By Bob Sutton
Special to The Alamance News
Fritz Hessenthaler was removed as head coach of Southern Alamance’s football team hours before the team’s first-round victory in the Class 3-A state playoffs Friday night.
Alamance-Burlington School System superintendent Dr. Dain Butler made the announcement Friday afternoon, with information made public about 2½ hours prior to the Patriots smacking visiting Orange 44-0.
“While we cannot provide details due to privacy and legal considerations, we want to assure our school community that this decision was made carefully after a thorough review process,” a statement from ABSS said. “… We understand this news may raise questions.
However, we hope you understand the importance of keeping personnel matters confidential. We want to reassure you that we remain dedicated to serving our school community with the highest standards.”
ABSS officials initially announced last Thursday that Hessenthaler, also a teacher at the school, was on leave with pay.
Longtime assistant coach Chris Miller was named acting coach.
The Patriots (10-1), the No. 3 seed in the Class 3-A East Region, will be home for the second round Friday night against No. 14 seed Jacksonville (9-1), a 55-21 winner against Pikeville Aycock.
Les Atkins, public information officer for ABSS, said the initial leave took effect Wednesday.
No other members of Southern’s coaching staff are on leave, Atkins said.
Hessenthaler, 53, was nearing the end of his sixth season as head coach of the Patriots. His teams have compiled a combined 48-18 record.
Meanwhile, senior football player Chandler Clontz has come forward and identified himself as the alleged victim in the incident that preceded Hessenthaler’s firing as football coach.
Clontz attended a rally at ABSS Central Office early Tuesday morning along with his aunt, who has been among those leading the “save Coach Fritz” campaign. Clontz claimed that Hessenthaler grabbed his jersey and scolded him regarding a play in the previous week’s game vs. Western Alamance. He said he didn’t consider the coach’s actions to be out of line.
ABSS released its third statement on Hessenthaler’s status Tuesday. The case began October 30 when contacted by the Alamance County sheriff’s office. School officials said they conducted multiple interviews with students, staff, administrators and families across three days in making the determination of the coach’s status.
No report from any alleged victim has been confirmed by the Alamance County sheriff’s office. There’s also widespread chatter that there’s video footage of the alleged incident, but that claim is unsubstantiated.
Hessenthaler previously was an assistant coach (1999-2002) with the Patriots before time as Southeast Guilford’s coach and one season as an assistant coach at Providence Grove.
Central 3-A Conference champion Southern did all its scoring in the first half of Friday night’s game.
“The kids executed very well offensively and defensively,” Miller said. “They were pretty locked in and had a great night.”
Logan Foust, Josiah Tysinger and Jackson Parrish all scored two touchdowns.
Foust had scoring runs of 26 and 7 yards on the way to 154 rushing yards on 10 carries.
Josiah Tysinger posted a 66-yard touchdown run and caught a 21-yard scoring pass from Landon Dodson.
Jackson Parrish scored on runs of 1 and 21 yards.
Linebacker Kaleb Franklin, who had been since September 15 with an injury, was back in action in the playoff game.
“That’s a big plus getting him back,” Miller said.
Southern Alamance has defeated Orange (3-8) twice this season, also winning 49-0 on October 13 in the Central 3-A Conference.