Three of the area’s teams will have new coaches leading the way for them as the 2013 season gets underway.
Chris Slade takes over the reins at Pace, while Ryan Zimmerman assumes the helm at Mount Vernon Presbyterian and Steve Horton takes charge at North Springs.
It is the first head coaching position for Slade, a former NFL All-Pro linebacker with the New England Patriots in the 1990s and a college All-American at Virginia in the early ’90s.
He replaced Matt Hall, who started the Pace football program in 2008 and remains at the school.
“I’m very fortunate and blessed for this opportunity,” Slade said. “It was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. Not only have I been fortunate to be a part of this coaching staff, but that our program features such young, smart athletes.”
Slade, who was the defensive line coach at Pace last year, takes over a Knights squad that went 3-7 last year.
“I want to make sure my players are disciplined and tough and they try to play hard every single snap,” he said. “I want our players to play hard and be prepared for every single game.”
Zimmerman is also a newcomer to the head coaching ranks after serving as an assistant coach at Georgia State from 2009 to ’11 and as the defensive coordinator at Fellowship Christian last year.
“It’s an unbelievable opportunity that I wake up every day and I’m shocked that it’s been bestowed on me,” he said.
Zimmerman replaced Reggie Burnette, who resigned in February after his arrest for exposing himself to an adult female in an east Cobb subdivision.
The new coach will try to improve the fortunes of a Mount Vernon squad that struggled to a 2-8 record in its first year of GHSA play in 2012.
“We’re going to take our games one game at a time, one play at a time and build that into our players,” he said. “I believe, no matter what the record reflects at the end of the season, we should come out of it with a lot of momentum.”
Unlike Slade and Zimmerman, Horton has previous head coach experience, having led Lithia Springs from 2006 to ’10.
“I feel like, right now, it’s a great opportunity,” Horton said. “With the limited success they’ve had in the past, it’s a great opportunity for growth — for making a change and making a difference in quite a few lives.”
North Springs’ new coach, who was the head coach at Mason Creek Middle School in Douglasville last year, will try to reverse the fortunes of a long-suffering program that has endured three consecutive winless seasons.
“Our goal is to lay a strong foundation for the future, to instill in our athletes the discipline and academic strength they will be held to and to help them understand that,” Horton said. “We want to be competitive all year long and to win football games.”