EARLY PREDICTIONS ON WHO WE THINK COULD MAKE IT NEXT YEAR
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BLITZ has added half a dozen coaches into its ‘Legendary Coaches’ Hall of Fame. To date, now 37 coaches make up the Legendary Coaches list. This year’s inductions include Kim Fleming (Dawson Cheer), William Foster (Banks XC), Chas Hardy (Commerce Track & Field), Tim Hunter (Union Soccer), Scott Neal (Tallulah Falls XC/TF), and Travis Noland (Stephens/Jefferson Football)
Criteria: 2009-present, in our coverage area only; minimum of 10 years combined head coaching seasons
Kim Fleming grabbed over 202 career wins as a competition cheerleading coach in 34 years as a head coach. She headed up the Monticello team for 7 seasons before going to Dawson County. Prior to competition cheer being a sanctioned sport by GHSA in 1993, she took her team to all-star competitions to compete. All told, Fleming has guided her teams to 26 Region titles, 5 Region Runner-up finishes, 17 top-6 finishes and 27 top-10 finishes at state.
After 33 years of incredible success that entailed a state runner-up finish and even 8 3rd-place finishes, she finally won her first state championship in the 2021-22 school year. She is not only one of the top coaches around, but a true ambassador for the sport of competition cheerleading.
William Foster has been one of the top cross country coaches around, as he’s coached at Banks County since 2012-13 and up until 2020-21. Prior to that, he coached at Franklin County. Just at Banks County, he has coached 8 podium teams, including a boys state championship team in 2017 and girls runner-up finish that same season. From 2016-2020, he won 7 region titles (5 boys, 2 girls), and had an individual state champion in Griffin Stephens. He also coached track and field, where the Banks boys won region in 4 straight seasons from 2016-2019, and earned 2 podium spots at state in that span. Foster also had a successful run at coaching girls tennis at Banks, grabbing more than 25 wins over 3 seasons, with 3 state playoff trips and 2 region runner-up finishes.
Chas Hardy has spent 9 seasons at Commerce over the track and field program going back to 2014. Along with coaching up 16 individual state championships (including his son Lambdin Hardy), he has tallied 3 state titles for the boys team and 10 podium finishes for both girls (5) and boys (5). The boys have won 5 area championships (14, ’16, ’18, ’19, ’21) and the girls two (’14, ‘22), giving him 7 total area championships.
Tim Hunter is entirely responsible for launching the Union County soccer programs into great heights. The longtime coach has coached the girls team since 1999 (24 years going into 2023), and the boys team from 2013-18. He has a girls record of 231-69-8, coaching every season but 2011. For the boys, he has a 43-18-1 mark. That’s a total of 274 victories in Blairsville. He has claimed 7 region titles, 6 of them for the girls in ’00, ’04, ’15, ’16, ’19, and ’22, making the playoffs 12 times with the Lady Panthers (and 4 with the boys). He’s made 9 Sweet 16 runs with the girls and 3 for the boys, and 4 Elite 8 runs for the Lady Panthers.
Scott Neal has had a long career in cross country and track and field. First at Albuquerque Academy (’92-’99) in New Mexico, then at Tallulah Falls School since 1996. In his nearly 40 years of coaching, he has coached 6 podium teams in track and field, including 2 state championships and 3 state runner-up finishes. In 2021, he led his track and field boys team to a podium finish (3rd overall) and an Area Championship, the first at the school, which also included a #2 overall ranking. His teams have also combined to win 6 region/area/district titles in Track & Field alone. He’s coached numerous individual state champions, including Zatrick Pearce (400M), Anna Davis (100MH & 300 MH), and James Davis (PV; state record 15’1) at TFS alone, and many others in Albuquerque. He’s coached several High Point Award winners, notably Evan Prince, Grey Bourlet, and Zatrick Pearce at Tallulah. His Tallulah Falls teams have finished in the top 8 10 times (5 for boys, 5 for girls).
Also heading up cross country at Tallulah Falls from 1999-2010 and 2014-present, Neal has led the boys to their first state appearance in 18 years when he did so in 2019. The boys finished 9th that season, and came in 15th in 2020. Individual region champions include Evan Prince (’20 & ‘21) and Alex Hubbard (’02). Along with his varsity success, he’s led middle school programs to 29 Tri-State Championships in cross country and track and field. All of this he’s accomplished while also holding down the Athletic Director position (’03-’05; ’08-present), and to that end has been named AD of the Year by Region 8-A Private as recent as 2020-21, and has been a Positive Athlete Northeast Georgia (Coach) and AD and/or coach of the year multiple times. Neal also has served as a head football coach for 2 seasons at Albuquerque (’96-’97) and for 3 seasons as a boys basketball head coach at TFS (’00-’03). He was the founding member of the Georgia Track & Field and Cross Country Association.
Travis Noland has spent a great portion of his career with local programs such as Stephens County (2005-13) and now Jefferson (2022-present), with a stay at Oconee County in between. Entering his 25th season as a head coach, he sports a record of 189-89 heading into 2022. After going 46-32 in his first coaching stops in North Carolina at Clyde Erwin (29-26 from 1998-2002) and Tuscola (17-6 from 2002-2004), Noland went to Toccoa to take over the Indians’ program. There, he went 73-30 from 2005-13, nabbing 3 region titles in his first 3 seasons there. His first season at Stephens saw the club make the quarterfinals, and he got the Indians to the postseason in 8 of his 9 seasons there, and had 3 10-win seasons. He then went to Oconee County and went 70-27 across 8 seasons, winning 3 more region crowns and making the state championship game in back-to-back seasons (2019-20). He put up 3 10-win seasons there before takin the Jefferson gig ahead of the 2022 season.
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