The future of Thomson High School football may be set after tonight. The McDuffie County Board of Education is scheduled to vote on hiring a new member of the coaching staff and potentially Coach Luther Welsh's eventual successor.
And it's saomebody trained by the master himself.
Pending board approval, Screven County Head Coach Mark Daniel - who played and coached under Coach Welsh - will make the move to Thomson next year as assistant head coach, offensive coordinator and assistant athletic director.
"I want to try to help Coach Welsh," Coach Daniel said Monday. "It's also an opportunity to be the head coach when he does retire. It would be good for both Thomson if that happens, I think, and myself because it would be a smooth transition."
The 73-year-old Coach Welsh has stalked the sidelines of various high school football programs across Georgia for 50 years. He racked up three state titles in his 14 years during two stints as Thomson's head coach.
Coach Welsh indicated 2009 as a possible date for his retirement but said he will continue to coach as long as he has the desire to do so, possibly in a diminished capacity.
But for now, the plan is to let Coach Daniel take over coaching the offensive line so that Coach Welsh is free to oversee the entire football team at practice. He also said he will assist in much of the paperwork that bogs down a head coach and athletic director.
"I just want to see if I can't help him enjoy his last few years, however many he decides," Coach Daniel said.
According to Coach Welsh, current Offensive Coordinator Garry Fulcher will remain on staff but will take another position with the offense. The move to hire Coach Daniel makes sense for Coach Welsh who said it would provide stability for the players.
"I think they wanted to have someone for when I did quit. ...Then somebody would be already here, and if they like him they can hire him. If they don't, they don't," Coach Welsh said. "...He'll be a great deal of help because he'll take a lot of my duties, and now I can catch up and do what I need to do."
Coach Daniel leaves behind a Screven County team he has led since Coach Welsh left there to move back to Thomson in 1999. He led the Gamecocks to a 2002 AAA state title, the same year the Bulldogs took home the AAAA crown.
According to the Georgia High School Football Historians Association website (www.ghsfha.org), Coach Daniel has amassed a 59-24 record at Screven County. That includes three straight region championships to begin the decade.
This will be the fourth time the duo has been together on the gridiron. Coach Welsh led the Dougherty team during Coach Daniel's high school playing days. Coach Daniel then served as an assistant under Coach Welsh at both Camden County and Screven County.
But Coach Daniel said succeeding Coach Welsh as the head man in Thomson - where he has achieved his greatest success - would be a challenge.
"It's definitely difficult following a legend. Very few people are successful doing that," he said.