Armstrong brings state championship pedigree

Blair Armstrong has been asked a one word question numerous times in the last few days: "Why?" Why would the head coach of the defending AAAAA co-state champion want to be the head coach at Class AA Banks County High School, a program which has not made the state playoffs in this decade?

For Armstrong, the answer is a simple one. "I missed the small school environment," he said. "I love to see kids develop and win. Coaching, for me, has never been about being at a large school. I have wanted to coach at Banks County for some time. This was not a spur of the moment decision for me."

A native of Florida, Armstrong coached in the Sunshine State for more than two decades before moving to Georgia. He was the defensive coordinator at Grayson High School in 2001 before becoming the head coach at Johnson High School in Gainesville for the following three seasons.

Armstrong took over at Peachtree Ridge prior to the 2005 season and guided the Lions to a 6-4 record. This past fall the team finished 11-3-1 tying Roswell in the state championship game. Before Armstrong arrived at Peachtree Ridge, the Lions had won two games the previous two seasons. Peachtree Ridge began the 2006 season at 4-3 but got hot at the right time and suddenly found itself playing for a state title, Armstrong said. Armstrong was officially approved as the new athletic director and head football coach for BCHS last Thursday by the board of education. Earlier in the day he held a press conference at Peachtree Ridge announcing his decision to leave. The news of Armstrong's new job quickly generated talk on the Geogia Varsity Sports Vent, which includes a message board for state athletics.

BCHS principal Art Wheaton, who conducted the search for a new coach, said approximately 60 people applied for the job.

"The bottom line is we had some good people apply," the principal said. "We believe Coach Armstrong fits what we are looking for. He has worked with programs that were trying to build a traiditon and is ability to communicate with the community is very important."

Wheaton said he wants the new head coach to work with players from the recreation level through middle school and into high school.

"I know this may have surprised some people but he wanted to get back to a small town, similiar to the one he is from," Wheaton said. "He is very genuine and displayed his desire to do that."

Wheaton said he spoke with 15 people concerning Armstrong and did not hear one negative comments. Florida State football coach Bobby Bowden and University of Georgia coach Mark Richt both gave Armstrong recommendations. The overall process of naming a new head coach moved quickly, as Wheaton said he wanted. Several current head coaches applied for the job as well as coordinators and assistants. "It was an exceptional pool of applicants," Armstrong will take over for former head coach Al Pollard who worked with the Leopards for the past two seasons. Many believe BCHS is primed for a run at a subregion title in 2007 and Armstrong credited Pollard and his coaches for that.

"There is no doubt the program has improved during the past two years," Armstrong said. The new head coach said he plans to talk with all current Leopard assistants and hopes many of them will stay with the program. Armstrong said he would likely bring at least one assistant with him from Peachtree Ridge although nothing had been finalized.

Armstrong said he plans to hold spring practice in May and hopes to get to know the players by that point.

"We are looking forward to building a successful program," the new BCHS head football coach said.

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