All of that is about to change.
River Ridge athletic director Mike Baker announced earlier in the school year that he would retire at the end of the May, and boys basketball coach Matt Bohon said in April that he, too, would be leaving the Woodstock school.
Now, as the year comes to a close, boys tennis coach Lynn Freeman and volleyball coach Jeff Kirk have decided to leave their respective positions as well.
Baker will be replaced by current Woodstock athletic director Scott Krug. Krug had been at Woodstock since the school’s opening in 1996, previously serving as its baseball coach.
In turn, former Etowah and Woodstock softball coach Tonya Sebring will return to Woodstock, where she started her career, to become the athletic director. Sebring led the Lady Wolverines’ softball team to a state championship in 2006.
Blake Davis and Deb Lea will be promoted from within to replace Bohon and Kirk, respectively, at River Ridge, while the boys tennis coaching position remains vacant.
“This is the most turnover we have had in one year,” Baker said. “It’s been five years, and things like this start to happen.”
Freeman, who recently led the Knights to a runner-up finish in Class AAAA, said she would not be renewing her teaching contract with River Ridge, while Kirk is merely stepping down as the volleyball coach, but will remain at the school as a teacher.
The departure of Baker — the Class AAAA athletic director of the year — and the three coaches will take away some of the more successful athletic figures at River Ridge. Bohon had led the basketball team to the state playoffs in each of the last two seasons, but never advanced past the first round.
Davis will step up from his role as the junior varsity basketball coach to take the varsity reins, while Mark Blades will move from the ninth-grade team to junior varsity.
In two seasons at River Ridge, Kirk led the volleyball team to a pair of state playoffs appearances. On both occasions the Lady Knights were eliminated by Marist, including in 2013, when they advanced to the Class AAAA semifinals.
Freeman led the boys tennis team to state playoffs in both 2013 and 2014. This season, the Knights advanced all the way to the finals before falling to Marist in a tough three-hour match. They became the first River Ridge team to play for a state title.
Baker said Bohon’s departure was planned when he first accepted the job in 2009. He told the Tribune after the season that he would be moving to closer to his children and grandchildren living in Birmingham, Ala.
According to Baker, Kirk is leaving the volleyball team to focus more on family, which includes his young children, and Lea will come up from the junior varsity position, which was once held by Kirk.
“He came in and kind helped start up the program,” Baker said. “Staying with it wasn’t a long-time goal. He has family things to take care of. He kind of did what he was asked to do and stepped down. He does a lot of stuff outside his classroom, academically, for River Ridge, too.”
Freeman declined to say whether her departure was personal or professional, but she said she was in the process of interviewing for a new position.
The school will also be looking for an assistant football coach. According to the Naples News, linebackers coach Greg Fowler accepted the head-coaching position at Marco Island Academy along the southwest Florida coast.
River Ridge principal Darrell Herring said it can be hard to find coaches, particularly those who fit school’s teaching vacancies.
“You can say that I’m beating the bushes hard to find the folks that can help us out,” Herring said.
Herring said there are a couple of people already on staff that may be interested in the tennis coaching position.
“We have some good prospects,” he said.
Herring added that all the hires should be made by the end of June.
In the end, Herring doesn’t believe losing all the veteran coaching experience will hurt the school. With a couple of internal hires, there’s already support staff in place for those coaches.
“I look forward to see how the new coaches are going to do,” Herring said. “The kids are growing and getting stronger. I think that it’s going to be OK and that we will be in great shape.”