Interlachen High School is without a head football coach less than two weeks before the start of preseason practice.
Lantz Lowery, a Melrose resident who led the Rams in 2015 after several years as a football assistant and head boys weightlifting coach at rival Keystone Heights, resigned Thursday for what IHS athletic director Ron Whitehurst called “personal issues.”
Whitehurst waited over the weekend in the hope that Lowery might change his mind, but he did not and informed the players of his decision at a weightlifting session on Monday.
Lowery did not return calls seeking comment.
Interlachen had its fourth straight 1-9 season during Lowery’s only year at the helm. The Rams have had only one winning record since 1995, a 6-4 campaign in 2010 that included one win via forfeit, but Whitehurst was optimistic about the future of the program under Lowery.
“I was floored. I thought he was turning the corner with it,” Whitehurst said. “They had a good spring game (beating Jacksonville Eagle’s View 24-7). The kids were getting stronger in the weight room.”
Lowery’s success in weightlifting was one of the things that worked in his favor in getting the Interlachen football job. His 2014 Keystone weightlifters shared the class 1A state championship even though the Indians had no individual champions. The Rams tied for sixth in the 1A weightlifting state finals this spring.
The hope was that football turnout would increase under Lowery. The Rams had 36 in uniform for the spring game, but a number of those players are expected to wind up with the junior varsity this fall.
Preseason practice is supposed to start Aug. 1. Classes begin Aug. 10 and Interlachen is to host Bronson in a preseason game Aug. 19, leaving Whitehurst little time to locate a new head coach.
He is confident he’ll have one by Monday.
“I’ve been working some angles and making some phone calls,” he said. “We’ve posted (the job) in the school system.”
An Interlachen High alumnus who leads the Ram softball team, Whitehurst was head football coach from 2008-09. He’ll be looking to hire the fourth head coach since he gave up the job. Willie Offord left for Palatka after two seasons at IHS. Mike Cullison coached the next three years.
Hired in 2012, Crescent City’s Al Smith is the longest-serving head coach at his current school in Putnam County. Bobby Humphries, who coached the Rams from 2002-06, is entering his second season in charge at Palatka.