ATLANTA - Paulding County High School has advanced in the football state playoffs only one time in 40 years. Only 10 of its teams have had winning seasons. Only one player has made first-team all-state.
So it will come as a surprise to many, perhaps even to Paulding County itself, that the school is the cradle of high school football coaches in Georgia.
The school, about 30 miles northwest of Atlanta, has graduated seven current high school head coaches, six in Georgia. No other school has more than four in Georgia.
”This is very interesting,” said Paulding County graduate Adam Carter, the former Camden County defensive coordinator hired this year as head coach of Bradwell Institute in Hinesville. ”I would not say there was anything specifically about Paulding County High School that led to seven of us coaching, but I can tell you the coaches and the administration when I was there made a great influence on my life and career choice. Football and coaching young people are my passion.’’
And so it has been for six others Paulding County grads.
They include Brent Budde of Woodstock, Scott Hendrix of Cedartown, J.B. Arnold of Jefferson County, Ken Cofer of Cook and Jon Lindsey of Irwin County. A seventh Paulding graduate, Cameron Pettus, is head coach at Belleville West in Illinois.
The six in Georgia are spread from Bradwell on the Georgia coast to Cedartown on the Alabama border. Irwin County and Cook are in South Georgia. Jefferson County is near Augusta. Only Budde at Woodstock remains in the metro Atlanta area. There is one Paulding County grad coaching in each of the six classifications in Georgia, and four of the six have had their teams ranked in the Top 10 at some point this season.
‘’Wow, I had no idea we were in each classification,’’ Cofer said. ‘’I pull for them every week. I look up scores every Saturday, and the other five (in Georgia) will be the first I look up. They all definitely have my support. Except for J.B. when we play each other.’’
Cofer’s Cook team plays Arnold and Jefferson County on Friday in a non-region game for the second straight year. The series marks the only time Paulding graduates have faced one another as head coaches.
The oldest of the Paulding alumni are Arnold and Hendrix, both 1986 graduates. Arnold was a lineman, Hendrix a tight end. They went on to West Georgia, where they were roommates.
‘’I have always wanted to coach, and me and Scottie used to talk about it all the time,’’ Arnold said.
Arnold cites his high school head coaches, Jimmy Dorsey for three seasons and Bob Swafford for one, as having encouraged him to be a coach. So did his position coach as a junior, ‘’a green rookie’’ named Jeff Herron, the current head coach at Prince Avenue Christian. Herron went on to win three state titles at Camden County.
Hendrix said his main influences came before high school. He credits junior high coaches Ed Fowler, Ralph Harmon and John Puckett with planting the coaching bug in his ear.
”They were good men with high character that made an impression on me,” Hendrix said. “Coach Puckett ordered me my first coaching book when I was in seventh grade.’’
Two years behind Arnold and Hendrix was Cofer, whose father, Mike Cofer, was a long-time coach in Georgia. Ken Cofer’s coach at Paulding was Ken Phillips, a former player under his father at Manchester in the 1960s.
Ken Cofer’s parents thought so much of Ken Phillips that they named their son after him.
‘’My dad and Coach Phillips have passed on,’’ Cofer said. “I hate that they both never got to see me coach. I got into coaching because I remember seeing my dad loving it when I was around 4- or 5-years-old. His relationship with kids was what drew me in also. I was hooked and never thought about doing anything else.’’
The fact that Cofer, like Arnold and Hendrix before him, never played in a playoff game in high school didn’t seem to matter. No Paulding team before them had made the playoffs, either. Paulding earned a brief Top 10 state ranking in 1986, when Cofer was a senior, after a 5-0 start . The team finished 5-5.
But luck would change for the next two – Lindsey and Budde. They were the starting halfbacks in the wishbone when Paulding broke the playoff drought in 1990, under new coach Chuck Budde, Brent’s father. Cameron Pettus also was on that team.
‘’I played with Brent my senior year,’’ Lindsey said. ‘’Brent was a sophomore. I sent Brent to the hospital after a hit right after he had moved down from Illinois. We told him it was his welcome to Georgia. We still laugh about it today. Well, at least I do. We became good friends and still are.’’
Neither was surprised that the other became a head coach.
‘’I wanted to be a coach because I loved the game from being around it my whole life,’’ said Brent Budde, whose father just came out of retirement to join Budde’s Woodstock staff as an assistant.
Lindsey also wanted to be a coach at an early age. ‘’I knew from the time I was in middle school,’’ he said. “Not sure why. I just loved playing ball and the strategy that is involved.’’
In 2000, Paulding finally broke through and won a playoff game, making the state semifinals in the Georgia Dome and finishing 12-2. A key player on that team was Carter, a starter at running back and safety.
A few years later, Carter later got to know his fellow Paulding alumnus Lindsey at Camden County. Both became coordinators there under Herron.
Meanwhile Paulding County football began to slump again. The county saw its population nearly double to 80,000 from 1990 to 2000 and then to 145,000 in 2010. New county schools opened at Hiram (2000), South Paulding (2006) and North Paulding (2008).
That’s why the Paulding seven refer to their alma mater as The Paulding County High School. It is the oldest, dating to 1969. It certainly has a history like no other.
“Paulding County was a great place to grow up,’’ Lindsey said. “Not sure why so many of us turned out to be coaches, but all of us are highly competitive. Coaching football in Georgia gives us an opportunity to compete at a high level.’’