The Heritage Patriots football program has found its new head coach – an Early gift heading into the 2014 football season.
The Patriots named Shiloh defensive coordinator Wendell Early their head coach Wednesday morning, filling the vacancy left by former coach Mike Parris, who resigned after the 2013 season.
Early joins the Patriots’ program after helping lead the General to a 5-5 season last year with a 3-5 record in Region 8-AAAAAA.
“We are excited about naming Coach Early as our new head coach,” Heritage Athletic Director Chuck Landy said. “He has a lot of good experience and high energy that he’s going to bring to the program. He has done extremely well everywhere he’s been and we’re happy to have him become a Patriot.”
Before joining the Shiloh staff, Early served as head coach at Berkmar High School from 2003-07. Early compiled a 23-29 record at Berkmar, including a 23-19 mark in his final four seasons with the Patriots.
Early was named the Gwinnett Daily Post Coach of the Year in 2004 and led the Patriots to the state playoffs in 2004 and 2005. Early posted his best season with the Patriots in 2005, going 7-4 overall with a first -round playoff appearance.
The Patriots’ new leader also compiled a 37-10 record at Westwood High School in Ft. Pierce, Fla., capturing three district titles with the Panthers.
Landy said that Early was chosen from among more than 70 applicants.
“We had between 70-75 applications, and we talked to some great, great applicants,” Landy said. “We heard from a lot of excellent coaches, but Coach Early’s passion stood out. We really felt like he wanted to be here and wanted to be a part of our program.
“It was hard telling other people that they didn’t get the job, but it was more of what Coach Early did rather than what they didn’t do,” he said. “He has a total plan for the program – not just a quick fix. He has a direction he wants to take us.”
Early was one of six coaches interviewed in the Patriots’ final round of interviews.
“There are a lot of jobs open every year and when you’re looking at jobs, there are a lot of important things to consider,” Early said. “One of the most important is who you’re working with. I thought the staff at Heritage was an excellent fit for me, and I believe they’re going to be instrumental in helping to build our program.”
Early said that coming in, he wants to establish a rapport with his players and current Heritage coaching staff.
“We want to establish a level of commitment to the program,” Early said. “It’s about what you do, not what you say. I want to show our players that they mean something to us. We’re not only here to win games, but to build our players as people.
“Nowadays you have to show kids to get them to believe,” he said. “We want to show them by the example that we set as a coaching staff. Every school has a team, but not every school has a program.”
Early also served as the head coach at South Forsyth High School and as an assistant at St. Pius.
Landy thanked interim head coach Matt Daniel for his work with the program after Parris’ resignation in December.
“Coach Daniels did a fantastic job during his time as interim head coach,” Landy said. “We think the transition is going to be a smooth one with Coach Early and the rest of our staff. They’ve all have done an excellent job during the coaching search.”
Heritage players, parents and fans will have the opportunity to meet Early at 6:30 p.m. March 11 at an event hosted by the Heritage Touchdown Club at the Heritage High School commons.
Heritage went 6-5 overall last season with a 5-3 record in Region 8-AAAAA. The Patriots fell in the first round of the state playoffs to Tucker, 35-14.