In the early 1990s, Steve Gates spent his time creating lanes for star running backs Garrison Hearst and Terrell Davis at the University of Georgia.
Now, Gates is looking to pave the way forward for the Cass football program after being confirmed as Colonels head coach at Monday night’s Bartow County School System board meeting.
Gates will take over the reins from Bobby Hughes, who had served as head coach since 2014. Hughes resigned from the position earlier this year to transition into a new role within the school’s athletic department. In his final season in charge of the Colonels, Hughes led the team to a 4-6 finish — Cass’ best record since 2015.
According to the Georgia High School Football Historians Association, Gates is set to become the 18th head coach in program history. It will be his first varsity head-coaching gig, but the former Bulldog brings with him plenty of prior success in Cobb County.
A standout offensive lineman at McEachern before signing with UGA in 1991, Gates wrapped up his fourth year on the Kell coaching staff this past fall. Perhaps not so coincidentally, those four seasons coincided with the time Cass and Kell both spent in Region 7-AAAAA. The Longhorns won all four of those matchups by a combined score of 165-20.
Based on his profile on the team’s website, Gates wore many hats at Kell. He was listed as assistant head coach, offensive coordinator and running backs coach. Gates also served as the program’s recruiting coordinator and academic advisor.
During his tenure, Kell made the Class 5A playoffs every season. In 2016, the Longhorns reached the state semifinals. The following year, they took a step back, finishing 5-6 with a first-round playoff exit. The past two seasons, Kell has wound up 9-3 after losses in the second round of the postseason.
Gates, who joined Kell from North Cobb, saw his offenses average more than 30 points per game each of his four seasons with the Longhorns. During his first three years, Gates had star quarterback Evan Conley, who is now at Louisville. Last season, he helped turn freshman RB David Mbadinga into a stud who finished with nearly 1,600 yards from scrimmage.
A strong offensive influx will be welcomed for a Colonels program that has struggled on that side of the ball in recent times. In that same four-year span, Cass has averaged 18.2, 10.0, 12.1 and 15.7 points per game, respectively.
With Kell successfully lobbying to move up to Class 6A, Gates won't have to face his former employer this fall. However, he will still be part of a rugged region, featuring Blessed Trinity, Calhoun, Cartersville, Hiram and Woodland.