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Jeff Williams never backed away from a challenge, including replacing a legend at Fort Smith Southside 15 years ago.

When Barry Lunney left Southside to build a dynasty at Bentonville, Williams took the helm of the football program and carved out his own legacy by winning a state title.

Williams is leaving the Southside Mavericks for a new challenge after being named the head football coach at Pea Ridge. Williams, who has been at Southside for the past 15 years, replaces Stephen Neal, who left to become the defensive coordinator at Edmond (Okla.) Deer Creek.

Tony Travis, who previously spent seven seasons as the Pea Ridge Blackhawks' head football coach, has been named the school's new athletic director.

"I've been watching this school from afar and seen how it has grown," Williams said of Pea Ridge. "I love the way the community is behind the team, and it's a one-school town. I've also been intrigued by the way the kids come through that program all the way to the 12th grade.

"I've been in the coaching profession long enough to know sometimes you need a different challenge to get the juices flowing again. This one just felt right."

Williams has a 108-88-2 record over 17 seasons, including a 99-76-1 mark at Southside, which included a Class 7A state championship in 2006 after a last-second 23-22 victory over favored Rogers. Williams also guided his team to state championship appearances in 2008 and 2009, and Southside reached the semifinals on two more occasions.

He takes over as Pea Ridge, makes the jump from the 4A-1 Conference to the 5A-West this fall.

"At Southside, we were one of the smallest schools in Class 7A and enjoyed some success during that time," Williams said. "Greenwood has also been successful these years as one of the smallest schools in Class 6A. I'm excited about Pea Ridge, and I think it will be a great opportunity to be successful one more time."

"I can't wait to be able to meet with the kids and the coaches. I know it's a weird situation right now with the coronavirus, and hopefully this will pass soon so we can get together and play some football. Right now, it's just Zoom meetings, and that's the hard part because you can't meet with them personally."

State Desk on 05/18/2020

Print Headline: Coach Williams leaving Southside

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