Immediate challenges aside, Tim Cokely feels right at home in Marianna.
Cokely, who spent a good portion of his coaching career at North Florida Christian, where he led the Eagles to six state titles in 12 years, has inherited a program that has won just 12 games in the past three years.
Don’t worry. The past doesn’t interest Cokely.
He’s focused squarely on the task at hand, and that’s rebuilding the Bulldogs.
Cokely, hired in February, can certainly rely on a proven blueprint. His past teams were versatile on offense, physical on defense and disciplined.
They also won plenty of games, too.
“It’s going well and it feels good to be back,” said Cokely, who made the 60-minute journey from Marianna to Tallahassee on Tuesday for the 4quartersonline.com media day for Big Bend schools.
“I just wanted to get back down here. I am sure I will retire in this area. I like to coach here and this is where I like to live.”
Cokely won 17 games the past two seasons at Greater Atlanta Christian, but his return to Florida for the second time in four years was driven by a desire to be closer to his family. Cokely’s mother-in-law lives in Tallahassee and two sons attend Tallahassee Community College.
Cokely was also aware of Marianna’s tradition and the city’s passion. His NFC teams played the Bulldogs annually.
“I always liked playing against them, and it’s such a neat town,” Cokely said.
Cokely was pleased with his team’s summer progress, especially in the weight room. The Bulldogs, who open practice on Monday, also recently concluded their summer scrimmage season with an 11-on-11 Fellowship of Christian Athletes football camp.
Baker, South Walton and defending Class 1A state champion Jefferson County also participated. Because the camp was hosted by a third party, the teams were able to compete in pads.
The Bulldogs expect to be tested in District 1-4A, which also features East Gadsden, Taylor County and DeFuniank Springs Walton. East Gadsden advanced into the state playoffs last season for the first time in school history.
One change Cokely has noticed on his return to Florida has been the spinning coaching carousel. Cokely said of the state’s 520 high schools that play football, 139 changed coaches in the offseason.
Cokely, who was at Colquitt County, Ga., for three years between stops at NFC, believes school administrators are too quick to make changes.
“I think it really goes back to administrators treating some of our coaches and head coaches like college coaches,” Cokely explained.
Cokely, of course, is focused on change, too. And that’s rebuilding a proud Bulldogs program that has fallen on difficult times.
“We are excited to get going,” Cokely said.”It’s an honor to be coaching at Marianna.”