent Dr. Del Phillips. It is anticipated a new coach will take over the job July 1, or on a date mutually agreed upon by the school district and the individual. 


Davis said McCluskey should do well at Ripley High because he "understands what you have to do to win" and that he is "willing to work hard." He said McCluskey also cares about the players. 


"He coaches like he played," Davis said. "As coaches, something we try to instill in our kids is to do everything right. That is the way he was when he played. He played very hard, was very intense, and wanted to do everything perfect. He carried that over into his coaching. He is very intelligent. If I had a son I wouldn''t have minded him playing for him." 


McCluskey replaces Cary "Mac" McCurry, who left the school after five seasons to become head football coach at Crockett County in Alamo, Tenn. McCurry was supposed to begin his new job June 1, but the school withdrew its offer. 


Ripley High went 6-6 this past season and lost to Aberdeen in the second round of the Class 3A North Half playoffs. The Tigers reached the second round of the playoffs in 2008 and lost in the third round to eventual state champion Louisville in ''07. 


McCluskey, who also will be the powerlifting coach at Ripley High, said he will emphasize hard work in the weight room just as he did at Columbus. He feels the next coach at Columbus High will be in a good situation because the returning players have made significant strength gains and have increased their confidence. 


McCluskey said it was difficult leaving all of the hard work that went into rebuilding Columbus High''s football program, but he said he feels Ripley High is where he is destined to be. 


"The record may not indicate what we wanted to, but there was a whole lot of work done here," McCluskey said. "That is why I hope someone gets a chance to stay and continue it. 


"It will be tough leaving West Point (where he lives) because we have a lot of family here, but I guess (Ripley) is where the Lord wants me to be." 



Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.


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