North Gwinnett's football team got a new head coach on Monday, but the Bulldogs' offense will stay the same.
Pending school board approval, North named Bob Sphire, the head coach at Lexington Catholic (Ky.) High School, on Monday as its new football coach to replace Matt Moore, who took a college job at Troy State. The 48-year-old Sphire used a high-flying pass attack to win a Class AAA state championship in Kentucky last season, and he plans to continue the same attack at North Gwinnett, which has reached the state playoffs two straight seasons by relying on the pass.
North's previous two coaches, Moore and Dennis Roland, both left for college coaching positions and both used the passing offense successfully. Sphire, who becomes the Bulldogs' fourth head coach in four years, expects to take over the program in two to four weeks when his duties at his previous school are complete.
"We're excited about getting (Sphire)," North athletic director Chris Culpepper said. "We feel like he's a great fit for our program."
Sphire has a 140-39 record at Lexington Catholic, including playoff appearances in all 13 years the program has been eligible. He started the school's football team in 1991 and quickly built it into a solid winner with a pass-heavy offense.
His 2005 quarterback, Justin Burke, is an N.C. State commit and won the Gatorade Kentucky Player of the Year honor this past season after throwing for 3,789 yards and a state-record 62 touchdown passes. He finished his career with 8,770 passing yards and 120 passing TDs.
In addition to leaving his high school position, Sphire also resigned as the head coach of the Lexington Horsemen, a United Indoor Football team, to take the job at North. He coached the indoor team since 2002, including the past three seasons as head coach on a team that featured former Kentucky and Valdosta High quarterback Dusty Bonner.
Sphire said indoor football was never a part of his career path, that high school football was focus. The desire to take on a higher challenge in Georgia was a major draw to the North position.
The coach said he wasn't looking to change schools, but North principal John Green called him about the possibility after Moore suggested the Lexington Catholic coach as a possible replacement. Moore and Sphire have never coached together, but met through mutual friends.
"I'm proud of what we accomplished in Kentucky, but (Class) AAAAA football in Georgia is at the top of the food chain," Sphire said. "If you're serious about coaching, this is the league you want to get into. I've used boxing as an example. If you're a serious boxer, you want to get in a ring with a guy like Muhammad Ali. You want to face the best.
"If you really want to coach against the best, you want AAAAA football in Georgia. Georgia's the Muhammad Ali of high school football."
Sphire has the advantage of taking over a school that has run a similar form of his offense the past two seasons. North's football success has been limited with the exception of 2004 and 2005.
The coach said he uses the rushing attack more than some pass-happy offenses, and said his passing game is more vertical than some attacks - "big-play passes down the field, not dink and dunk."
"One of the points of attraction (to North) was that the launching pad part of (the offense) has been done the past two years," Sphire said. "I'm not Matt Moore and I'm not Dennis. But we're in the same family of philosophies (on offense). There are going to be some differences, but it's the same type of philosophies.
"I'll be (North's) fourth football coach in four years, so the continuity of the offensive philosophy is in the best interest of the program also."