Assistant McCluskey to take over Bulldog team

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 14, 2005

MEADVILLE &045; School officials at Franklin County opted to hire within and promoted assistant Grady McCluskey to the position of head football coach.

McCluskey, who completed his third year on staff at the Meadville school, will take over following the resignation of former head coach Anthony Hart in late January. McCluskey will take control of a program that lost in the Class 3A South State championship last fall and finished 29-8 in Hart’s three seasons.

&uot;I think it’s a great opportunity,&uot; said McCluskey, who served as offensive coordinator the last three seasons. &uot;I’m just going to carry on what Coach Hart had going over here and what Coach (Michael) Goff had in the past. We’ve got some good kids returning. Our administration works with the coaches. I’m excited. I’m working hard for next year.&uot;

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McCluskey takes over the position after coaching alongside Hart for three years following a stint in Alabama. The two go back a ways, all the way to McCluskey’s senior year of high school at West Point when he was the quarterback and Hart was a newcomer to the coaching staff there &045; a year the team won a Class 4A state championship.

McCluskey also coached with Hart in Alabama.

When Hart had an opening at Franklin County, he offered it to McCluskey, who was in his first year as a coach at West Point after spending six seasons at Walker High School in Jasper, Ala., and getting his first job at Wayne County.

He went to Walker with Hart, who later left there for Loyd Star before taking the job at Franklin County. Hart is finishing out the school year before taking over as head coach at 4A Lafayette County.

&uot;That spring they decided they would go to Walker, and I followed them over there,&uot; McCluskey said. &uot;I was there for six years. Then Anthony called and said he was taking over over here and asked me to help. I knew he was going to run a tight ship and do things right.&uot;

McCluskey will step into the position of head coach with the task of filling two vacancies on the staff. He’ll turn over his position of offensive coordinator to someone and also have to replace offensive line coach Raymond Buffington, who is retiring.

Others on staff expected to return are running backs and receivers coach Charles Moore, defensive line coach Johnny Daves and linebackers coach Tony Gibbs.

McCluskey takes over with the program on the heels of its best season since a South State appearance in 1995 with a number of players returning.

The Bulldogs were led this past season by senior quarterback Jasper O’Quinn, but the team had a number of underclassmen who contributed, including juniors Marcus Tillman and D.J. Shaw and freshman defensive lineman Bo Tillman.

O’Quinn signed with Delta State. Four others signed with junior colleges.

&uot;We’ve got a lot of expectations on us,&uot; he said. &uot;I’m hoping we can carry on some of that success we had. We’ve got a lot coming back on defense &045; about eight or nine. We’ve got to rebuild the offensive line. We lost some good skill people on offense. We’ll be kind of inexperienced on offense, but we’re hoping our defense will carry us for a while.&uot;

The Bulldogs will get their first taste of their new head coach when spring camp opens April 25. The team will host a nine-team jamboree May 12.

The schedule is also set as the Bulldogs will compete in a realigned Region 7-3A that will include South Pike and Tylertown. The Bulldogs’ non-region schedule will include a contest at Natchez High and a home contest with Brookhaven.

&uot;We know we’ve got a lot of competition,&uot; McCluskey said. &uot;The kids are working hard. We’ve been doing that since we’ve been here. We’ll try to stay in shape. The kids are excited about the schedule.&uot;