By DAVID GRAVELY, SWT Sports Editor
The wait is finally over Pulaski County, and the new leader of the Cougar football program has been announced. After wading through a large pool of very qualified applicants, the Pulaski County School System announced earlier today that Fort Chiswell head coach Stephen James would be the new leader of the young men in Cardinal and Vegas Gold.
Coach James, who is 42 years old, is a graduate of George Wythe High School and Emory and Henry College. He played football and baseball for both schools, and was known as a ferocious linebacker.
Stephen James got his first head coaching job as the coach of the Marion High School baseball team. The highlight of his time with Marion baseball was the 2002 season, when his team won 11 games and qualified for the Region 4 tournament.
During that time, he was also the defensive coordinator for Coach Steve Wright at Marion.
Coach James took over the Fort Chiswell program in 2005 and immediately began to make an impact. Hard work, hard hits, and hard nosed football have been his calling card throughout the years.
Between 2005 and 2007, he brought the Pioneers from the bottom of the barrel to the edge of winning, something they hadn’t managed in some time. The 2008 season saw the start of an uprising, with the Pioneers finishing with a winning record for the first time in many seasons. In 2009 Fort Chiswell made the playoffs and ended the season with an 11-2 record.
Over the next four seasons the Pioneers won 37 games and lost 13. Coach James finished his time at Fort Chiswell with an overall record of 64-39. His team has made the playoffs four of the past five seasons, won four Mountain Empire District Titles, went to the state quarterfinals the past two seasons, and this past year came up just short of a state championship appearance. In all, he has a playoff game record of 8-4, with all of those games coming since 2009.
Coach James is married to Becki James, and they have a daughter, Karrah, who is in the sixth grade.
A press conference is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Pulaski County High School Little Theatre to formally introduce Coach James. Members of the public are welcome to attend.