Rome High Football Practice

Rome head coach Franco Perkins encourages his players during practice at Rome High School, August 2, 2013. (Brittany Hannah/RN-T)

For the sixth time since the school opened in 1992, Rome High School will be searching for a new head football coach. Franco Perkins, who has been the head coach since 2010, was fired as the football coach on Wednesday.

“I found out on Wednesday afternoon,” Perkins said in a phone interview on Thursday. “I was called into the office and Dr. (Tygar) Evans told me.”

The move didn’t come easy for Evans.

“Obviously, the decision was made to make the changes with the football program. I had discussions with (Superintendent) Mike Buck, and I made the decision to locate another leader,” Evans said in a phone interview Thursday evening. “It’s probably the most difficult decision I’ve made in my time at Rome High School.”

Evans had high praise for the long-time Rome coach.

“He’s laid a great foundation for the program. There is no better role model anywhere. He’s not only taught the kids about football, but he’s also taught them about the game of life,” he said. “Franco’s done a tremendous job for us. It has been very difficult for me, as it has been for Coach Perkins.”

Perkins compiled a 29-23 record over his five-year tenure as head coach. The Wolves reached the Class 5A playoffs in his first three years as coach, but fell short of the playoffs the last two seasons.

In 2013, the Wolves finished the season with a 5-5 record. The final two losses of the season kept Rome out of the playoffs. Both losses were by two points or less in overtime.

“I feel like the program is heading in the right direction. The two overtime losses a couple of years ago really, really hurt us. This year it was one thing after another,” Perkins said. “I really am grateful for the opportunity to be the head coach at Rome High School, and I think the program is in good shape even though the record didn’t indicate it this year.”

In 2014, Rome debuted a more pass-happy offensive attack, going away from the Wing-T offense Rome had been running. While the offense produced school records in passing, the Wolves finished the season 3-6, failing to make the playoffs for the second consecutive season.

The Wolves have a plethora of young talent on the team, and the Rome Middle School football teams have been reaching the state semifinals with regularity the last few seasons.

This season, both the sixth and seventh grade teams reached the Georgia Middle School Athletic Association State Finals, while the eighth grade team reached the semifinals.

“Our younger guys and our middle school guys and all the kids in the program have a strong foundation, and I think they will be successful,” Perkins said.

Perkins, who graduated from West Rome High School, served as a football assistant at Rome for several years.

He served on former coach Sid Fritts’ staff and was defensive coordinator for one of the best teams in Rome High School history in 2008.

The 2008 squad advanced to the Class 5A semifinals before losing a heartbreaker at Marist, 19-17, on a controversial call at the goal line late in the contest.

In 2009, the Wolves suffered some heavy losses to graduation and injuries and finished with a 4-6 record, missing the state playoffs for the first time since 1999.

Fritts left Rome to become the head football coach at Elbert County after the 2009 season, and Perkins took over as head coach.

Perkins was the sixth football coach at Rome High and the third to last five years at the position. Fritts and Sam Pickett, who coached from 1996-2000, are the other two.

“The last couple of days it has been about getting my kids to basketball practice and games,” Perkins said. “I’m going to take some time and just try to be a good dad for a little while. I believe in God’s plan, and I think something good will come out of it.”

As for a future coaching opportunity, Perkins doesn’t rule it out.

“I’m just going to be a good daddy and try to be a good husband,” Perkins said. “When an opportunity arises, whether it’s coaching or not, I’ll make a decision.”

Evans said the past couple of days have been about letting the current coaches and players know and to help let the news sink in.

“The past couple of days, we’ve just been trying to digest all this,” Evans said. “As far as the future goes, we’re outlining a job description, and we’ll start looking for candidates. I’m sure we’ll hear from some coaches interested in the job. We’re going to try to get a coach that will help our kids have a great experience.”

Rome High opened in the fall of 1992 when East Rome and West Rome High Schools merged.

Both schools had storied athletic traditions. West Rome won five state football titles from the school’s opening in 1958 until the merger, including four consecutive Class AA State Titles from 1982 to 1985. East Rome won state football titles in 1978 and 1979.

Rome’s furthest trip in the state football playoffs came in its 2008 trip to the Class 5A State Semifinals.

Jim Alred is the Sports Editor for the Rome News-Tribune.