Sean Pender knew he’d found the new home for his family Jan. 11 as he drove east on Mount Vernon Road, crossing Wahoo Creek and was able to get a clear view of the mountains, before reaching North Hall High.
That day, he was just interviewing for the position as Trojans head football coach.
But by the time Pender, 47, got back home to Brunswick, he got a call offering the south Georgia coaching veteran the position.
For years, Pender and his wife, Dana, have bantered about retiring in North Georgia to live near the mountains.
Now, that vision has been expedited, while he still has a lot of football left to coach in his career.
“It’s just absolutely beautiful up there,” said Pender, who was announced Jan. 22 as North Hall’s new football coach.
Once Pender got the blessing from his wife, Dana, they informed North Hall’s administration that it had found its new coach.
When visiting Friday, Pender spent the rest of that day touring the schools and meeting prospective players for the Trojans.
By Monday, Pender, who will be under contract with Brunswick High through Feb. 3, was back home near the Georgia coast, but eager to get back to Hall County to begin his new venture full-time in a couple weeks.
During his first two days in Hall County, Pender spent time getting to know people, shaking hands and learning about the North Hall program, which experienced long runs of success since former coach Bob Christmas took over in 2001, then passed the torch to David Bishop in 2014.
Bishop resigned after 20 years with the program on Dec. 14, the final eight seasons as head coach.
Trojans athletics director Sam Borg is thrilled to see the energy behind the hire of Pender among their community.
“We’ve been excited to be able to honor what coach Bishop and coach Christmas did here in the past, while also being excited about the future,” Borg said.
Pender brings a winning background to North Hall.
In 2021, he guided the Pirates to the Region 1-6A championship and second round of the postseason.
North Hall has made the postseason seven straight seasons, which includes second-round appearances in 2018, 2019 and 2020.
“It’s exciting to take over a program that’s already established,” Pender said. “Now, we’re going to work to get the program to the next level.”
Pender’s career mark as a head coach is 128-90, which includes three region titles (he won league titles at Pierce County in 2011 and 2012) and three trips to the state quarterfinals during his 20 years as a head coach at Brantley County (2002-09), Crisp County (2010), Pierce County (2011-16) and Brunswick (2017-21).
When Pender, a Jacksonville, Fla, native, gave his first appearance in front of future North Hall players, Borg said there were approximately 40 players in the room.
And everyone was excited about what Pender had to say about his vision for the future of Trojans football.
After a standout career as a wide receiver at Valdosta State University, where he led all of NCAA is catches in 1995, Pender’s spent his entire coaching career to this point in south Georgia.
After playing for a bit in the NFL Europe, Pender’s first coaching experiencing came as an assistant coach at Ware County (1999-2001).
As a coach, one of Pender’s most noteable claim to fame is leading Pierce County programs with Stetson Bennett IV at quarterback from 2014-16.
Just two weeks ago, Bennett, a former walk-on at the University of Georgia, led the Bulldogs to their first national title since the 1980 season.
As a player, Pender had a prolific career with the Blazers, which, among many other school records, included 20 catches in a single game in 1995.
Now that Pender has been introduced as North Hall’s newest coach, he’ll begin the transition of moving his family 300 miles.
For the immediate future, Pender will be staying with a friend who also coaches locally, while his family looks for a new home in Gainesville.
Next season, the Trojans will be moving up to play in an 11-team Region 8-4A, along with Chestatee, Cherokee Bluff, East Hall and Johnson.