More than 100 days after Carolina Forest began looking for its next football coach, it appears the school is possibly only a few days from announcing a decision.
Horry County Schools, responding to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by The Sun News on Feb. 8, released three names as finalists for the position. They were Daniel assistant coach Troy Bowe; Cleveland (N.C.) head coach Marc Morris and Carvers Bay head coach Nate Thompson.
Thompson, the name most locals are familiar with, was told he was eliminated from contention earlier this week.
“One of the major reasons I applied for the job is it’s a Big 16 school. It’s a big leap from A to AAAA,” Thompson said. “That was one of the motivating factors. It’s local; I’m from Conway. It wouldn’t be a major change for my family. I’m happy where I am, don’t get me wrong. If it wasn’t for where I am now, I wouldn’t even be able to be [a finalist].”
Thompson was a long-time assistant at Conway under Chuck Jordan before heading south to take over the program at Choppee in 1998. When Choppee and Pleasant Hill combined to form Carvers Bay in 2000, he was transferred to the new school.
Since then, the Bears have been to five state championship games – including last fall at the Class A, Division I level – and won state titles in 2002 and 2006.
Thompson and Rainbow have known each other on a professional and personal level for some time. In addition to working together at Conway, Rainbow is also married to Thompson’s sister.
With him crossed off the list, that leaves Morris and Bowe, who helped Daniel to the Class AAA state title game against Myrtle Beach last fall.
Morris, who was hired at Cleveland prior to the school’s reopening in 2010, was 9-5 last fall and led the Rams to the second round of the North Carolina Class AAA playoffs. He was named the Two Rivers Conference Coach of the Year.
In 2012, Cleveland was 12-2 and advanced to the third round of the playoffs.
One of Morris’ players, running back Isaac Martin, recently committed to Coastal Carolina on National Signing Day. Cleveland has also run a spread offense, meaning a transition to the pass-happy Carolina Forest scheme could be that much smoother if he is the school’s final selection. Morris, who did not immediately return a phone message, teaches physical education and weights, the same teaching position currently held by departing coach Drew Hummel.
Bowe is listed on the Daniel Web site as a social studies teacher.
Although approving new hires is not always a formal portion of the Horry County Schools’ board meetings, Monday’s regularly scheduled session may be the closest thing to an official timeline provided. Carolina Forest Athletics Director Boe Rainbow has referred most questions to Principal Gaye Driggers. She has not returned multiple messages left from The Sun News since Hummel resigned November 11.
Hummel stepped down following the Panthers’ 1-10 season and was 30-57 in seven years. The team has failed to qualify for the Class AAAA playoffs since it moved to that level in 2008, and it suffered 18 double-digit losses in the last two seasons alone.
Meanwhile, the search for the area’s other high school coach is already well underway.
St. James – which announced last Tuesday that Mark Fischer had resigned – has already received more than 40 resumes for its opening, according to Athletics Director Paula Lee. The job was posted last Thursday, and it is expected to remain open for at least one more week.
Fischer resigned in order to return to his old job at Louisa County (Va.). Lee initially said the school hopes to have a replacement ready to go in advance of spring practice. Several members of the current coaching staff and Fischer are handling the day-to-day operations.
Contact IAN GUERIN at email@example.com.