New SF coach hopes to ignite football program

New SF coach hopes to ignite football program
Though there have been very few fireworks in and around the South Fulton football program the last few years, Kelly Spivey is convinced the Red Devil fortunes are ready to explode.
And he wants to be the ignitor.
Spivey, the defensive coordinator at Lewis County the past eight seasons, will get that chance after being named the new head coach at South Fulton High School by Obion County Athletic Director Robert Powell.
The new Red Devil skipper will replace Gwin Wood, who resigned under pressure six weeks ago following the second of consecutive 1-9 campaigns and after SF had won just nine of its last 40 games over the last four seasons. Wood’s overall mark in 19 seasons at SFHS was 88-114.
“What I see in South Fulton is a program that is eager for change and a proud community that is ready to burst with excitement with hopes of returning to the good times that the football team once enjoyed,” Spivey told The Messenger Thursday. “In my visit there and from talking to various people, I think things are ready to explode there. I want to be a part of it.”
The 36-year-old Spivey is a McKenzie native and has spent 12 seasons in all under the tutelage of highly-respected LC head coach Bobby Sharpe, who regularly has the Hohenwald school among Class 2A’s elite programs. Four times during his tenure as defensive coordinator, Spivey has had the Panthers ranked among the top three units in the state in the points-allowed department.
He said he’s had several opportunities to be a head coach but declined to pursue those — until the SF job came open.
“This is the only interview I took,” Spivey claimed. “South Fulton is where I want to be. I want to raise my family there, and I intend on being part of the community.”
The lure of his rural West Tennessee upbringing was telling in Spivey’s decision to leave the mid-state area to make SFHS his first venture into the head coaching ranks.
“That’s home to me,” he said. “I was born and raised there and I love the area. My father (Al) grew up in Union City and he and my brother (Scott) are both eye doctors in McKenzie. My granddaddy used to own a small grocery store in Union City.
“And I remember when I played football at McKenzie, we’d play South Fulton in jayvee ball. They always would hit you hard, and the program had the reputation of one that worked hard. Those are a couple of things I want us to be known for when I get there and take over.”
The hire is the first such for Powell in his newly-created role as both county-wide AD and head of student activities.
He said he received “around 30” applicants for the position and that he made some form of contact — either via telephone or face-to-face-meeting with “about half” of those who expressed interest.
Powell is confident Spivey is the right man for the job.
“His commitment to the kids, the team and the community was both very evident and very important,” Powell said of the new SF football mentor. “His knowledge and passion for the sport as a teacher and a student, along with his work ethic and his understanding of the time required to turn the program around, were also impressive.
“I also liked that he was not self-centered and was very sincere. I believe he’ll make decisions based on the program as a whole, and I truly believe he’ll always do what’s in the best interest of the kids and provide them with the best athletic experience possible.”
Spivey will likely bring with him an assistant coach who’ll serve as the Red Devils’ offensive coordinator, though he elected not to identify that person until later. He will try to meet with both the holdover assistants within the program as well as the team early next week to set up offseason workouts and detailed training schedules.
With Hohenwald a nearly three-hour drive from South Fulton, Spivey said it was unlikely he would be an everyday face within the Red Devil facilities until the end of the school year. He did claim, though, that he’d likely take “a few weeks leave” from his Lewis County academic responsibilities to put in spring practice in late February or early March.
“I will work hard and I can promise you we’ll make sure the kids in our program make a commitment in the weight room and in our offseason program before we ever put the pads on,” Spivey concluded. “They’ll be held accountable to one another, too, and we’ll have good character and hopefully give the community and the town something they can rally around.”
Spivey and wife Mary have two children, son Tyler, 7, and daughter Anna Grace, 3.
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by e-mail at

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