By Zach Shugan
JOHNS CREEK, Ga. — The Mount Pisgah football team will be under the direction of a new but familiar coach entering the 2021 season.
The school announced Ryan Livezey will be taking over as head coach of the football team. Livezey was the Patriots’ offensive coordinator for the past four seasons and has been Mount Pisgah’s athletic director since June 2018.
“I’m looking forward to it because I know what we’ve done well and what we haven’t done well,” Livezey said. “It’s exciting to get a chance to add and build on what you already know is there.”
Mike Forester, who led the Patriots for the past eight seasons, will stay on the coaching staff as defensive coordinator. The Patriots went 52-37 during Forester’s tenure as head coach, reaching the playoffs six times in eight years.
“Coach Livezey is going to be a great head coach and I’m excited for next year,” Forester said in a press release announcing the move. “Throughout my career I’ve really enjoyed being a defensive coach and look forward to doing it again. I’m really happy to be able to do what I love.”
It’s unusual, if not unprecedented, for a team’s head coach to become one of its coordinators, at the same time having one of their assistant coaches take over as head coach.
Livezey said there might be some awkward moments at first, but the two men have formed a strong relationship through coaching together the past four years and coaching against each other years before that.
“I’ve known coach Forester since before I came to Mount Pisgah” Livezey said. “I was the head coach at Holy Innocents’ for 14 years, and I got to know him when we would play Mount Pisgah. We’ve become much better friends since I’ve been here. I don’t know if it would work out if we didn’t have such a great relationship.”
Livezey has been coaching high school football in Georgia for over two decades. Following his playing days at Furman University, the former defensive lineman began his coaching career in 1996 at Marist. He then coached at Winder-Barrow for one season before taking over as the first-ever head coach at Holy Innocents’ in 2003.
Livezey led Holy Innocents’ for 14 seasons, finishing 67-56 overall and taking the program to the playoffs eight times in its 11 seasons competing in the GHSA.
In his newest venture, Livezey will take over a Mount Pisgah team coming off a 6-5 season and trip to the Class A-Private state playoffs.
“It’s not like there’s a lot of things broken,” Livezey said.
Usually when a team switches from a defensive- to offensive-minded head coach, its play style and identity changes drastically. But Livezey doesn’t see the Patriots mixing things up too much under his direction.
“The way we operated last year was he was the defensive coordinator and I was the offensive coordinator. Other than me becoming the head coach, there’s not going to be a huge change. We’re still going to be running the same schemes. The biggest change will be in our personnel.”
The Patriots will be without several key pieces from the 2020 team.
Senior quarterback Coleman Smith, who passed for the fifth-most yards (3,020) in the state last year, committed to Birmingham Southern in December. Senior receiver Nick Speros, another all-state selection who racked up over 1,200 receiving yards in 2020, holds an offer from Sewanee and recently received a preferred walk-on offer from Samford. Senior defensive lineman Nick Jackson, an all-state selection, is a Marist College commit.
One player returning for the Patriots next year will be rising senior Cole Spence, a 6-foot-6, three-star tight end with offers from Central Florida, South Florida, Jacksonville State and Dartmouth.
“He will end up going somewhere pretty big,” Livezey said. “He just got an offer from South Florida, and I would imagine other schools are going to start reaching out to him as he continues to grow and get more publicity. He’s sharp in the classroom, so he’ll have a lot of opportunities.”