Devil O-line coach provides experience
New offensive line coach Dalton Wetherington arrived in Elbert County fresh off the heels of back-to-back state championships and loaded full of playoff experience.
At Lincoln County High School, Wetherington played offensive line in nine state playoff games under legendary coach Larry Campbell. Campbell, by the way, has the most wins (477) as a head coach in state history and 11 state championships to boot in his 42-year career.
While earning degrees in English and history at Valdosta State University, Wetherington coached O-line at nearby Clinch County High School.
Wetherington, who has extended family rooted in Clinch County, said his most memorable games involved the Clinch County Panthers.
In 2011, Wetherington was a high school senior playing out his last season with Campbell. Lincoln hosted Clinch in the second round of the state playoffs, and Panther head coach Jim Dickerson, who had once coached Wetherington’s father, came into a fired up Lincolnton for the Georgia High School Association’s Class A rivalry battle. With his family and friends all in attendance, Weatherington helped Lincoln roll over Clinch 27-0. Ironically, Wetherington played against his future
brother-in-law and then Clinch County starting nose guard James Landrum. Some years later, Wetherington would marry James’ sister Kimberlee Landrum.
In 2017, Coach Wetherington helped Clinch win its seventh state championship.
Inclement weather forced the finals to be played at Irwin County instead of in Atlanta in the Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
“That game was great because they had to bring in extra seating to play the game in Irwin County,” recalled Coach Wetherington. “It was one of those traditional high school atmospheres where every seat in the stands was taken. We got to avenge our regular season loss to them.”
In Week 4, Irwin had embarrassed Clinch in a 21-7 upset, but in their return visit the Panthers got the last laugh, winning the championship 21-12.
The Region 2-A foes repeated the same script the following season. Irwin beat Clinch in the regular season (21-3) only to lose the state again to Clinch (27-20).
“The biggest memory about that game was walking into the Mercedes-Benz Stadium and realizing all the great players who have been on that field,”said Wetherington. “You know you get to be one of the select few people who can say they coached in that stadium, and ultimately won in that kind of environment. Going back-to-back is very rare for a coach whose only coached varsity for two years.”
At Clinch, Wetherington learned attention to detail every day during practice was the key to success and that there wasn’t necessarily a secret to winning.
Clinch’s tradition of winning and high expectations had kept its program in good standing every season.
“Just doing the right thing, the best way every single day,” said Wetherington. “Whether it be in school, outside of school or at home, doing the things the right way, every day is the difference. You can run any offense in the world, if you do it right, then you have a chance to win. It’s the same concept you can take in life as well.”
When it comes to judging success, Wetherington asks of himself and his players for constant improvement.
The O-line coach said Elbert County was as good as any other team in Class AA, and it has the opportunity to win state, but it would depend upon daily steps forward individually and as a team.
“Elbert County has great kids who are respectful, willing to do the work and can take coaching, which is very rare in today’s society. Also, Elbert County has a lot of speed other schools aren’t blessed with.”