West Hall has hired its next football coach, athletic director Scott Justus confirmed Thursday.
Tony Lotti, most recently an assistant coach at Woodland High in Henry County, will be taking over for the Spartans, who finished last season 2-8, 2-3 in Region 8-AAA South, under former coach Mike Newton.
This will be the 44-year-old’s first head coaching position, although he has spent 13 years as assistant at two schools.
“We think Tony Lotti has every aspect to get the job done,” Justus said.
The administration at West Hall is also pleased to have made the hire before the holidays.
“It was a goal of mine to get someone before Christmas,” Justus said. “We wanted to give our school and community some peace.”
Newton, who was 12-38 in five seasons as the Spartans coach was let go on Nov. 28 after the conclusion of the season.
West Hall last reached the playoffs in 2002 on the heels of a 9-1 regular season under coach Tim Marchman. The Spartans have not finished with a winning record since.
Justus was impressed by Lotti’s role in building two programs into postseason contenders. Lotti, who is also an author of two books, was on the staff at Union Grove for the first seven years of the program, being a part of four postseason runs. In 2007 he joined the staff at new school Woodland in Stockbridge, and was most recently the assistant head coach and special teams coordinator.
Lotti, who teaches special education at Woodland, is excited to get started with the new position. The administration plans to get him officially in by January.
“I’m just so excited about the West Hall community,” Lotti said. “The administration is why I chose to come to West Hall, and I am thrilled to death.
“What a great community to be involved in.”
His first order of business, as he said in between meeting community members Thursday, is to set his new staff. He plans to bring in a couple of coordinators depending on available positions. He also talked with a few current staff.
The next step is to introduce himself to the community.
“I plan to get started as quickly as possible,” Lotti said. “The way I look at it is you’re either all in or all out.”
The former All-American punter at Division II Tennessee-Wesleyan University has a habit of going all-in, whether it’s as an author, in the business world and as a motivational speaker, or when he decided to get into teaching.
“What got me into teaching was that a couple of football team managers in special education said, ‘coach, I wish I could play,’ so I started a league for kids with disabilities,”
Before long the managers were pressing him to get into teaching as well, so he went back to school for his Master’s of Education degree in Cross Categorical Special Education.
“My strong points are organization and relationship building,” Lotti said. “Being able to maximize somebody’s potential without limiting them by what people think you can and can’t do.”
His ability to build programs, whether a league for kids with disabilities or a high school football team, is one of the main reasons that Justus and West Hall Principal Greg Williams were interested.
“He knows football and he started a football league for kids with disabilities so he cares for kids, and that’s what got him in the door,” Justus said. “We talked about Xs and Os today, and we were convinced.”
What was so convincing for Justus is that Lotti is not tied to one offensive or defensive scheme, but plans to make the decision after evaluating his new players.
“That’s the best answer anyone could give us,” Justus said.
He has experience recently running both the spread and multiple-I on offense as well as the 3-5 and 4-4 on defense.
Whatever offense and defense Lotti decides to run, he will have his hands full coaching a team that will have some stiff competition.
“It looks like a very competitive region,” Lotti said.
With Georgia High School Association’s reclassification for the next two school years, West Hall will be in Region 7-AAA along with fellow Hall County schools East Hall and North Hall, in addition to Class AA state runner-up Buford, Dawson County, Fannin County, White County and Banks County.
It’s a tall task for any team, but Lotti is determined to go all in to turn the program around from the youth level to the high school.
“I want to give the community a program they can be proud of,” Lotti said of the new challenge. “I’ve spent a lifetime proving people wrong.”