PCA celebrates Coach Keith Wasson’s 20 years as head football coach

By: PCA Journalism

Pinewood Christian Academy’s stadium was packed for the first home game of the 52nd season of Patriot football and to celebrate Coach Keith Wasson as he was honored for his twenty years in the role of head football coach. Before the game, many of his past players lined the center field in support of their coach as he, along with his family, stood to accept his recognition.

Coach Wasson was a graduate of the Class of 1996 at Pinewood. He played football at PCA all four years of his high school career beginning in 1993 and his last two years were under Coach John “Buck” Cravey.  Wasson went on to graduate from Georgia Southern University and to earn a master’s degree in education leadership from Walden University.  After college, he returned to his alma mater to serve as a teacher and coach. Wasson served as an assistant football coach under his mentor, Coach Cravey.

When asked about stepping into the role of head coach upon Cravey’s retirement, Wasson said, “I guess it was the right place at the right time.  I had been coaching under Coach Cravey for several years and was asked if I would be interested in the job after he retired.”

Pictured l to r: Coach John “Buck” Cravey, Coach Pharis Rogers, Coach Lowell Coley, and Coach Keith Wasson.

In 2004, Wasson was named the tenth head varsity football coach at PCA and began building a career that would lead to him becoming the winningest football coach in the history of Evans County just ahead of Cravey whose record stands at 67 wins. Wasson has coached 222 games with 138 total wins (56 region), 1 tie, and only 83 losses (32 region). Pinewood teams under him have won eight region championships and State Runner-up four times.

Coach Wasson is a man who doesn’t care for the limelight and prefers to operate in the background, but he is one that has a big presence among his students, players, and the staff at PCA.  While building his football program, he has worn many hats at Pinewood where he serves as athletic director as well as facilities director.  He has also been an assistant head of school, track coach, and assistant baseball coach.  He serves on the Georgia Independent Athletic Association athletic committee and is the athletic chairman for the GIAA District 2.  He has been named region football Coach of the Year eight times and has three track and field Coach of the Year awards as well.  This year, the Georgia Athletic Director Association named Wasson the 2023 GIAA AAA Athletic Director of the Year.

What keeps him going after twenty years?

“Three boys who are all in school and a monthly mortgage,” Wasson laughed.  “But really, I enjoy the challenge,” he explained, “I enjoy seeing the players grow and mature into young men and seeing how they improve over the years.  Teams are like your children, they are the same in many ways because they have a lot of the same people on them but each year they have different personalities and characteristics.”

Assistant coach and past player under Wasson, Garrett Blaxton said, “I can remember back playing for him, he’d tell us to learn something new each day even if it’s just one thing and apply it.  He preaches that same thing now – get better every day, even if it’s just one thing.  I have been fortunate to have some great coaches in my life in high school and in college.  These coaches were hard-nosed, hardcore, and didn’t take any slack from you.  You worked for and earned everything you got. Coach Wasson is definitely one of them and always has been.  I’m truly grateful for that.  I’m blessed to be one of his football kids. I wouldn’t want it any other way.  So many memories, many more great memories to come… Coach Wasson is one of the reasons I coach now:  to impact lives, like he has mine over the many years.”

“You can’t be in this business without a strong support staff,” Wasson explained, “that goes for the people who work alongside you during the school day to your family at home who rarely sees you during the season.”  Currently, Wasson has two assistant coaches on his staff that played on his team during his first year as head coach: Chance Cofield and Garrett.

2023 Football Coaching Staff (pictured l to r): JP Padilla, Chance Cofield, Head Coach Keith Wasson, Dalton Creach, and Garrett Blaxton.

Cofield, who was a junior at the time playing on Wasson’s team, said, “I have had the privilege of knowing Coach Wasson since I was in third grade and was a water boy during his senior year football season at Pinewood.  When he took over as head coach my junior year back in 2004, we all knew he was the right man for the job.   As players, we were excited because we knew he would push us to be the best we could be.  Twenty years later, he is still doing just that.  He has been a big influence in my coaching career.  He trusted me with coaching the middle school football and basketball programs while I was in college.  He supported me when I took jobs away from Pinewood and is a big reason why I am back at Pinewood.  He has always been a mentor and someone I look up to, not only as a coach, but as a husband and father.  It is an honor to work with him and for him.  Hopefully, we can get twenty more years out of him.”

Blaxton, who was a sophomore, added, “For me, it’s been twenty plus years of saying Coach Wasson. I work on his football staff now and when I say Keith, it’s so weird to me; but to me, that’s when you know a great coach has captured your heart.  When it’s always, ‘Hey, Coach Wasson.’  It’s not just about football or any other sport, but life and the life lessons that a great coach teaches you and he sure has taught a lot. I have been coached by Coach Wasson in middle and varsity sports and now I’m coaching with him in my twelfth year at PCA.  Coach Wasson is not just a great football coach and a truly great competitor, but a great leader and mentor on and off the field. The core values that he had since I played for him are the same ones now:  he’s going to tell you the truth and you know where going to stand with him. He wants you to become a better player, person, man, and a man of God each day. He wants to see you succeed outside of football.  I have lots of love for him, Mrs. Amber and his three boys:  Mic, Will, and Sam.”

