Allatoona in quarters for second straight season, but program was nearly torn apart before it ever got started
November 30, 2012 05:30 PM | 3286 views | 0 0 comments | 18 18 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tonight, Allatoona’s football team will take the field for its second appearance in the state quarterfinals in as many years when it takes on Whitewater.

During a two-month period of 2010, it would have been hard to see this coming.

When the Cobb County School District was faced with a $127 million budget deficit in April of that year, the school board had to make the difficult decision to eliminate 1,000 teachers, administrators and support staff to balance its budget for the 2010-11 school year.

One of the criteria in determining the cuts was service time within the school district, and if a teacher or staff member didn’t have a long enough tenure in the district, they would be among the first to lose their jobs.

Considering Allatoona had only been open for two years, that threatened to have a big impact on the school, and it could have decimated the Buccaneers’ promising athletic program.

For awhile, nearly every coach in Allatoona’s athletic department were left without a job — including football coach Gary Varner and his staff.

“The day after it happened, many of the coaches got calls from other programs in different counties to come and interview for their open positions,” Allatoona athletic director Benji Morrell said.

Many of the coaches did go on those interviews, but in the end, nearly all stayed.

For two months, the various coaching staffs spent time preparing the respective teams they may have not had the opportunity to coach later that fall. It was a giant leap of faith considering they may not have been able to find teaching jobs at all for the following school year.

“They didn’t miss a beat,” Morrell said. “Instead of getting bitter (about their contract situation), they got better.

“I really think that experience solidified the bond at Allatoona.”

The coaches’ loyalty to Allatoona bore its fruits when the school board rehired nearly 500 teachers later that summer.

On the football staff, it’s a bond that still holds. All eight of the assistant coaches on staff when the potential upheaval occurred — defensive coordinator Troy Peterson, receivers coaches David Cintron and Jeremy Anderson, quarterbacks coach Barry Cox, defensive line coaches Brett Hubinger and Andy Wilcox, linebackers coach Mike Dennison and running backs coach Keith Byrd — are still there, and they’re now reaping the rewards.

Since becoming eligible for the playoffs in 2010, the Buccaneers have put together a county-best 31-5 record with three playoff appearances and a region championship in 2011.

In three short years, Allatoona has worked itself into the discussion when talking about the county’s elite programs, joining the likes of Kell, Lassiter and Hillgrove, along with traditional powers McEachern, Marietta and Walton. The Buc-caneers are also the first county team to play in back-to-back state quarterfinals since McEachern did it in 1998-99.

“That’s what makes us feel good as a program,” Varner said. “We’ve done well as a varsity program for three years.”

Varner was an assistant on Roswell’s staff when it won a share of the state championship in 2006, and he has tried to use what he learned as a blueprint for the Buccaneers. It also seems similar to Walton and McEachern, whose staffs have remained stable year after year.

“I would hope (coaches would want to stay here for a long time). It would be great,” Varner said. “That was the norm at Roswell. That’s the idea. That’s the goal. Get a bunch of good guys that love to coach and truly care about the players.”

John Bednarowski is sports editor of the Marietta Daily Journal. He can be reached at or

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