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Rebel with a cause
New head coach vows to build championship team
John Ford
New Rebels head coach John Ford addresses players, fans and the media during a news conference in the Effingham County gym lobby the day after he was hired in January.

By Mark Lastinger

Editor for the Effingham Herald

SPRINGFIELD — John Ford is a man of high energy and high expectations. He made that clear Friday after being introduced as Effingham County’s new head football coach.

“It is my honor and privilege to come here and, God willing, use everything I have learned to invest into the Rebel football program,” Ford said. “It is something I am excited to do and humbled to do. It is not something that I take lightly.”

A 40-year-old Snellville native and Clemson graduate, Ford was most recently the defensive coordinator at Region 3-AA Bleckley County in Cochran. The Royals finished 8-4 in 2020, advancing to the quarterfinal round of the state playoffs for only the second time in school history.

Ford, a player on Brookwood’s 1996 Class AAAA championship team, owns a 61-17 record as head coach, including stints at Buford (2017-18) and Roswell (2013-16). His last two Roswell teams finished as the Class AAAAAAA runner-up to Colquitt County and Grayson, respectively.

Roswell posted records of 0-10 and 3-7 the two seasons before he became its head coach.

Barely taking a breath during a seven-minute address, Ford went right into his aspirations at his new school.

“I truly believe who we are is that we will be a championship program that strives to improve the life of every stakeholder,” he said. “It’s not just about the football players. I believe football can be the lead front door to the school so that people can look in through the football program and see all the unbelievable things that happen here.

“They can see the academics, they can see the band, they can see the cheerleaders and they can see everything that is great and special about Effingham County High School.”

Ford then touted the virtues of football. 

“I believe it is something that can make young men’s lives better,” he said. “I believe that football is an unbelievable teaching tool to teach kids to overcome adversity, to push aside instant gratification, to come together to work for a cause greater than themselves and to serve a higher purpose than themselves. I truly believe that when young men learn to do that — it doesn’t just help them on the football field — it helps them in the classroom and it helps them in life.”

After turning to a group of players, Ford promised to work hard to make sure that the seniors on next year’s team have “the kind of season you deserve.”

Rebels athletic director Matt Huntley introduced Ford. He was part of the selection process.

“Effingham County is a great place to work, attend school and it has a great football tradition,” Huntley said. “We knew that this would be a high-profile job and that we would have many tough decisions ahead of us. To prepare, we developed a committee within the county and executed an extensive search that yielded close to 100 inquiries about our position here at Effingham County.

“Through a lot of research and investigation, the committee narrowed down the search to some very committed, competitive and qualified candidates for the interview process.”

Interviews were conducted during a two-week period. They included “some of the top names in the state,” Huntley said.

The committee submitted Ford’s name to the Effingham County Board of Education, which approved his nomination 4-0 during Thursday’s regularly scheduled meeting. 

“He comes to Effingham County with a really good record and a fine reputation,” Superintendent Dr. Yancy Ford said. “We are really looking forward to seeing the good things that John can bring to the table and continue to move the football program at Effingham County forward.”

“I think, when the community, faculty and students meet (the new head coach), I think they will gravitate toward him, his energy and his love for kids,” the superintendent said. “We are very excited to have John on board. We are very glad to have his family — a wife and three girls — too.”

The new head coach succeeds Buddy Holder, who surrendered the job last November after holding it seven years.