Thursday June 29th, 2017 3:23AM

Sphire excited for challenge that awaits at Camden County

By Jeff Hart Sports Reporter

SUWANEE — Known as a program-builder, Bob Sphire took North Gwinnett from the depths of football oblivion to one of the state’s most feared teams over the past 11 seasons.

Sphire guided a Bulldogs program that won just 183 games in its first 44 seasons (4.15 wins per season) to 110 wins during his time -- an average of 10 wins a season -- and a pair of state championship game appearances. The wins make him the winningest coach in North Gwinnett history.

After Tuesday’s announcement that Sphire was stepping down from the Bulldogs to take over Camden County, North Gwinnett will be left with some big cleats to fill.

“I wasn’t looking to go anywhere,” Sphire said Thursday from the Georgia coastal community. “They contacted me and asked would I be interested. Camden has a long history of winning. They’re down right now and I have always liked a challenge.”

The Wildcats finished 2-7 in 2016 under Welton Coffey, their first losing season since going 0-10 in 1988. Coffey had taken over for Jeff Herron, who just this past season guided Grayson to the Class AAAAAAA state title.

Camden County was one of the winningest programs in the state from 2001-13, averaging 12 wins a season during that stretch and winning three  state titles in 2003, 2008, and 2009.

“This was a great opportunity for me,” Sphire said. “I consider myself a program-builder and that’s what I’m going to try to do (down here).”

North Gwinnett finished 6-5 in 2016 and dropped a close 17-13 decision to South Gwinnett in the first round of the playoffs. Sphire said the future was bright for the Bulldogs moving forward.

“I think we had come out the other side of a couple of down seasons and (North Gwinnett) is in a great place for the next few years. There is a lot of talent there,” Sphire said.

Sphire will take over his new program on February 1.

There has been word yet of where the Bulldogs administration is on finding a replacement for the most successful coach in their history.

“I had a great time at North Gwininett and it’s a great place to coach,” Sphire said. “I’m sure they will find someone to be able to pick up where we left off.”

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