Mark Ledford got to do three things for his home town team in Rochelle: play for a state title, win a state title as a coach, and coach his son at their alma mater.
For him, he couldn’t ask for anything else in the place he grew up.
“I wasn’t in the coaching business, at first, to be a head coach,” Ledford admits. “But it happened and it happened to be at my home school for the first time. I had committed to raising my family in one place and keeping my kids in school. I wanted them to attend one high school and a middle school and was able to do that. To be able to accomplish the things we were able to accomplish was amazing.”
But time, in all places, comes to a close at one time or another -- and very few people get to call their own shot. For him, it was at the end of last season -- his 17th at home in Wilcox County. There were five straight losing seasons after an incredible run of four region titles in six years in Region 2-A and a state title at the Georgia Dome in 2009 to cap it all off.
The first thing that popped in my mind when I wrote that last paragraph was the winning shot of Ledford running across the field to shake the hand of Donald Chumley of Savannah Christian after a 30-21 win.
In those six years, the Patriots had double-digit wins and a run of 70-11.
“To be able to win a state title and the only one we’ve won,” Ledford says, “it was special the way it brought the town together and, then, to finish my career -- and watch my son play football and daughter participate in softball and cheerleading and her whole high school career. I just don’t know if it’ll get any better than that. I guess that’s how I’m so content doing what I’m doing now.”
But now, Mark is a 40-minute drive away from home as the coach of a ninth grade team down at Tift County. It’s not what you think. It’s not a demotion. Not in the least.