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GC trying Atkins to end grid famine

GC trying Atkins to end grid famine
New head coach Lee Atkins and the Gibson County High School football program sound like the perfect match.
“I like the challenge of taking a program where there’s nowhere to go but up,” Atkins told The Messenger over the weekend, on the eve of being officially named the Pioneer skipper today.
The 50-year-old Atkins — who spent the last two years as head coach at Franklin County in Winchester — takes over a GCHS program that will carry a 13-game losing skid into next season.
The Pioneers last posted a winning record in 1995 when they went 6-5 and last qualified for the playoffs in 2000.
Gibson County has won just one of six all-time postseason games, that in 1997 when it stunned Oakhaven in the first round of the playoffs.
“Every program I’ve taken over but one has been either 2-8 or 1-9 or 0-10,” claimed Atkins, who had head coaching experience at a pair of North Carolina high schools prior to taking the Franklin County gig. “It’ll be a huge challenge there at Gibson County, but I consider myself a builder.
“I plan on re-evaluating every player and every coach in the program and starting the process of making Gibson County a winner. I’ll use a fresh approach, but I want to try and build on the positives that Coach (Jason) Dyer has instilled during his time there.”
Dyer resigned the GCHS post in February after four seasons for what he said were “personal and professional reasons.”
Gibson County went 10-30 during his tenure with two of those victories coming via forfeit.
Both of Atkins’ Franklin County teams made the playoffs in the state’s largest Division I classification the past two seasons, but neither had a winning record nor made it past the first round in the postseason.
“The administration there told me when I was hired that they wanted to get the (participation) numbers up and get back into the playoffs. We did that each year,” he said. 
Atkins, whose resume also lists stints as an assistant coach at three Tennessee high schools (East Ridge, Spring Hill and Brentwood) had resigned from his Franklin County post in December.
He did so “to pursue a position at another school to coach with his son, Jon,” according to a story in the Columbia Daily Herald at that time.
The new Gibson County skipper said he was unsure of the makeup of his first Pioneer staff but had “made a couple of recommendations of people he’d like to bring with me to the school.”
Atkins has extensive experience running the spread offense, but would not commit to that philosophy at GCHS until he eyeballs his personnel.
He was adamant, however, that the program would not continue in the pass-happy Tony Franklin System that it employed last season.
“I came from an I-scheme at Franklin County, but in most of my previous jobs we’ve used the spread,” he said. “We will be talent-driven in what we run at Gibson County, though. If we have big linemen and good, fast running backs, we’ll be an I-formation team. If we have a good, tall quarterback and people who can catch the ball, we’ll throw it around.
“We won’t run the Tony Franklin scheme. You have to have the right talent to run it, and I’m pretty certain that we won’t. My version of the spread is designed to spread the field and throw short passes underneath in order to set up the run.”
While acknowledging the monumental challenge of establishing consistent respectability in a program void of that, Atkins pointed to his past as proof that it can be done — and quickly.
“At South Lenior in Deep Run, N.C., I took over a program four days before the season started that had just one winning season in 42 years and zero expectations of being successful,” he stated. “We won our first six games and finished 7-5.”
Atkins was one of seven finalists for the 2005 North Carolina Associated Press Prep Coach of the Year for his efforts duringthat season.
Gibson County faithful can only hope its pairing with Atkins has similar results.
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by e-mail at mhutch@ucmessenger.com.

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