By Samantha Lyles, Staff Writer, email@example.com
The Darlington High Falcons will take to the football field and volleyball court this year with new leadership at the helm.
DHS held a press conference Feb. 1 announcing Raymond Jennings as head varsity football coach and Cellina Epps as head coach of varsity girls volleyball.
“Both of these coaches are incredible educators and will be serving in the classroom as well as on the court and on the field, and we’re excited to have them help our athletes grow in their classes and their sports to open up opportunities to them in the future,” said DHS principal Cortney Gehrke. “We’re very much looking forward to the things they’re going to accomplish here at Darlington High School.”
“We look forward to the Falcons soaring much higher than they have in the past,” added DHS athletics director Michael Jordan.
Jennings spent 10 seasons as head varsity football coach at Ridge View High School in Columbia. In 2006, the S.C. Football Coaches Association named him the 4A Lower State Coach of the Year. He is a 17-year teaching veteran who is also national board certified in Career and Technology Education.
He most recently served as defensive coordinator and a teacher at Lugoff-Elgin High School. In addition to his coaching duties, Jennings will teach Business Education at Darlington High School.
His resume also includes engagements as an assistant football coach for Gardner-Webb University, Western Carolina University and Charleston Southern University. Jennings holds a Master of Arts in Education Administration from Western Carolina University and a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Gardner-Webb University, where he was inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame.
Asked how he plans to generate interest in Falcon football among DHS students, Jennings said he plans to get to know the “who” of Darlington first through involvement in the classroom and the community.
“Kids may need to feel that I’m going to support them, that I care about them not just as a football player,” said Jennings, noting that players’ home life and spiritual life is also important to him.
In light of Darlington High football’s losing record over the past three seasons, Jennings said there is hope among administration and staff that better times are ahead.
“There is some freshness and newness from the district level down to the school level that excites me. They have a vision and a plan,” added Jennings. “My job is to come here and see if I can fit and (we can) become a team.”
Epps currently teaches fourth grade at St. John’s Elementary, and she previously served as DHS JV girls volleyball coach. Epps said she hopes to grow the program and recruit more players, and would also like to increase team members’ involvement in the community.
“For volleyball to grow into a strong sport like it is on the coast … it’s going to start with our youth. I’m talking younger than high school age,” said Epps, explaining that she plans to focus on volleyball development in district middle schools to increase interest and improve performance for the DHS programs.