SOUTH PITTSBURG, Tenn. (WRCB) -- South Pittsburg made its traditional march across Beene Stadium to its practice field Monday night for the first practice of preseason camp.
The Pirates relished the 30-second trip more than usual, having thought many times over the past eight months that the moment may never come.
"From going from one coach to a new one, then to him quitting, then we get another one. It's kind of been a long road," said senior running back JaJuan Lankford.
Change came to one of the area's most successful and stable programs when long-time coach Vic Grider stepped down last fall.
"It caught us all by surprise," said senior offensive lineman Cooper Lewis.
Still the school's athletic director, Grider thought he'd found the perfect replacement in early January.
Ricky Ross was hired after serving as defensive coordinator at Calhoun High in Georgia, a similar small-school program with an impressive history of success.
Three months later, Ross was gone. He stepped down in March without ever taking the field.
"It was really unnerving, to be honest," Lewis said of the transition. "It got old real quick because we never knew what was going on for sure."
By the time Tim Moore was hired in early May, the Pirates didn't seem to care who he was.
"My reaction was pure relief," said Cooper. "We were just happy to have somebody."
The team's first concern was simply making sure he was going to stick around for awhile.
"It was obvious they were wanting somebody solid and just wanted someone leadership to give them a direction to go in," Moore said of his first impressions on the team. "The assistant coaches kept them really regimented, so it wasn't too hard of an adjustment for them.
"But they've responded and they're doing really well."
However, it didn't take players long to realize Moore wasn't just an average coach making another stop along his career.
The former Vanderbilt player coached on state championship staffs at Battle Ground Academy before stops at Franklin Road Academy and LaVergne, so he had plenty of experience.
However, it was the fact he was a former all-state offensive lineman at South Pittsburg is what stood out the most.
"This practice field behind me, I spent a lot of time when I played here at South Pittsburg High school. I have some great memories out here and up on the game field, also."
The 1978 South Pittsburg graduate made sure to share many of those memories with his players, cementing his bond with the team.
"It means a lot because he can relate to us," Lankford said. "He knows what are goals usually are. Plus we know he probably won't leave us because he wouldn't do that to the town."
Having hopefully established some stability, Moore knows his next task is to provide results. As a former player, he understands the tradition he must continue and the lofty expectations that come with it.
Excluding Ross, he is just the fourth head coach in the last 50 years of the program, following the late Don Grider (Vic's father), Danny Wilson and Vic Grider.
To raise the stakes a little more for Moore: latter two coaches remain on staff as administrators at the school.
"We've been really successful, so it's going to be a challenge to keep everything status quo," Moore said with a smile. "I'll have some eyes on me, anyway."
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