Soon after football coach Tony Lotti announced he would be leaving West Hall High earlier this week, principal Scott Justus and athletic director Ethan Banks wanted to find a successor who encapsulated everything the program stood for.
Turns out, the pair did not have to look very far.
On Friday, offensive coordinator Krofton Montgomery, who served five years on Lotti’s staff, was named his successor.
Justus said while there were many great applicants to throw their name in the hat for the position, Montgomery was the first to be approached — and the only interview necessary to make a decision.
“I’m very thankful for Mr. Justus and coach Banks and the West Hall community to put their trust in me to lead their young men on the field and in the classrooms,” Montgomery said. “I’m hoping these young men take more out of it than just a win or loss. I hope we’re able to build better men. ... Those are things you get from football. You’ve got that camaraderie and that brotherhood that kind of forms with those teammates and with those coaches.”
Montgomery also expressed his gratitude for Lotti, former Winder-Barrow coach Brian Allison, who gave him his first coaching job, and Chestatee athletic director Ben Corley, an influential figure in bringing the Spartans’ coach to Hall County.
Justus said the decision was unanimous and a "no-brainer" for him and Spartans athletic director Ethan Banks. According to Justus, they chose a man who is clearly grounded in the all-in, never-back-down Spartan philosophy.
“His loyalty, hard work and just knowing the man for five years and seeing what he has done, it would be doing our community, our students and our school a disservice to not pick coach Montgomery,” Justus said. “He deserves it, he works hard and there was never any hesitation about it.”
The 36-year-old Montgomery originally thought his first head coaching opportunity would only present itself further down the road. But the NFL’s recent emergence of ripe coaching minds like Sean McVay, 30, under the headset swayed his attitude.
Montgomery was hired in 2013 as an offensive run-game coordinator. He and former offensive coordinator Luke Wiggs were instrumental in forming West Hall’s current scheme before he succeeded Wiggs in 2016.
In 2016, the Spartans accumulated 4,100 yards (2,500 rushing) from scrimmage in 12 games.
“It’s been a good five years, and it’s something I want to continue,” Montgomery said.
Montgomery, who had been a valued member of Lotti’s staff for five of the last six seasons at West Hall, takes over a program that has reached the state playoffs five straight years, including one second-round appearance in 2016.
Lotti resigned from his position Wednesday to accept the head coaching vacancy at Apalachee High in Barrow County.
In addition to adding one or two bullet points to Lotti’s original four-core coaching values and keeping the entire coaching staff intact, Montgomery plans to deploy a greater emphasis on West Hall’s vertical attack.
West Hall will also experience a rise in competition within Region 7-4A this fall, as 2017 state quarterfinalist Flowery Branch along with first-year Denmark High (Forsyth County) will be new additions per a mid-cycle adjustment in the GHSA classifications. Denmark’s inaugural program will be headed by Terry Crowder, who won a state title with Camden County as the team’s defensive coordinator in 2003 before winning as head coach for Chattahoochee in 2010.
“Obviously we’re in a region that will have the two state finalists in it,” Montgomery added. " ... But I think our kids are up to the task. I feel like it’s something West Hall has kind of hung its hat on the last five years I’ve been there — it’s kind of being that gritty team that overcomes those obstacles, and plays through to beat those teams. ... We find ways to compete and scratch and claw with them.”
That has certainly showed merit in 2016, when West Hall came up with the upset of the Class 4A playoffs with a win over top-seeded Troup on the road. It was the Spartans’ first playoff win since 2000.
The Spartans finished 6-6 (1-3 Region 7-4A) overall in 2017.