Seventh-grade staff lays foundation

Published 4:38 pm Friday, August 21, 2009

The foundations of successful Bearcats football careers at the Bainbridge High School level are laid each season by a hard-working group of seventh-grade middle school coaches.

Heading up the seventh-grade staff is David Kirkland, a former offensive tackle for the Bearcats under head coach Sonny Smart.

“The seventh grade is where players are first introduced to competitive school system football,” Kirkland said. “This season will be extra special because, for the first time, all of our seventh- and eighth-grade players will be at the same school.

“In past years, we have had players from Hutto Middle School and West Bainbridge Middle School, but this year, with the ninth- through 12th-graders moving to the new high school, the seventh- and eighth-graders will all be at the former high school.”

The veteran member of the seventh-grade staff again this season will be Chip Ariail, who will be beginning his 19th year as a Decatur School System coach at both the varsity and middle school levels.

He served three years as varsity kicking coach, one under head coach Bob Christmas and two under head coach Greg Guy.

The majority of Ariail’s coaching career has been spent at Hutto Middle School. His first 10 years were served on the Hutto seventh- and eighth-grade staffs of the late coach Byron Reynolds and coach Jimmy Harris. He was on the eighth-grade staff in 2007 and 2008.

He headed the ninth-grade staffs of head coach Greg Guy in 2006 and head coach Ricky Woods in 2007.

The past five years he coached on the combined Hutto and West Bainbridge seventh- and eighth-grade staffs.

Joining the seventh-grade staff this season is Bearcats head baseball coach Scott Miller, who broke records for receptions with 28 and points scored with 42 as a wide receiver at Godby High School in Tallahassee, Fla.

Before joining the eighth-grade staff last season, Miller headed the Bearcats ninth-grade staffs under Guy in 2006 and Woods in 2007. He led his 2006 ninth-grade team to a perfect 5-0 record.

He joined the eighth-grade staff last season after the ninth-grade and junior varsity staffs were combined. This year they will again be separated and coached by the varsity staff.

Miller also has a state baseball championship on his resume. His 1999 Marianna High School Bulldogs won the Florida Class A baseball championship when they defeated Florida Air Academy of Melbourne 8-3 at Legends Field in Tampa, Fla., which is part of the New York Yankees spring training complex.

Completing the seventh-grade staff is 1997 Bainbridge High School graduate Heith Maxwell, a four-year Bearcats offensive lineman. He played two years under Smart and two years under head coach Steve Bench, and he has experience coaching at the seventh- and eighth-grade levels. He has been a member of the seventh-grade staff since 2003. Prior to that he spent two years as a member of the eighth-grade staff.

He was an outstanding player for Ariail’s Bearcats soccer team as well. He played sweeper and was defensive player of the year and captain his senior season.

He went on to Thomas College where he played right wing for coach Vinnie Gill’s Knighthawks soccer team in 2008.