By Ethan Willis, staff writer
Chris Elam. That name stands alone in Coffee County football lore. The 1998 CHS graduate, who led the Red Raiders to their first-ever TSSAA State Football Playoff appearance in the 1997 season, is returning to the field. Now as a coach.
Elam has been added to new CHS head coach Ryan Sulkowski’s staff and will handle running backs – a position he is quite familiar with.
“I’m going to be helping out with the running backs a few days a week,” Elam said. “I’ll be there doing mostly offense but I’ll be
doing whatever the coach needs. We haven’t really sat down and come up with the game plan of where my main focus will be. We’ll be doing that in the next couple of weeks, I’m sure.”
While Elam has seen the Raiders have a rough few seasons, he’s eager to help Sulkowski turn the tide for the better.
“Being an alumni, it’s been pretty sad to see what the kids have been going through,” Elam said. “I think the coach that we got now has brought a lot of excitement back. He’s a good guy and I’m looking forward to working with him to try to rebuild that and get that excitement back in the kids. They work hard throughout the summer and all through the year. It’s going to be exciting to get it going. I think everybody gets excited any time you get a new coach. The kids have a new face and they believe in him.”
Elam is optimistic about revitalizing a football team that has been floundering, winning just five games in the past three seasons.
“There are always ups and downs with anything, but hopefully we’ll have a lot more ups than we do downs in the future for the Red Raiders,” Elam said. “I think just getting around the kids and getting excited again and getting the community back involved is something we’ve missed in the last couple of years. I think they didn’t have a coach that was the face of the program, and I think this coach is the one for it.”
Elam hopes Manchester will rally behind the team, boosting morale for both the players and the community.
“Community involvement is huge,” Elam said. “It’s a lot of fundraising. Also, on Friday nights when you’re out there looking up at the stands and if you’re out there playing for just a couple hundred people and your parents, it’s not that fun. But when you’re playing in front of the whole town and the day after you go into Walmart or anywhere and people congratulate you on the great game, it means the world to you. I played college football myself, but there’s nothing like Friday night lights. Everybody can say that, but when you’ve played here, you play for the local people that know you and that means the world to you.”
Elam is most popular for leading the 1997 Red Raiders to the program’s first-ever appearance in the TSSAA State Playoffs with a 7-3 record. In his senior season, Elam rushed for 1,950 yards, including a 385-yard, five touchdown performance against McMinn County in the Raiders’ 57-36 playoff loss.