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South Gwinnett introduced longtime Atlanta area coach Steve Davenport as its next head football coach Wednesday afternoon.

Davenport replaces John Small, who left South to become East Coweta’s head coach. Small’s 12-year tenure was the second-longest stint ever for a South head football coach and he took the Comets to six playoff appearances, highlighted by a 10-win 2009 season that was just the fourth time since 1957 that South has reached double figures in wins.

With the Comets coming off an 8-4 season that included a berth in the second round of the Class AAAAAAA state playoffs, and featuring several highly touted returning players, including Division I defensive prospects like Justin Mascoll and Robert Cooper, Davenport comes into a South program that appears to be on the upswing.

While he admits that he is excited about the program’s prospects, he says the challenge of coaching in Gwinnett, as well as its proximity to his native DeKalb County, were just as big factors in his decision.

“Obviously living in DeKalb County for many years, I saw the way Gwinnett exploded,” Davenport said. “And when you see all the tradition they’ve built up, it’s always set in the back of your mind if the opportunity ever presented itself.”

Davenport has revived the Woodland-Stockbridge program in recent seasons. He inherited a program that was 2-8 for three straight seasons and went 7-3, 7-3 and 10-3, earning Henry Herald coach of the year honors last season. All three of his seasons established school records for victories.

He comes highly recommended with a reference list on his resumé that includes college coaching legends Mark Richt and Bill Curry and legendary Southwest DeKalb head coach Buck Godfrey.

“We are very pleased with the hire of Steve Davenport,” South athletic and activities director Jeff Taylor said. “Coach Davenport brings a wealth of coaching experiences from the high school and college level. We were impressed with his record of success on the field, and his ability to produce college opportunities beyond high school. Steve is a huge community guy. He understands the importance of engaging the South Gwinnett community. He is the right person for our next chapter at South Gwinnett.”

Prior to coaching at Woodland, Davenport was a college head coach at Savannah State from 2011-13. He previously was the running backs coach at Alabama-Birmingham from 2006-11.

He was head coach at Decatur in 2003-04, reaching the state semifinals in 2003 with a 13-1 record, and at Redan from 1998-2001. He was offensive coordinator at his alma mater, Southwest DeKalb, from 1994-97 after finishing a stint as a graduate assistant at Georgia Tech (1992-93) and his first stint at Southwest DeKalb (1991-92).

Davenport played college football at Georgia Tech, lettering for four seasons and starting for three at wide receiver. He was a 1984 USA Today All-American and Georgia Gatorade Offensive Player of the Year at Southwest DeKalb.

Davenport said he intends to waste little time in getting started at South.

“I’m starting up there around the first of March,” Davenport said. “I want to get here and get to know the kids. get ready for spring practice and just hit (the ground) running.”

THE DAVENPORT FILE

Name: Steve Davenport

New position: Head football coach at South Gwinnett

Former position: Head coach at Woodland High School in Stockbridge

Age: 49

Career record: 65-33

Education: Graduated from Southwest DeKalb High School in 1985; graduated from Georgia Tech in ’90; earned his masters in Textile Engineering from Tech in ’94; Earned non-degree Business Education teaching certification from West Georgia in ’95 and non-degree Administrative Leadership certification from Jacksonville (Ala.) State in 2006

Background: Was a three-year starter and four-year letterwiner at Tech as a receiver; coached in college as a graduate assistant at Tech from 1992-94, running backs coach at Alabama-Birmingham from 2006-11 and head coach at Savannah State from 2011-13; high school coaching experience came at Southwest DeKalb as defensive backs coach from 1991-92 and as offensive coordinator from 1994-97 and Rockdale County from 2005-06; was head coach at Redan for four seasons and Decatur for two seasons; led Woodland to a 24-9 mark over the past three seasons, including a berth in the Class AAAAA state quarterfinals last fall

Family: Wife Stephanie; daughter Alyssa, 14

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