MAGNOLIA The last four seasons of Sandy Valley High School football has seen some historic moments under the guidance of head coach Zach Gardner.
Now the program must continue the winning tradition without Gardner as he accepted the head football coaching position at West Holmes High School on Wednesday evening.
"I'm very proud of what we accomplished here in my four years," said Gardner. "It's a testament to the kids who believed in themselves and their abilities and put in all the hard work. They (kids) bought into the philosophy that our coaching staff put in place and we were fortunate enough to build a successful program that I believe will continue on with that tradition."
Gardner took over the Sandy Valley program in 2013 and led the Cardinals to back-to-back 5-5 seasons before making history in his third year.
The 2015 club went 10-2 overall, made the postseason for the first time in school history, and also hosted and won a playoff game for the first time ever. Gardner was named the Division V Coach of the Year that same season.
Last season, Gardner became the school's all-time winningest football coach with a season ending 49-6 win over rival Malvern. His career record for the Cardinals stands at 27-15, surpassing former head coach Mickey Keck who won 26 games in eight years at the helm.
Gardner says the opportunity at West Holmes was too good to pass up.
"It's a great opportunity for me and my family and it's the right move for us. It's one of those moments that you just can't pass up and I'm honored to have been selected to be West Holmes next head football coach," stated Gardner.
The West Holmes program has fallen on hard times over the past few seasons and will be another opportunity for Gardner to change the culture of a program.
"I'm going to take the same philosophy with me to West Holmes as I had here at Sandy Valley and get the kids excited about winning football games and building a culture of success," said Gardner. "I just can't wait to get out there and see how well we can compete. It's definitely an exciting time."
Gardner, who teaches Career Based Intervention at Sandy Valley, will continue to teach in the West Holmes district.
Gardner broke the news to his Cardinals team on Thursday.
"I think they were a bit taken back by my decision to leave, but I told them this wasn't built by me," said Gardner. "It's not about one person or one coach, it's about the team and believing in a system that can create an atmosphere of great success.
"I told the kids that they need to keep the culture going and remember that they aren't just playing for themselves, but for their school and their community, as well. I expect that the Sandy Valley program will continue to grow stronger. I'm thankful for the opportunity to coach here and all the support I've received over the last four years."
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