After several months of searching, Central-Macon has filled the football head coaching void left by Jesse Hicks’ return to Baldwin earlier this spring. Enter the Larry Harold era for the Chargers. The former Macon County and Brunswick head coach will take over a Chargers program that went 6-4 in each of the last two seasons.
Harold, who turned Macon County around in three seasons (2012-14), spent the last two seasons in Brunswick. Before he arrived at Class AA Macon County in 2012, the Bulldogs were in a slump. The last winning season came in 2007, when Macon County finished 8-4 and lost to Lovett in the second round of the playoffs.
In just three seasons at Macon County, Harold put together two winning seasons and turned the Bulldogs into a serious playoff contender.
In Harold’s first year, 2013, the Bulldogs went 6-5, and the tracks were being laid. In 2014, Macon County finished 9-3 and, yet again, lost to Lovett in the second round. But a young quarterback rising through the ranks gave hope to everyone around the program. A drop down to Class A did not hurt, either. It was clear that the little program in Montezuma, about 50 miles south of Macon, was on the cusp of greatness.
In 2015, Harold took the head job at Brunswick and left the Macon County program he had helped mold into a success. Dexter Copeland took over at Macon County and kept the momentum going with a 10-3 season in 2015. His young quarterback, K’Hari Lane, matured into a player who could lead the team deep into the playoffs.
In 2016, Macon County demolished McIntosh County 35-0 in the state championship game and capped off Lane’s record-breaking season, all with Harold watching from the sidelines.
“Coach Copeland did a fantastic job these last two years,” Harold said. “When I talked to him when he got the job, I told him that we had already laid the foundation and we knew we had a talented team coming back. I knew what I was walking away from."
The draw to Brunswick was simple for Harold -- bigger program, bigger check, higher classification and the beach.
“But it was the opportunity to go to South Georgia and coach (Class AAAAAA) football ... you know," he said. "On the beach, with a higher salary and all those other bells and whistles. I am happy for those kids at Macon County and I was cheering for them louder than anyone else, but I knew what I was chasing. I was chasing something bigger."
Harold took time Friday to answer questions about his goals for the Class AAA Central-Macon program:
Q. How is the move to Macon going?
A. Well, we are looking to move up there, probably at the end of April. My kids will finish (school) here. We love the Glynn County School Systems. So they will move up to Macon after they finish, and we will be looking for a home there.
Q. What do you see when you look at the Central program?
A. Oh, wow. First of all, Coach Hicks is going to leave a couple of his coaches behind. I know he had a great staff. They started out 5-0 last year and they kind of got into the region race, which is one of the toughest regions in the state. But small things, turnovers, miscues, kept them down. I just think our motto has to be, “Finish”. We have to finish when we get to region. But you are talking about a team that has 86 percent of its starters returning. All five O-linemen are returning. You have a quarterback, Donald Lamb. I told him that when I had K’Hari Lane as an eighth-grader, I told everyone he would be a household name. Well, fast-forward to now and you'll see. I told Lamb that we are going to work hard with him. The fundamentals, footwork, technique and he did the rest the last two years. He is a strong young man with a strong arm. Sure, there are some flaws in his footwork and technique, so we will work on that. They have great receivers, you know, and two of the most athletic safeties I have ever seen. Great big outside linebackers ... I could go on and on about the talent. But that talent has to be cultivated. The biggest thing is summer work. We really have to get it down pat. Building team chemistry and introducing our offensive, defensive and special teams philosophy. We need to really work hard to get ready for a, hopefully, exciting 2017 season.
Q. How is the fan base at Central treating you so far?
A. I was at a baseball game yesterday, and everyone was excited. I mean that is the one thing when you are going back to where you have laid roots, because everyone remembers what we did not to far from here in Macon County. They know that when I took over the program that they have not had much success in 7-10 years. And so they are hoping that we can come in here and help out. But I am not taking over a program that has bottomed out. Central has won. And hopefully I can take them to the elite level of making the playoffs, competing for a region championship and winning a state championship.
Q. After the first year, what would you consider a success at Central?
A. I would consider a success qualifying for the playoffs, having a deep playoff run and winning a region championship. And those are lofty goals. But I just think we have the ingredients. The coaches, the kids, the chemistry. I think we can accomplish those three goals in Year 1.
Q. Message to the fan base?
A. Coach Harold’s teams are known for three things: We play physical, fast and furiously. We are going to bring an exciting brand of football. We are going to be aggressive on defense. We are going to score points on offense, and our special teams will match both of those philosophies. We just need the fans to come out and support these young men. It is going to be a long, hot summer, and we are going to put a quality product on the field come Aug. 26 .