By Curtis Rockwell, Sports Editor
The Picayune Item
Pearl River Central defensive coordinator Seth Smith will be the next head football coach at East Central High School.
"We had a lot of good candidates," East Central athletic director Gary Long, who confirmed that Smith had accepted the job, said. "(Smith) is a young, high energy guy, and we felt like that's something we needed."
“I’m very excited about this opportunity,” Smith, who has been the Blue Devils’ DC for the past four years, said. “I feel like it’s my time. I’ve worked for what I feel like are the two best head coaches in the state (Eric Collins and Dodd Lee) over the past few seasons, and I hope I can take what I’ve learned from them and bring it with me as a head coach.”
Before joining the staff at his alma mater, Smith worked for Lee, his father-in-law, for five seasons at Picayune.
Lee was the head coach at East Central as well, winning 43 games in six seasons before coming home to Picayune.
“I think he will do just fine,” Lee said. “He’s got great passion and that’s one of the keys to be successful in this business. He’s a hard-worker and a great motivator. He’ll do a good job.”
Marc High resigned last month after five seasons as East Central's coach, the high point a 6-5 record in 2011. The Hornets went 3-8 this past season and have not made the playoffs since 2002.
"From a community standpoint and a kids standpoint, East Central is very similar to Pearl River Central,” Smith, whose wife Devin went to school in Hurley for five years, added. “ What we've been able to do at Pearl River Central, I'm excited to see if we can take that success and bring it to East Central. Just from talking to my father-in-law, and saying it humbly, if East Central can do it one time (under Lee), they can do it again."
Smith will be East Central's sixth football coach since Lee left to return to his alma mater 17 years ago. The Hornets made the playoffs and won a first-round game under Robert McRaney in 1996, but have been in the postseason just twice since.
Smith played at Pearl River Central and later at Pearl River Community College, then graduated from Southern Miss before joining Lee's Picayune staff in 2004.
He has been an assistant since 2009 with the Blue Devils, who went 11-2 and lost to Pascagoula in the 5A South State finals this past season.
Pearl River Central fielded one of the best defenses in the state in 2012. The Blue Devils allowed just 139 points in 13 games -- the fewest in 5A -- and held seven opponents to seven points or less, with three shutouts.
The Blue Devils have played in two consecutive Class 5A South State Championship games.
“”I don’t think East Central could have made a better choice,” PRC third year head coach Eric Collins said. “Seth is a guy with endless energy and a great desire to win. I think he’s one of the bright young coaches in this state today. He is a winner.”
Smith's hiring will become official at the next Jackson County School Board Meeting, set for Jan. 14.
He said Tuesday night he plans to be on the job full-time in time for spring practice.
“Being a head coach has always been a goal of mine,” Smith concluded. “ I truly feel like we can be as successful there as we have been the past two years at PRC. If we can develop the same work ethic and attitude there as we did here we can turn it around.”
East Central will host Picayune in early October.