‘Outstanding coach’ to lead Panthers

Rich McWhorter

Rich McWhorter

Veteran southeast Georgia football coach Rich McWhorter will lead the Jackson County Comprehensive High School Panthers, joining the school staff next month. JCCHS athletic director Brad Hayes made the announcement Thursday evening after a meeting of the Jackson County Board of Education. 

Coach McWhorter joins the Panthers after serving as head coach at Charlton County High School in Folkston, Georgia, for the past 29 seasons. He will be the 13th coach in JCCHS football history and will begin teaching health and physical education at the high school next month.

At Charlton County, Coach McWhorter compiled a record of 288-79-2 (a 78% win percentage), guiding the Indians to state championships four times and runner-up titles three times. They earned 15 region titles, racked up 18 double-digit win seasons, and had one stretch of 27 consecutive playoff appearances.

He has been named state Coach of the Year for his classification on four occasions and once for all classifications.  He also was honored by the Georgia Sports Writers Association as “Coach of the Decade” for the years 2000-2010. 

He has been the head coach for the Georgia/Florida All-Star Game on seven occasions and was honored with the Nike Coach of the Year Lifetime Achievement Award in 2017.  In addition, 91 of Coach McWhorter’s players have earned college scholarships during his tenure, and 14 of his players have gone on to play professionally.

Coach McWhorter and his wife have two children, Darby and Hagin.  Darby is finishing a degree from Valdosta State University, and Hagin (who is named after one of Coach McWhorter’s former players, Joe Hagins) is a senior at Charlton County High School and will attend the University of North Georgia next fall.

“I would like to thank the Board of Education for giving me the opportunity to lead the Jackson County football program,” Coach McWhorter said Thursday. “I plan to bring a winning culture to Jackson County football, and I am glad to hear that the school and community are excited to embark on this journey with me. 

“My family is excited to become a Panther family and part of the Jackson County High School family and community,” he said. “I would also like to thank the principal, Dr. Pete Jones, and athletic director, Brad Hayes for their professionalism in leading this transition.”

Dr. April Howard, superintendent of schools, expressed appreciation for the board action, which will bring Coach McWhorter to the school in January.

“We are excited to add this outstanding coach to our team at JCCHS,” she said at the BOE meeting. “We look forward to welcoming him and his family to Jackson County.”

Coach Hayes also expressed his excitement about the appointment.

“I am truly thrilled to have a man with the character and a coach with the pedigree that Coach McWhorter has take the reins of the Panther football program,” Coach Hayes said, following the BOE meeting.

“He is a true giant in the history of high school football in Georgia and is 100% committed to helping build a championship football program in Jackson County, just as he did in Charlton County. 

“This is a great day to be a Panther!”

JCCHS’s Dr. Jones echoed those Panther sentiments.

“I am very excited that Coach McWhorter is a Panther! Obviously, if you look at his career accomplishments, he is one of the best and most admired coaches in our state. For these reasons I was intrigued by him during the early phases of our search.

“However, what really sold me on Coach McWhorter was listening to him talk about his passion for working with young people and molding and guiding them to be great young men,” Jones said.

“Likewise, he has great ideas for pulling our community together, and about building pride in our school. His vision for Panther football is exactly what we were looking for in a coach.

“I have no doubt that he will not only energize our football program, but will also serve as a mentor for our students and will be a positive influence in Jackson County.  I am so excited for our students, families, and community!”