RIPLEY • Former Calhoun City football head coach Perry Liles is taking over the Ripley football program according to RHS principal Buck Buchanan. The hire is still pending South Tippah School Board approval but it comes following the resignation of Sam Hathorn, who led the Tigers to a 2-10 record in his third season as the Tigers' head coach.
Liles compiled 115 wins in 10 years as the head coach at Calhoun City, including a Class 2A state championship in 2016. Liles announced his retirement before the start of the 2018 playoffs but found himself back coaching at Coffeeville this past season as the offensive coordinator. Liles was at Coffeeville from 1998-2001 before his latest stint with the Pirates.
"I enjoy football, and I just wanted to be at a bigger place," Liles said on Tuesday. "I really was looking for a place that I thought was capable of winning the state championship, and they’ve been there before. We played them at Calhoun City like four times, and it was always a good game. They’ve been well-coached, have players that played really hard, and I just thought it would be a good place to go. I was going to go somewhere if I got a good job and I felt good about coming out of retirement and going to a good place. It just happened to work that way, and I’m excited about that."
Calhoun City was considered a powerhouse in 2A under the direction of Liles. The Wildcats made the playoffs in each of his 10 seasons and won the North Half title four times.
His teams there were known for playing stingy defense and, most years, a powerful running game. Defense and running the ball will certainly be cornerstones of Liles’ program at Ripley, but he said he’ll play to the team’s strengths.
"Just to focus on what you’re doing," Liles stated on getting Ripley back to their winning ways. "They have great facilities, and they play a tough schedule. That’s one of the things that they’re not afraid to do. We just have to be competitive and get in the weight room. The main thing is get everybody out on the field that are the athletes at school. I think that’ll make a big difference, doing that."
And he plans to surround himself with good assistant coaches.
“It starts with players, but also having a good coaching staff that works well together, and hopefully we can get some people there that want to be there,” Liles said. “I always like to hire people smarter than me. That always helps.”
Liles has had stops at Charleston, Crystal Springs, Madison Central, Coffeeville and Aberdeen before his arrival to Calhoun City.
"I think he is a great football coach and a great teacher," said Buchanan. "He's a proven winner who will provide structure, discipline and accountability throughout our program. I believe he has played in 10 North Half finals, six state championships and won one state title as a football coach. He also has won around 15 state championships in powerlifting, something I think goes hand in hand with his football success. We couldn't be happier to have him on board."
Liles said coaching at Coffeeville was a humbling experience. The Pirates, who went 3-8 this fall, had to play with a thin roster, which made his job that much more challenging.
“You get to where someone gets hurt and you’ve got to totally redo what you’re doing. I learned a lot of football, to be honest with you,” Liles said.
Buchanan said Liles will arrive in Ripley after spring break and will lead the team through spring practices in 2020.