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Originally published: 2012-12-11 15:28:45
Last modified: 2012-12-12 10:37:28

WHS football coach steps down

by Steve Behr Sports Editor

Tom Wright stepped down as Watauga’s football coach Tuesday.

Wright was the interim coach after Tim Pruitt resigned to take a position at Cherryville.

Wright’s team finished 5-7 and reached the first round of the state 4-A playoffs. The Pioneers lost to the eventual Western Regional champion Porter Ridge.

The Pioneers finished in fifth place with a 2-4 record in the Northwestern Conference.

Wright is also the athletic director at the school. He took the position to help ensure a smooth transition from the Pruitt era. Pruitt resigned in April.

Watauga principal Marshall Gasperson said that Wright was given a few weeks after the state championship football games before the coach made his decision.

“I wanted to make sure he had enough time to reflect on the season,” Gasperson said. “He made the decision that he wanted to make. We decided a week after the state championship, some say that it was late, but I felt that football season needed to be over. We talked last week and we finalized it (Monday).”

Wright said he enjoyed coaching the team, but wanted to stay as the school’s athletic director.

“When I took the job, I said I would do it for one year,” Wright said. “At the end of the year, I felt pretty good about where the football program is. I just didn’t have the passion to come back and do it again in another year. I feel like our players deserve somebody who is very passionate to be the head football coach.”

Wright oversaw a team that developed offensive weapons that included receivers Cam Baker and DeWayne Mackey. The Pioneers also brought freshman quarterback Aaron Dobbins up from the junior varsity in the ninth week of the season to be the starter.

Dobbins showed potential in a loss to Hibriten in his first start. Dobbins led the Pioneers to a 43-21 victory over St. Stephens in the final game of the regular season.

“I feel like the program is in a good place,” Wright said. “We’re in a place where someone else can come in and take over the job and has a vision as to where they’d like this program to go, say in the next five years. I felt someone else should have that opportunity.”

The Pioneers will look for its fifth head football coach since 1999. Pruitt went 21-27 from 2008-2011. Snow, who coached Watauga to an overall record of 29-22 from 2004-07, is the only Watauga coach who has a winning record since 1989.

Wright wanted to thank Gasperson and Superintendent David Kafitz for allowing Wright to coach the team.

“I want to thank them for their encouragement of me,” Wright said. “They asked me to stay on and do both jobs and I appreciate that opportunity, but I didn’t feel the timing was right for me.”

Gasperson said there would be a job in the physical education department that will be open next fall.

“Based on what we have now, we should have a P.E. position,” Gasperson said. “We fill the P.E. position on an interim basis thinking ahead that if Tom didn’t take it, we wanted to make sure we had a position. Most coaches are P.E. teachers. The main candidate may not be a P.E. teacher. If that’s it, then we’ll make a decision one way or another.”