ENGLEWOOD – After 21 years as a head football coach, Derrick Davis felt it was time to take a step back, and the ideal opportunity opened up for him to do so.
Davis, 50, resigned his position as head coach at McMinn Central on Monday, notifying the football team of his decision in a meeting late Monday morning. Davis is moving on to an assistant coach position at Rhea County, where he will most likely coach defensive backs.
"I'm not leaving to become a head coach anywhere else," said Davis in an interview with The Daily Post-Athenian. "I'm going to step back and be an assistant. And this wasn't something I planned on, but it was an opportunity I couldn't turn down. And basically it's an opportunity to take a lot of responsibility off of my plate as far as the everyday grind of being a head coach.
"It's been 21 years of being a head coach, and I'm just trying to lighten the decision-making responsibility. I got an opportunity to be an assistant coach there at a pretty good school. And there's no underlying reason. I'm leaving here, as far as I'm concerned, on good terms with everybody. There is no animosity, it just came down to less responsibility as an assistant as opposed to a head coach."
In confirming Davis' resignation after two seasons as the Chargers' head coach, Central athletic director Brent Masingale said there are "no hard feelings whatsoever."
"I want what is best for him," Masingale said. "Coach Davis is a good friend of mine, and I want what is best for him, and he felt it was what is best for him at this point in time."
The Chargers went 6-14 over Davis' two years, with a pair of 3-7 seasons. But Davis' second season at Central ended on a high note with a 26-22 win at playoff-bound Brainerd, which was the Chargers' first win in region play since 2016.
"I think he has definitely come in and stabilized the program," said Masingale, who is also as assistant coach with Central football. "He has come in and brought a hard-nosed style of play to us. And he did exactly what we were hoping he would do when he came here.
"I know a lot of people, they judge coaches off of wins and losses, and as far as wins, he is his own worst critic himself. Of course he would have liked to win more games, he said, but the relationships that he built with the kids the last two years has meant a lot."
The Chargers return a core for next season that includes 23 juniors, seeking to build on any momentum from their season-ending victory at Brainerd.
"I hate losing, and I hate leaving the kids," Davis said. "We've got a junior class coming up to be, 23 of them in there, that's hung in here, and they've played a lot of football, probably earlier than they should have. And I was looking forward to seeing how they did, and hopefully they can continue to improve and do very well this year.
"But I did the best I could when I was here, and I don't have any regrets as far as working toward trying to help the program win. It's just something I felt like I needed to do."
Davis is joining a Rhea County program that is coming off a 10-2 season, a Region 4-5A championship and advancement to the second round of the Class 5A playoffs. Notably, Rhea is a region opponent of Central's cross-county rival, McMinn County, starting this fall.
And even as he now aims to help the Golden Eagles win, Davis will still be pulling for the Chargers' success.
"I just know it's just a school there (at Rhea) that has been successful for a lot of years," Davis said. "But I want to emphasize that it's nothing against Central, it's just what was best for me at this time. And I hope we can win some games there, but I hope Central does very well, too. We're not even in the same class or anything."
Prior to his tenure at Central, Davis had been the head coach for 19 years at his high school alma mater Polk County, where he compiled a record of 123-88 that included 13 straight years in the TSSAA playoffs and five consecutive District 5-AA championships from 2009-2013.
"I just appreciate the opportunity here," Davis said. "I didn't have a job, and they hired me here two years ago, and I think I'm leaving on good terms. It's probably not good timing, but I appreciate everything everybody did for me."
Masingale said no timetable has yet been set as of Monday about hiring a new head football coach, but he and Central principal Jeff Gilbert hope to get it done before the TSSAA summer dead period begins June 28.
"Of course, we want to do this as quick as possible, but we haven't set forth a timetable of when we want to for sure get this done," Masingale said. "I would think definitely before the dead period."