Augusta, GA (WJBF) -- Probably not too many people expected the Aquinas Fighting Irish to be undefeated and still playing in the state semifinals. They lost their best player, running back and linebacker Brendan Douglas. They also lost their head coach Matt Lezotte. He left for Wayne County. Ruben Garnett has villed the Douglas void admirably. And James Leonard has fit in perfectly as the new head coach.
At age 26, Leonard is the youngest head coach in the state of Georgia. This is his first time as a head coach, but he has plenty of coaching experience. He's worked on the Aquinas staff since he was 16 years old.
Leonard got his early start in coaching after his playing career was cut short. He had to quit playing after his sophomore year because of a medical condition. The head coach at the time, Tim Connor, who's now on Leonard's staff, asked Leonard if he wanted to help. A then 16-year-old Leonard started out shooting video of the games. By game 3, he was already the JV offensive line coach. He's been working with Aquinas in some capacity ever since.
Leonard's Fighting Irish put their unbeaten season on the line on the road Friday night at Mount Pisgah. It's the first semifinal appearance for both schools. We'll have highlights of the game Friday at 11 on WJBF.
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