By Paul Keane
The Wayne County News
A lifelong member of the War Eagle family has been tabbed to lead its football program.
Kevin Gandy was hired as the interim head football coach at Wayne County High School Friday. The Wayne County Board of Education voted unanimously to hire him to replace Shelton Gandy, who resigned in February.
“I’m excited to now lead a program that I’ve been involved in since my high school days,” Gandy said. “I know the history and the expectations of War Eagle football, and I want to renew that history while also giving a championship feeling to both the school and the community.
“To do that, we need to get the community more involved and we have to have accountability with our kids and bring more discipline into the program. Without discipline, you don’t have a program because that is the foundation on which you build everything else.”
Gandy said he plans on conducting physical practices and even moving many workouts back to the old practice field, saying the War Eagles need to once again be a dreaded foe on any team’s schedule.
“Practices are going to be physical,” he said. “We want to put the fear about playing Wayne County back into the state. We want our players to be tough, hard-nosed and have a tough mind set that they are going to bring their best every Friday night.”
The search to fill the void was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, something WCHS Supervising Principal Robert “Bubba” Hathorn alluded to when asked about the process.
“About the middle or near the end of the search, the pandemic broke out and our efforts got sideways,” Hathorn said. “When we realized that schools weren’t going to reopen, we felt the best route for this season was to hire an interim head coach.
“We have a ton of confidence in Kevin. He’s a Wayne County lifer and he is very qualified. We’re excited for him and will give him all the tools he needs in order to be successful.”
Hathorn said he wants to see the community rally around the new leader.
“The players, the assistant coaches and, most importantly, the community needs to get behind this young man,” he said. “We need fans filling the stands, both at home and on the road. We need everyone showing their support of Coach Gandy and the War Eagles.
“I believe he will do a tremendous job. He has already had a lot of in-house and community support. Now, that support needs to grow.”
Gandy said while the COVID-19 pandemic did stall offseason workouts, it didn’t totally stop them. He and his staff can begin summer drills on June 1 after the Mississippi High School Activities Association ruled on May 21 that such workouts could start back.
“We used our Hudl system to communicate with our players,” Gandy said. “It is something we use during the season to give players access to game films, so we used it to communicate workouts and other information. Out of the 72 players on the team right now, we had 60 players and/or parents respond in a positive way, and that kept us updated on what players were doing in order to stay in shape.”
Gandy brings a long history of orange and blue with him to the new position. A 2002 graduate of WCHS, he was a student-coach while earning his degree from Alcorn State University, where he graduated in 2007.
He started his career at WCHS under Marcus Boyles during the 2007 season. Since that time, he has served as head coach of the freshman team, directed the junior varsity and doubled up for a few years as an assistant at WCHS and as head coach at Waynesboro Middle School.
From 2015-2016, he served as the co-defensive coordinator and associate head coach at WCHS and has spent the last two seasons as the offensive coordinator of the program. He was a member of the staffs that played for a state championship in 2009 and won a state championship in 2015.
He knows that taking over a program that he grew up in as his first head coaching position has its blessings and its challenges.
“It’s both a gift and a curse,” he said. “It’s a gift because you really know the tradition and history and you know what kind of players come through the program. It can be a curse because folks know that you grew up here and may look at me differently. Everyone needs to realize that this a business first and foremost.
“I know that I’ll get a lot of community support. I also trust that they will support and respect my decisions. All of my decisions will be made with the best interests of the kids and the program in mind.”
Gandy and his wife Shamekia (a 2005 WCHS graduate) have two children, Kamia, 10, and Kamron, 4.
By Paul Keane