Clarke Central Gladiator Football History and Coaches

In 1969 with the consolidation of Athens High School and Burney Harris High Schol, Clarke Central High School was formed. Since the first year that it fielded a team, the Clarke Central Gladiators have compiled an outstanding record under seven coaches.

By the numbers...
Overall Record (1971-2013) 395-172-2 0.65
State Titles 3  
Regional Titles 16  
All-State Players (1st Team/All) 64/110  
NFL Players 7  
Total Weeks Ranked #1 48  
Different Opponents 92  
Home Record 228-75-2 0.743
Road Record 167-97-0 0.6
Neutral Site Record 0-3-0  
Longest Win Streak 29 (8/30/1985-12/12/1986)
Longest Losing Streak 5 (11/17/2000 - 9/28/2001)


Under their first coach, Weyman Sellars, the Gladiators went 8-2 in each of their first two seasons. Coach Sellars had coached for 18 years at Athens High before Clarke Central fielded its first team.

From 1973 until his retirement in 1995, Coach Billy Henderson led the Gladiators to three state Championships and 18 stright playoff appearances in football. His reord as head coach at Clarke Central was 222-65-1. During his high school coaching career, he also won three state championships in baseball, and one state shampionship in swimming. Coach Henderson cared deeply about each of his student-athletes and sought to motivate each to do his or her best in athletics, in the classroom and in life.

Clarke Central won the AAA championship in 1977 with a 14-0 record. The key players on that team were Jim Bob Harris QB/DB (all-state), Carey Nelms L, Karey Johnson LB (all-state lineman of the year), Stan Davis RB, and Craig Meyers E. The Gladiators beat Valdosta 16-14 in a game that was a payback for 1965 when Athens missed a PAT in the last 20 seconds and lost 14-13. Valdosta missed a 31-yard with a minute left in the game.

Clarke Central went 15-0 in 1979 and won the AAAA state championship. They defeated Tift County 20-10 with Dwayne Harden running for 177 yards on 31 carries and 2 TD's. Key players that year were Dwayne Harden (Georgia Back of the Year, 1,621 yards on 279 carries and 15 TD's), Charley Dean (QB, all-state), Josh Starks (FB, 6-1, 220, state 100-yard champion, all-state), Darryl Moore WR.

In 1985 Henderson led Clarke Central to a third AAAA Championship and a 15-0 record. The Gladiators beat Warner Robins 21-7 during the championship game. The game feature ed two field goals by John Kasay who went on to kick at UGA and in the NFL. Other key players on the team were Robb Kamerschen QB (all-state), Derek Dooley E (all-state), Kent Jordan L (all-state), Kenneth Brown RB, Tommy Stewart E.

When Billy Henderson retired, his long time assistant, Steve Brooks was named as his replacement in 1996. Brooks began coaching at Clarke Central in 1978 and coached until 1982. After several years away, he returned in 1990 as Offensive Coordinator. Coach Brooks led the team to a regional Championship in 1996 and a 10-3 record. After another 10-3 record in 1997, the record dropped to two different six win seasons and a losing record in 1999 for only the second time since 1973.

In 2001, Clarke Central named Jon Ward as Athletic Director after serving several years as assistant head coach. During that year he also assumed the role of Interm head football coach for one season.       

William DeVane was hired to lead the Gladiators in 2002 after several successful years at Hart County including a state runner up team in 1999. Coach DeVane spent four years at Clarke Central with  an overall record of 25-17.

In 2006 Leroy Ryals was named as the sixth head coach in the school's history. In 2004, Ryals was the tight ends coach at LSU, which was coming off a national championship season in 2003 under Nick Saban. From his position as an assistant coach, Ryals saw how to handle high expectations from one of the most successful coaches in college football. Ryal recruited Georgia and had family ties to Clarke Central so it was a natural fit.

Coach Ryals had a significant impact on the football program at CCHS. In the seven seasons Ryals coached, he led the Gladiators to two Region 8-AAAA championship and the Class AAAA state finals in 2009, as well as the playoffs every year he has coached and ended his coaching career at CCHS with a 60-22-1 record.

In 2009, for the first time since 1992, Clarke Central reached the Class AAAA state championship game last season, losing to Sandy Creek 29-15. The Gladiators held a 9-7 lead heading into the fourth quarter before the Patriots' high-powered offense opened the flood gates.

After Ryal's resignation, defensive coordinator Ahren Self was announced as the new head football coach for the 2013-14 season. Coach Self has spent six years at Clarke Central as Defensive Coordinator. Prior to arriving at Clarke Central he coached at Unversity of Chattanooga, Elon University, The Citadal, and Syracuse.  In his first season as head coach, the Gladiators went 7-4 and made it to the state playoffs where they lost in the first round.  Self led the Gladiators to a 16-15 record during his three years as the head coach.

Clarke Central hired David Perno as the head football coach for the Gladiators in February 2016.  Coach Perno had been a all-state running back for the Clarke Central 1985 state championship team.  He went on to have a stellar baseball career at the University of Georgia and pursued a career in coaching college baseball for 18 years.  Coach Perno served as the head baseball coach at UGA and led the Bulldogs to three College World Series and two SEC titles.  

Coach Perno has brought his passion for coaching and competitive drive to Clarke Central.  He has instilled a commitment to excellence in Clarke Central football program.  The Gladiators finished the 2016 campaign 7-5 and record their first road play-off win since 2009.  The Gladiators returned to the state play-offs in 2017.