Ex-Pendleton coach picked to lead Liberty football team

By Bru Nimmons
Staff Reporter

LIBERTY — With spring football inching closer and closer, Liberty High School officials have made a decision on who will lead the Red Devils football program in the years to come.

 Paul Sutherland, an area veteran who spent 17 years coaching at Pendleton High School, has been named head coach at Liberty after a three-year stint at Franklin County High School in Georgia.

While Sutherland finished with a 12-18 record in his three years at Franklin County, he seemed to have the Lions on the right track in his final season, leading them to their best record in 30 years at 7-3 in 2020 and the first 5-0 start in 40 years.

Locally, Sutherland garnered much respect at Pendleton, where he began his head coaching career in 2001.

During his 17-year tenure with Pendleton, Sutherland’s Bulldogs won 119 games and five region titles and four region Coach of the Year awards. By the end of his run, he was the longest-tenured head coach in school history and held the school record for most wins by a head coach.

Off the field, Sutherland’s wife Michelle, is an adjunct professor at Anderson University following a 28 year career in public education.

“It is hard to find a coach with the experience, record, and character of Paul Sutherland, and I’m very excited to have him lead our program,” said Josh Oxendine, LHS principal. “He knows what it takes to win, and more importantly, understands the importance of culture and being a role model for our student athletes. His time on the Pendleton Recreation Board and his work with the feeder programs in every community he has coached in, makes him the perfect fit for the Liberty Community.”

Liberty High School will host a meet-and-greet event for Coach Sutherland at the LHS main gymnasium on Thursday, January 28, at 7:00 p.m. All visitors must wear a mask and practice safe social distancing.

Despite his record of success, Sutherland will have big shoes to fill in replacing longtime Liberty head coach Kyle Stewart, who still serves as the school’s athletic director.

Stewart went 45-60 over 10 seasons at Liberty, and the Red Devils made the playoffs six times in those 10 years, including a 2016 run that took them to the third round and saw the Red Devils pick up the first home playoff win in program history.

Luckily for Liberty, Sutherland has a proven track record of producing playoff-level teams, making 17 postseasons during his 20-year run as a head coach.