High School Sports

Ridgeland-Hardeeville names Jahmaal Nelson head football coach

He finished as a state runner-up in 1999 at Spartanburg's Dorman High School as a star running back and defensive back. He was a part of the 2003 South Atlantic Conference champion Tusculum team as a star defensive back.

He coached Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety D.J. Moore as the defensive backfield coach for the 2005 Broome High School team that went 11-0 in the regular season.

And he coached running backs and special teams on last season's Spring Valley High School team that went 12-1.

Ridgeland-Hardeeville High School hopes Jahmaal Nelson brings his winning touch to the Jaguars. Nelson has been named the new Ridgeland-Hardeeville head football coach.

"I've been a candidate for a head coaching job at a couple of other places," Nelson said. "This seemed like the right fit for me, the place and the time right now where I need to be and God needs me to be. A head coaching position has always been a dream of mine."

Nelson, who has coached running backs, special teams, and defensive backs for the past seven years at Spring Valley, is under a temporary contract until the school board meets in August and approves his teaching position.

Nelson would replace Blake Raley, who resigned June 10.

"Coach Raley has left behind a great legacy," Nelson said. "It's a new era now, and I'm going to try and continue to instill the values that he put in place. It's a little bit of a late start. So we'll just try to get everything in place before we play Hilton Head."

Nelson was offered the coaching position June 26, the last day before the district's mandatory week off for the July 4th holiday. He has been in the district this week to meet coaches and players.

There were a total of seven applicants interviews for the coaching position from more than a dozen applications from various states across the Southeast, according to Jasper County athletics director Michael Jordan.

"I was very pleased at the number of quality applicants we had for the job," Jordan said. "We felt that coach Nelson was the right one to lead our football team, not only on the field, but in the classroom, as well."

Jordan was not concerned that Nelson had no head coaching experience.

"You can't have experience if you don't have a chance," Jordan said. "Look at where he was at, Spring Valley, one of the top programs in the state. I had a chance to watch them play last season. They do things right way, a very well run program. It's also my job to assist him a much as I can."

Jordan said Nelson's toughest task would be living up to example set by Raley.

"He's got to get kids on board," Jordan said. "And there's Coach Raley's legacy. He had been a part of these kids lives since most of them were in elementary school. He built up trust and loyalty. You can't come in and tear that down. You've got to come in and build a legacy of your own."

Nelson has taught special education for the past 10 years and expects to do the same at Ridgeland-Hardeeville.

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Blake Raley steps down as Ridgeland-Hardeeville football coach, June 10, 2014