Ashley Ennis is the new head football coach at Erwin Triton High School, replacing the retired Joe McCullen.
Ennis served as an assistant coach under McCullen the last nine years after getting his start in coaching at Princeton High School. He served as associate head coach and offensive coordinator for the Hawks last season.
“It’s a great opportunity and I’m very thankful (the Triton administration) thought enough of me to give me a chance,” Ennis said. “I’ll just try to apply what I’ve learned under coach McCullen and do our best to lead our kids. It’s not the ideal circumstance, but we knew last year that there was the outside chance that coach McCullen wouldn’t be back and we kind of prepared for a scenario like this.”
New Triton principal Chip Mangum said the school filled the teaching position vacated by McCullen’s retirement in the middle of the school year and the loss of a teaching position for the 2012-13 school year prevented McCullen from returning to the school.
McCullen, who was the head coach at Rosewood and Smithfield-Selma before making the move to Triton, said that he hopes to continue coaching: "I still enjoy coaching very much. I feel like I have a few more years in me."
“We felt like coach Ennis was ready,” Mangum said. “He was our longest tenured staff member and he really stepped up in handling a lot of the football responsibilities when Mr. McCullen retired last year.”
Ennis, a Benson resident and a 1993 South Johnston High School graduate, takes over a program that has won 70 games over the past nine seasons.
“Successful football programs are about the kids in it,” Ennis said. “We had a very good spring and our numbers are better than ever this summer. The guys are working hard, trying to get better.”
This season the Hawks are expected to return more than half of its starting lineup from a 10-2 squad that won the Eastern Carolina 3A Conference championship in 2011, including league player of the year Dedrick Stacker and speedster Brandon McLean among others.
“We’ll continue to do the things that have made successful, running the wing-T on offense,” Ennis said. “But we’re probably going to mix in a little spread to get some of the teams spread out a little more on defense.”
Triton has posted only one losing record in its past 10 seasons and has won eight or more games for the past four seasons.