Situated in the heart of a county that has changed rapidly, Central Gwinnett's football program remained surprisingly stable over the years with only two head football coaches from 1957 to 2001.
That position has turned over more frequently in recent years, and it did again Monday, when Ed Stokes resigned as the Black Knights' coach. Stokes was at Central for the seasons, the final two as head coach.
"Our three years here have been pretty rough, with a lot of adversity on the field and a lot of adversity off the field," Stokes said. "Some of that was out of our control and some of it we probably could have controlled a little bit better. But I had to step back and I didn't feel like we were improving like we wanted to."
Bartow Jenkins coached Central from the start of the program until 1974, when Tally Johnson took over. After Johnson's retirement, Bradley Warren had a successful run as head coach from 2002-06.
He was replaced by Dennis Roland, whose ongoing battle with cancer limited him to one season at Central in 2007. Stokes took over for his mentor Roland, guiding the team to a 5-15 record the past two seasons.
"(Our motto is) building young men of character while striving to win championships on the field of play," Stokes said. "I don't feel like we've done well in either of those categories. ... There are some things I believe in, that I'm not willing to change, that did not mesh well with the community here. It was just time for a change.
"I've got a good booster club here. I've got a good coaching staff. Those parts have been really good to work with and work for. Central's got a rich tradition and I want to see somebody come in and give their take on it and restore that tradition."
Stokes isn't in a rush to determine his future, but did indicate that he hoped to continue coaching elsewhere in the future.
Prior to joining Roland at Central, Stokes had coached for seven seasons at North Gwinnett and one at Flowery Branch. A former walk-on wide receiver at Auburn, he also coached Phenix City Central (Ala.) and Sandalwood (Fla.).
"I've got to step back and take a breather and get in the right frame of mind (before going to another job)," Stokes said. "I've talked with a couple of people. I'm not going to decide right now."
The Central job is the third head coaching vacancy since the regular season ended. Both Duluth and Greater Atlanta Christian also are searching for coaches.