Wasson’s leadership style has exemplified the qualities of a truly great coach over the years.  “Having former players who go into the coaching profession is very rewarding, but having them come back and coach with me is very special,” Wasson commented.  The legacy he most hopes to leave behind when he retires is “hard work pays off”.  This is no surprise to anyone that knows him.

Coach Clay Hill, former PCA Headmaster and assistant coach for Wasson, said, “I was able to be on the field the night as Keith was recognized and I felt completely honored to be there.  I coached football for thirty-six years, so I have a completely different outlook on the ceremony.  Keith is a very good football coach and has won many football games.  He will continue to win many more over the upcoming years.  I was fortunate enough to have worked on his staff and witnessed his abilities firsthand.  To me, the night was more than recognizing wins.  To me, this night was meant to honor a man who twenty years ago formed a bond with Pinewood football, a marriage more or less.  And like a marriage, Keith has stood firm in his commitment and has remained steadfast through better or worse.  Most head football coaches leave when the cupboard looks bare, and move on to greener pastures.  It is very rare for a coach to stay through the lean times and remain true to the program.”

This sentiment is clearly demonstrated by one of Wasson’s most memorable experiences during his career.  “If I had to choose a game, it would probably be one that is very unexpected.  In 2010, we won one ballgame all year and it was the ninth game of the year.  At that point in the season, getting a win at all was very doubtful.  When we were able to squeeze that game out, it was a great feeling,” Wasson said.  The legacy of hard work paying off is more is a core value for Coach Wasson that he has continually put into action over the years.

Coach Wasson advising his son Mic on the field.

Wasson’s oldest son, Mic, spoke of a time during his high school career playing under his dad where the determination to work hard reaped rewards, “My favorite memory playing under Coach Wasson was my senior year in the final four game against Westfield.  I had always dreamed of playing in the state championship game and playing in it with my dad right there with me.  After being so close the previous two years, we got over the hump and made it to the final game.  I remember as the clock struck zero and I made eye contact with him as I was coming off the field.  We both had the biggest smiles on our faces that I could ever remember seeing.”

Looking back over the years at all those who have supported him along his journey, Wasson reflected, “I have had many great opportunities, but I think the greatest would be the opportunity to work under and with some of the best coaches and administrators in the business.  I have been blessed with being surrounded by good people.”  As far as his most memorable experience as head coach of PCA, while there are many, “Being able to coach my sons has been very special.”  It has been the same for his sons as well.

“Being able to say that I have been able to play for my dad is something I take huge pride in.  My whole life, I grew up going to practices and games and watched my dad do exactly what he loves to do.  I couldn’t wait for my time to come when I could be one of his players.  My dad has had one of the biggest impacts in my life.  I am the type of person and where I am today because of him.  He not only showed me how to be a great coach, but also a great father.  Never once did I ever doubt that he was more of a coach than a father to me.  I’ll never be able to thank him enough for everything he has done for me and my two brothers.  He coaches us on and off the field and we have him to thank for the young men we are today,” shared Mic.

Coach Hill emphasized, “To me, this night was to recognize a coach who has taken hundreds of young boys and helped develop them into fine young men.  Many were in attendance to remind us of this.  Keith has taught more than football, he has taught life lessons, and helped prepare these young men to become successful husbands and fathers.  Keith demands that his players ‘do things the right way’ and has used their desire to be part of the program to help this process.  Playing football for Coach Wasson is a character building experience and has helped make better people out of all of the players who played for him.  Keith is a great role model, and exemplifies Christian values at all times.  Most importantly, Keith loves his players, and he cares about each one individually. “

Wasson is married to Amber Durrence Wasson and they reside in the Mendes community of Tattnall County and are members of Glennville Methodist Church in Glennville.  They have three sons:  Mic, who now plays football as a sophomore at Mercer University; Will, a junior at PCA; and Sam, who is in seventh grade at Pinewood.  Amber is also a graduate of Pinewood Christian Academy.

Coach Hill said, “I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that this ceremony should also be about recognizing the ‘first family’ of Pinewood football.  Amber has been a very understanding and supportive wife for these twenty years and that is so important.  The Wasson boys have been raised at the football field and completely support their father.  The whole Wasson clan bleeds green and orange and are Pinewood Patriots to the bone.  As stated earlier, Keith has won an awful lot of games and will win an awful lot more.  To me, the importance of this night was to say thank you to Coach Wasson for loving Pinewood and for being OUR COACH!”