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Tripp Watts, the interim Buford High School head football coach, has some big shoes to fill.
Watts, from now to the end of the 2014 BHS football season, will learn a great deal, but he knows now following coach Mike Wells is no easy task.
Watts, tabbed as the Jackets’ interim head coach after Wells announced April 10 he was yielding his coaching duties to become the school’s full-time athletics director, is doing more than replacing a big guy.
Wells, a member of the school’s coaching staff since 1984, has been a major player in Buford High School athletics for 30 years.
That experience means a great deal. During those 30 years, he’s coached his share of football games, but he’s also led BHS basketball and baseball teams.
His time at Buford includes 17 seasons as a Jackets’ assistant and 13 more as the BHS head football coach.
His record during the last 13 years as head football coach is 60-79.
Wells probably wishes those numbers were reversed, but he also knows it’s time to move on.
He had his chance and has given it his best shot.
As he said, “let some new blood” have a chance.
The record doesn’t always tell the story. In Wells’ case, it’s true.
He has always stressed that his players play hard and protect the football.
“If we do that, we will have a chance,” he said.
Wells said he’s “no ego guy” and he lives his words.
Like any coach, he savors the wins, but equally shares the success with his players and assistant coaches.
That was never more true than in week three of the 2005 football season when Buford downed Class AAAA rival Lancaster High School, 21-12 in Memorial Stadium.
It was a win for the ages for Buford, but Wells took it all in stride on the memorable night.
“That was a win for our players and the community,” Wells said. “I looked at it like any rivalry game, like Andrew Jackson and Indian Land.”
Wells knew it was a big win, one of the biggest in Buford annals, but he also knew there was next week.
Wells is always looking ahead, focusing on the future and dwelling little on “what ifs.”
He was looking forward when he announced his decision to yield his football duties and focus on the Jackets’ future fortunes in all sports.
“I need to spend more time taking care of all of our athletes,” he said.
“Coach Wells is good for our program,” BHS principal Butch Dutton said. “He will give all our sports and all of our coaches his support.
“He’s done it in the past, but now he can do it all the time.”
Wells will continue to have a major focus on the athletes, something he’s always done.
The wins, honors and success are great, but it’s also about what you’re doing for those young people and preparing for life’s next play.
“A lot of kids have gone through our program,” Wells said. “You want them to become productive citizens.
“A lot of ours are and I take pride in that,” he said.
That says a lot about Wells.
He leaves big shoes to fill, but more important he’s provided key guidance, “coaching,” in helping kids, those “soon-to-be adults,” take their place in the always-challenging game of life.