Hughes, who assumed his duties and met with his players Monday, said he believes Cass has all the ingredients it takes to be successful and that is the direction in which he and his coaching staff will be pointing the program.
Hughes said he and his staff are committed to the community and its players.
“The community is hungry and wants to be successful,” he said. “They are willing to support us and help us.”
He said he has coached his own son in sports and uses that as a guide when working with youngsters.
“I am going to love your son and push him just as hard as I did my own to be the best he can be,” he said. “I want him to be the best he can be not just on the field but also in the classroom and community. We want to push them to be the best person they can be.”
Mike Nelson, Cass principal, said Hughes was chosen because of that commitment to the community’s youngsters as well as his experience.
“He’s in it for the kids,” Nelson said. “He emphasizes building futures for kids and not just football. He obviously has a lot of football knowledge, having won a state championship, but the best thing about him is he’s in it for the children.”
Hughes, who for a total of eight years was head coach and athletic director at Howard High in Macon and Macon County High in Montezuma, was the offensive coordinator for Macon County when it won the state championship with a 15-0 record in 1996 and when it was state runnerup with a 14-1 in 1995.
Rick Casko, who is stepping down at Cass to assume the reins at Glades Central High, a powerhouse football program in Florida, said he expects only good things from Hughes at Cass.
“He’s comfortable here,” Casko said. “He’s proven himself. He already knows the players. He’s an excellent coach and he’s tremendous with the kids. He brings experience to the job and he’s been here at Cass. He’s going to put his own signature on the program with the things he’s done before, and we’re expecting some really good things here. We feel we’ve made an excellent choice.”
Hughes said Cass has the foundation needed for a very successful program.
“Cass has great facilities, a supportive and first-class administration and a group of young, hungry kids who are willing to work hard to be successful,” Hughes said. “I’d say in the past year and a half I’ve seen a change in their work ethic. They’ve bought into the weight room work. A successful weight room program is vital to the success of all sports programs today because it is one of aspects of the game you can control.”
He said today’s athlete can improve himself in so many ways physically through working out.
“The [Cass] kids have started to see the results,” Hughes said. “That’s the funny thing with weight training. When you see what it does for you, it makes you hungrier to stay in there and work even harder. When you get stronger, you get faster, you jump higher. There are benefits to every sport through the weight program. That is going to be our foundation.”
Hughes said he also has a lot of good coaches on board.
“We have a very knowledgeable staff that works really well with our youngsters, and we’ll look to add a few more pieces to make us as strong as we can be as a staff,” he said.
The coach said the school has a good team returning.
“We’ve got a good nucleus, although we lost a very talented senior group,” he said. “I really like the young pieces we have returning, and we expect good contributions from the middle school because it is a successful, well-run program that is only going to make our jobs easier.”
Hughes said Drew Elrod will continue a second year as offensive coordinator.
“Drew is very knowledgeable about the offense, works well with kids and has a passion for the game,” the head coach said.
Cass will have an experienced hand on the other side of the ball.
“Jamey Gaddy will be our defensive coordinator,” Hughes said. “He worked with me and has a good grasp of how we play defensively. We’re more of an attacking defense and he understands that. I’m looking forward to watching him get our defense to continue to play at the speed and pace we like.”
The assistant head coach will be Shane McPherson.
“Shane played at a high level college (North Carolina),” Hughes said. “He has a real knowledge of the game and a passion and discipline. The kids feed off that. He’s also a Cartersville guy. He’s not just a good friend but a positive resource in the community.”
Hughes stressed his staff will be able to provide guidance to youngsters who wish to play on Saturdays.
“They have experience at the next level,” he said. “When our kids talk about it, we can give them honest feedback as to what it will take athletically, academically and discipline-wise to continue playing at the next level. It’s a great resource to have coaches who can give them good, honest guidance.”
Hughes said he is blessed with a good middle school program as well.
“My wife teaches and coaches at the middle school and it helps to build relationships with students before they get here,” he said. “They won’t just see a new face at the high school but someone who is already familiar with them and will help them. That relationship with the middle school is vital. Marty Moore does a tremendous job there.”
His career highlights include being a member of the NAIA National Champion Football Team in 1983 and 1984; region football coach of the year (region champions) at Macon County High in 2004 and 2006, and region athletic director of the year at Macon County High in 2005.
He was head football coach and athletic director at Howard High from March 2008 through July 2011 and held the same positions at Macon County High from June 2003 through March 2008.
He was a teacher and coach at Morrow, Central and Macon high schools from December 1997 through June 2003. He was a coach at Macon County High from June 1993 through March 1998.
Hughes is a graduate of Georgia Southwestern State University, where he received a BS in Health and Physical Education in 1997.
He studied in Business and Communications at Carson Newman College in Jefferson City, Tenn., and received his college prep diploma from George Walton Comprehensive High School in Marietta in 1983.