Vols drawing 'quality' field

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By Robert Howey

KERSHAW - The ninth head coach in the history of Andrew Jackson High School football will come from a field of 50 applicants.

"Right now, we have about 50 applicants for the job," said Volunteers' athletic director Dale Reeves, who also doubles as the Lancaster County Class AA school's boys basketball coach.

"We will continue to accept applications through the first of the year and we may get in a few more, but right now it's in the area of 50."

Reeves said he's impressed with the quantity and quality of the applications.

"We have some excellent candidates from what we have received," Reeves said. "It is a good mixture of head coaches on the high school level, assistant coaches and some college assistants.

"We have drawn quality coaches," Reeves said.

Reeves said plans are for the AJ High administration to review the applications once they have received all the applications with the cut-off date at the first of January.

"We will then narrow the field to around seven or eight coaches and begin our interviews," he said.

The majority of the field is from South Carolina, but he said a host of Southeastern states are included among the field.

Reeves said he hopes to have a coach hired by mid-January.

"That's the time the school board meets and we hope to have a name to present to them that night," he said. "We're pleased with the way the process is moving. We've had a great deal of interest and we're confident we will be able to have a quality coach."

The new AJ coach will replace Ernie Hughes, who resigned last month following a 3-8 campaign. Hughes, a Winnsboro native, served as the AJ coach for five seasons and compiled a 20-35 record.

Hughes' best season at AJ came in 2004 when the Vols went 6-6 and advanced to the second round of the Class AA Lower State playoffs. In four of the five seasons at AJ, Hughes guided the Vols to the Class AA Lower State playoffs.

The 2007 Vols' season included a first-round 48-6 loss to Dillon.

Hughes, a 35-year coaching veteran, came to AJ in 2003 when he replaced former Vols' football coach and athletic director Mike Lowery, who is now the assistant athletic director at St. James High School in Murrells Inlet.

Lowery was named the Vols' head football coach and athletic director in 1999.

He was reassigned in the Lancaster County School District in 2003, but opted to continue his coaching and teaching career at St. James High School, a Class AAA school. Lowery is also an assistant football and basketball coach at St. James.

When Hughes was named as the Vols' head football coach and athletic director in 2003, he was selected from a field of 25 candidates.

Hughes' successor will inherit a team which returns 20 of 22 starters.

The Vols haven't had a winning season since the 1997 campaign under former coach Andy Tweito.

AJ, which competes in Conference VIII-AA, will be looking at a revamped conference with the start of the 2008-09 school term.

The Vols will play in Upper State Conference IV-AA which will include present Conference VIII-AA members Central of Pageland and Lee Central of Bishopville along with Columbia area schools Eau Claire, Keenan and Columbia high schools.