On the eve of Valentine’s Day, Wheeler brought some love into its football program.
Bryan Love, the coach at Woodland High School in Stockbridge, was hired Wednesday to fill the same position at Wheeler. He replaces Mike Collins, who resigned after nine seasons to become the coach at River Ridge in Woodstock.
Love comes to Wheeler after two 3-7 seasons at Woodland, but he was most successful at Westlake, where he led a turnaround.
After inheriting a team that went 0-10 in 2012, Love compiled a 24-11 record in three seasons, winning two region championships. He guided Westlake to the Class AAAAAA semifinals in 2015, the last year Class AAAAAA was the state’s highest classification.
“It’s an opportunity to come back and lead a program in the county in which I live and where I started,” Love said.
Love, who has a career record of 36-30 as a head coach, began his coaching career at McEachern. He served three seasons under former coach and now athletic director Jimmy Dorsey — the first two as a defensive assistant the final as defensive coordinator.
“Bryan is a great guy,” Dorsey said. “He’s a very good coach. That is a good hire by Wheeler. I think he will do well there.”
Love left McEachern to become the defensive coordinator at Camden County under Jeff Herron – another former Wheeler coach — and helped the south Georgia power win back-t0-back state championships in 2008 and ’09.
“He has a championship pedigree,” said Wheeler athletic director Troy Jones, who said Love was selected from more than 230 applicants. “I think we are similar to Westlake in talent level. It will be exciting to see him take us to the next level.”
Love, who also spent one season as head coach at Lamar County, said Collins did a great job in rebuilding the Wheeler program from two winless seasons prior to his arrival, and it was one of the key reasons Love was intrigued when the Wildcats’ position came open.
Love also said he likes the nucleus of his new team and expects to win championships in the future. First, though, he said the most important thing he will do as coach is help prepare the players for what happens off the field.
“Sure, we want to win,” said Love, who will be on campus today to meet everyone, and who will officially start at Wheeler on March 1. “Winning is important, but the biggest thing is getting them prepared for the transition plan post-Wheeler. We want them to leave here and be good fathers, husbands and members of society.”
Love, who will also teach in physical education, said he, Jones and the administration share that same vision.
“He’s so organized,” Jones said. “Everyone we asked has had nothing but great things to say about him.”