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Setting the standard: Phillips retires with Panthers hitting a high note

It’s a whole new era for the Panthers. On the staff since the school opened, Starr’s Mill High head varsity football coach Chad Phillips is retiring and leaving the program in great shape for what’s coming.

For 27 years total and 14 as head coach, Phillips has been a fixture of Panther football. He retires with a career record of 111-55 with 10 state playoff appearances and 7 region championships. Coming off an appearance in the state semifinals, he decided it was the right time to step away when he can leave the program in a very healthy state.

“It’s time for someone else to be the voice for the sport,” Phillips said. “They’ve been kinda waiting for their opportunity to sit in this chair. It’s time to move on.”

With his mom a PE teacher and a really good basketball teacher, sports was always in his blood.

I’ve been in a gym, on a football field, somewhere athletic my entire life,” he said.

After his parents divorced, his mother married the head football coach at North Hall High.

“I guess that set me on my trajectory,” he said.

After his high school playing career ended, he went to the University of Georgia where he could be up close rooting for his beloved Bulldogs. His first year there he had to declare a major, but he hadn’t given it much thought previously.

What have I been around my whole life? I’ve been on a sideline. I’ve been cutting grass. I’ve been spraying lines. I’ve been a part of football in some capacity,” he thought. “I think some of the best advice I ever received was do something you’re passionate about, do something you enjoy doing, and, if you find that, it’s not like having a job.”

He got hired by Mike Earwood at Cartersville High for his first job. He experienced one of the highlights of his coaching career winning a state championship with the Purple Hurricanes, and, when Earwood was tabbed to start the program at Starr’s Mill, Phillips joined him from the beginning.

Phillips took on the head coach role when Earwood retired in 2009, and the tradition of tough, never-say-die Panther football will live on with the next coach.

“We were able to establish an expectation and a standard from the start,” he said. “The number 1 lesson they need to learn is the value of hard work. Hard work puts you in a great position to be successful longterm in the game of life if you’re willing to make the investment.”

He lived for the victories that go beyond the final tally on scoreboards. The biggest wins come in the life lessons players carry with them every day.

“What they won’t forget is the lessons of resilience and how to overcome adversity,” he said. “Those are those things that will endure over the course of time. Winning and losing will go away.”

The bonds built in the huddle are unbreakable. Like a family of your own choosing.

“The greatest thing about this game, black, white, purple, green, wherever you come from, you sacrifice for each other. You make a commitment for each other,” he said. “It’s unique. It’s a shared moment those boys will have forever.”

That commitment is reflected in the crowd where the community can put aside their troubles for a Friday night to cheer on their team.

“You see people from every walk of life. Everybody is completely emotionally tied to your team,” he said. “It’s something that’s unique, and I’m just glad to be a part of it.”


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Posted 3/19/2024