JEFFERSON — While most of us were left with our mouths open and tongues touching the ground following Tuesday’s stunning announcement that Jefferson head football coach Ben Hall was leaving the Dragons for Flowery Branch, the powers-that-be in Jefferson already were rolling up their sleeves and getting to work.
Jefferson Superintendent Dr. John Jackson said they had a feeling after a meeting with himself, Hall, and Jefferson Principal Dr. Kevin Smith just before the Christmas break.
“Ben came to us and said he had been contacted by Flowery Branch about their opening and was considering it,” Dr. Jackson said. “He was very upfront right from the start. He coached at Flowery Branch and he lives within walking distance I believe of the school so it seemed logical that he would consider it. I kind of felt he may take it so we started some early discussions right after that.”
The surprise for most of the fans was that Hall, who helped shape the Dragons into a consistent state playoff and state title contender over the past eight years, would leave the ultra-successful Dragons, who lost in the Class AAAA semifinals in 2016 and had a plethora of talent returning. Jefferson returns a solid offensive line, running back Colby Wood, and quarterback Colby Clark to a team that finished 12-2 in 2016, with both losses coming to eventual state runner-up Thomson.
The Falcons posted a 3-7 record in 2016 and appear to be in rebuilding mode and have not made the playoffs since the 2013 season.
Dr. Jackson said family was probably the main factor in Hall taking on the new challenge.
“Ben has three small children and they were all going to different schools so I think this was a move so that his children’s school situation could be more stable. It makes perfect sense,” Dr. Jackson said.
“Ben was (at Jefferson) for eight years and he did a great job for us. He got calls from schools every year which says a lot about our program that our coaches are wanted by other schools. We’re happy for him to be able to help his family and we appreciate everything he did for Jefferson football and the community.”
As for the direction of the Dragons heading into the 2017 season, Dr. Jackson said he doesn’t anticipate too many changes as they charge toward Spring practice.
“We have a strong (football) staff still in place and everything is moving along as normal,” he said. “We’re just going to find the best person for the head job that will keep us on a consistent level and keep the program moving forward.”
Jackson said they did not have a specific timetable in mind but that the process would probably not take as long as some may expect. He and Dr. Smith will be in charge of making the final decision.
“We’ve already gotten a lot of interest in the job. We’re in the process of going over the applications and new ones come in every day,” Dr. Jackson said. “I’m sure we’re going to find a great coach to run the program. Probably sooner rather than later.”
In other Jefferson football news, the expansion to Memorial Stadium is also moving along, according to Dr, Jackson. Controversy swirled during the Class AAAA semifinals last month when a scheduled home game against Thomson was moved to the Augusta-suburb school because of insufficient seating at Memorial Stadium.
Jefferson is trying to get the stadium to Class AAAA standards of 4,000 permanent seating capacity. They also are building a new fieldhouse to replace the one built back in the early 1980s.
The only drawback could be the state track championships scheduled at Memorial Stadium in May.
“We had a meeting this past week with contractors and the sort and the plans are coming together,” Dr. Jackson said. “The process has started but of course we may not be able to do some things until after the track season is done. I can’t say exactly when the actual physical work will begin. But we feel we’ll have everything done by the beginning of the football season (in August).”