Jackson County Comprehensive High School tapped into one of northeast Georgia’s top football powers to find its next head coach.
The Jackson County Board of Education on Monday approved Flowery Branch offensive coordinator Benji Harrison as the Panthers’ new head coach, athletic director Jason Holcombe confirmed Monday afternoon.
Harrison takes over for Billy Kirk, who resigned after a 12-37-1 mark in five seasons. Harrison helped guide the Falcons to an 11-2 record and a trip to the Class AAAA state quarterfinals this past year. Flowery Branch has won 43 games over the last four years, reaching the state finals once.
"I just think it's a great opportunity," Harrison said of Jackson County. "I think they've got a lot of things in place. I think you can be successful. I'm really familiar with this area. I wanted to be in this area. I feel like Jackson County is a place that you can do some really good stuff."
Harrison's hiring ends a seven-week coaching search. Holcombe believes JCCHS found exactly the right person to take the reins of this program, which is searching for its first winning season since 1992.
“Like we said, we were looking for a renaissance man and he fit that mold to a T,” he said. “He’s a great educator. He has a great personality, which will fit wonderfully in our community and with our athletes moving forward with our program. He interviewed great. He’s a very well-likeable individual with a great personality and he was just a fit.”
Harrison brings a lot of offensive knowledge to his first head coaching post following 12 seasons as an assistant.
The 2011 season was Harrison’s first year as Flowery Branch's offensive coordinator, but he spent the previous three years at the school as its passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Under Harrison’s direction, the Falcons employed a wide-open, spread attack and averaged 5,000 yards a year and around 34 points a game.
“Flowery Branch has been a powerful offense in Class AAA and Class AAAA over the last four to five years and he’s been a key part of that,” Holcombe said.
Including his time with Flowery Branch, Harrison spent the last decade working on the offensive side of the ball and developing quarterbacks.
He coached quarterbacks at Elbert County from 2000-2001. He moved on to Franklin County, where he served as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach from 2002-2007. Then came his stint at Flowery Branch, during which the Falcons went 43-11 and finished as state runners-up in 2008 in Class AAA.
While there, Harrison coached current South Carolina starting quarterback Connor Shaw.
Harrison also carried the title of assistant head coach at Flowery Branch (and at Franklin County as well).
He is a graduate of Stephens County, where he played quarterback. He earned a scholarship to Presbyterian, where he also played quarterback and was a four-year letterman.
“It’s a plus also that he played and coached in what used to be 8-AAA, and now he’s going to be back in 8-AAA,” Holcombe said. “He is very familiar with the teams that we’re going to be playing against. Having coached at Elbert (County) and Franklin (County), he’s very familiar with what we’re going to face.”
Harrison’s contract begins in July, but he’ll be at JCCHS in the afternoons starting this week to meet the players and personnel at the school.
Holcombe added that the school would try to get Harrison to Jackson County in a more official capacity before July. But that would require school board approval first.
“Moving forward, if we can get him here earlier, we want to. We’re working hard to do that but that’s kind of in many other hands as well,” Holcombe said.
To read about Harrison's thoughts on taking over at Jackson County, click here.
It was time for a change. Coach Harrison is a fantastic coach! We welcome him and his family to our community. This is a great job by the administration for recruiting and hiring a coach of this quality.
JCCHS could hire Nick Saban. The fact of the matter is, it is still Jackson County. Good athletes, bad attitudes and even worse parent support. JCCHS is like theold 7-up commercial, "Never had it, Never will". Sorry Sorry Benji you are a good guy and good coach but bad decision coming here. Gone in 3 years with a losing record and regret of ever coming here.