KINGSLAND, Ga. -- Camden County is a football powerhouse in the state of Georgia. Head Coach Jeff Herron led the Wildcats to three state championships and national attention in his 13 years with the program.
But earlier this year, he shocked the community with the announcement that he was leaving Camden County, a school of almost 3,000 and a Class 6A football team. He's the new head coach at Prince Avenue Christian, a Class A team with about 250 students in the entire high school.
Camden County administration hired from within, promoting Offensive Coordinator Welton Coffey to the head coach position. He's no stranger to winning.
"Coaching is not something you just do in a place, it's something that you share with the people, young people. And I've just had great opportunities to do that over my years," said Coffey, who has been coaching longer than his current players have been alive.
He attended Raines High School and graduated in 1985. Five years later, he started his coaching career as an assistant coach at Englewood. He was there for five years before moving to Fletcher for two years. Then he was hired as head coach at his alma mater.
"I was blessed to be able to go back to my high school and coach. What an honor that is," said Coach Coffey.
During his inaugural season at Raines in '97, he made quite an impact. His team went 15-0 on the season and they brought home the 4A State Championship.
The '97 Vikings were also the last Jacksonville public school to win the title. During Coffey's six seasons at Raines, the Vikings made the state playoffs five times.
"That was my dream. I didn't think it could get any better than that. But it has," said Coach Coffey.
He stayed at Raines until 2002 when he took an offensive coordinator job at Valdosta. He was there for three years before making the move to Camden County.
"The people here love their football. Just like in Jacksonville," said Coach Coffey. "Coaches before me have done an outstanding job. Previous coach, Coach Herron, has laid great groundwork here."
And so far this year, good things have happened. Camden County started the season off with a scrimmage against Milton. They won 40-7. While it doesn't count in the record books, it's a great way to kick off 2013.
"I've been blessed to be around great athletes, great coaches, no question. It is not a one man show. It takes a number of great men, administration, faculty members, all of these people being on the same page to have consistency when you're talking about having a football program. Not a team, a football program. That is essential," said Coffey.
As for this upcoming season? He said the formula will still be the same.
"We're looking for great things this year. This community has grown accustomed to winning games and having a great product on the line, and we're looking forward to this season," said Coach Coffey. "They love their football. And, it's great to be a part of such a great tradition."
Camden County is playing in the Georgia Dome on Saturday, August 24, for the regular season opener vs. North Gwinnett, a nationally ranked team.
First Coast News