At the turn of the century, Chip Harris directed Houston County’s football program to 12 and 11 wins in 2000 and 2001 — the only double-digit win in the 91 years of the sport at the school.
Now two decades later, he is returning to the Columbia school.
An assistant coach the past four years at Geneva, Harris was hired as the new Lions’ head football coach Monday night by the Houston County School Board, confirmed Houston County Superintendent David Sewell.
He replaces Mike Atkins, who resigned two weeks ago to accept an offensive line coaching position at Pike Road near Montgomery.
A Wiregrass veteran, Harris will lead a team for the sixth time. He has a 103-98 career record.
He guided Houston County from 1997-2001 (35-23 record), Marbury from 2002-03 (8-12 record), Northview from 2004-08 (20-30), Ashford from 2009-11 (20-12) and Chipley, Fla., his alma mater, from 2012-2015 (20-21).
The return to Houston County is special to Harris in more ways than one. In addition to a successful five-year run that included the two double-digit win seasons, his son, Tanner, was born the Monday after his first game at the school in 1997.
“Obviously, that is a special place to me and my family,” Harris said. “It was real good to us. The people were good. It is a neat place.
“It is a place that has some tradition. The kids have always been tough and hard working. I am excited as I have ever been in my life about taking a job.”
Harris will also be Houston County’s athletic director and teach physical education and drivers education classes.
Joining Harris on his staff will be his son Tanner, who was hired as social science teacher and assistant football coach on Monday night by the Houston County School Board.
“That will be a special deal,” Harris said of having his son on staff. “Tanner was 4 years old when he left, but he remembers it. It will be special from a dad’s point of view (to coach alongside him).”
During his first tenure at Houston County, the Lions went from 2-9 and 2-8 his first two years to 8-4, 11-1 and 12-1 his last three seasons. The last two teams both went undefeated during the regular season, a first at the school since 1954.
The 2001 team, led by all-state running backs Norris Drinkard, the Class 2A Player of the Year, and Kevin Buze, reached the state quarterfinals, only the second Lion team to reach that far.
While that team along with the previous ones in 1999 and 2000 had a lot of success, it doesn’t help mean much for his second tenure, which has a new batch of athletes.
“We had some great players when I was there and I love those guys to death as it was a team full of them (talented players), but this is Houston County 2020 and we are about to focus on these guys and getting them ready to play, to be the best they can be,” Harris said. “It (any success) will be based off defense, running the football and good special teams.”
Offensively, Harris said he plans to run the double wing attack that he normally employs, but he wasn’t sure about the style of defense yet, noting he doesn’t know what type of players he has to work with at Houston County.