Regardless of how his tenure at Beaufort High School ended, this is what Jerry Hatcher wanted.
The former Eagles defensive coordinator was hired Friday as the second football coach at Whale Branch High School. He vowed to bring a physical style in the school's third season and to help his players find a spot on college rosters.
"It all kind of worked out in the end for me," Hatcher said. "The facilities out there are outstanding. They're second to none. And there are a lot of athletes in that area."
The head coaching position is the first for the Cheraw native, who spent the past eight seasons coaching the Beaufort High defense. Hatcher said he never wanted to leave Beaufort County, wanting to stick around until securing the right opportunity.
He said the rural atmosphere at Whale Branch reminded him of his alma mater, Cheraw High School, and that the school's early college program means athletes will have little trouble qualifying to play at the next level.
Among those to come up through Hatcher's Beaufort High defenses are South Carolina defensive end Devin Taylor and defensive back Jimmy Legree, and Clemson linebacker Justin Parker.
Whale Branch defensive back and wide receiver Dee Delaney recently received the school's first NCAA Division I offer, from Georgia State, and Hatcher believes more could be on the way.
"Those kids, if they want to do well, I can help them a long way," Hatcher said.
The Warriors, under coach Rob D'Amato, reached the playoffs the first two seasons, hosting a playoff game last fall. D'Amato resigned earlier this year to pursue an opportunity in the Charleston area.
Hatcher said he would probably utilize the current staff during spring practice to find out who fits where before evaluating the staff further.
Hatcher said he was fired by Beaufort High coach Mark Clifford after the head coach offered his job to someone else. Hatcher described the split as cordial, saying there was no animosity between the coaches. The 2011 season was the Eagles' first losing campaign under Clifford.
But Hatcher already had been on the hunt for a head coaching job in the area. He was a finalist for the Battery Creek job in 2011, after Carlos Cave resigned and later became the athletics director at Whale Branch.
Cave, who served as a volunteer assistant on D'Amato's staff this past season, said he hopes to stay on and help during Hatcher's debut season. He said he dodges the school district's recent push not to have athletics directors in coaching positions because he is not receiving a coaching stipend.
Cave said D'Amato told him Hatcher would be a good fit, and Cave said he liked Hatcher's history with the Eagles defense and with providing players opportunities at the college level.
"He just has a lot of enthusiasm and is looking forward to getting out there and getting going," Cave said. "He just had a clear-cut vision for the program."