About middle of the way through the just completed season, Thomas Sumter Academy football head coach Troy Kessinger got a feeling.
"I went to my headmaster (Dr. Frank Martin) and told him it was probably time to start looking for a new football …
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"I went to my headmaster (Dr. Frank Martin) and told him it was probably time to start looking for a new football coach," Kessinger said.
So when the Generals' 3-8 campaign came to an end, so did Kessinger's 12-year tenure as TSA's head coach. It was a highly successful stretch too, one that saw Thomas Sumter win six straight region titles and play in three SCISA 2A state championship games, one of them coming away as state champion.
"It was just time for a change for me and my family," said Kessinger, who posted a 75-67 record with the Dalzell school. "I thought about this a couple of years ago, but I still felt it was where God wanted me. It's just time for a fresh start for me and my family."
Kessinger said he and his family will be moving to the mountains of North Carolina where he hopes to continue teaching and coaching.
"The next month or two I'm going to be hitting the bricks, looking for someone who needs a math teacher," said Kessinger, who will finish out the school year at TSA. "I love coaching; I'm not tired of it in any way. The past year I had a great time doing it.
"This was my 30th year coaching and teaching," he added. "I've always wanted to do both. I can't imagine doing one without doing the other."
Kessinger became the head coach at Thomas Sumter in 2006 after two stints as an assistant coach in Florida with three years as a head coach in North Carolina in between. The Generals went 4-7 in his first year, advancing to the state playoffs. The next season started the run of six straight region titles.
The six straight region titles started in '07. The Generals were 56-21 during that stretch, winning 10 times game in three of the seasons and 12 in 2010. That's the year they won the state title. They played for the state title three times in four years, also reaching the game in '08 and '11.
"That was obviously an enjoyable time," Kessinger said. "I've had a chance to talk to three, four or five of those guys recently, and we just talked about how good those times were.
"The last few years have been a little tougher, but it was a great time for me at Thomas Sumter. I got to work with some great young men at the school."
Kessinger said there was no direct correlation with him stepping down during the same year his son, Eli, will be graduating from TSA. Eli started at quarterback for his father this past season, tossing 29 touchdown passes.
"That really wasn't part of it," Coach Kessinger said. "It just worked out that way. It ended up being pretty good.
"Being in school at Thomas Sumter is all my kids have ever known," he added. "Eli was in kindergarten for one year in Sanford, Fla., but went 12 years at Thomas Sumter. For my other (three) children, this is the only school they've ever known. So it will definitely be something a little different for them."
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