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Hunt names Sulkowski as next football coach

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Hiring outside the Wilson County Schools system for just the second time in its 42-year history, the Hunt High football program has found its seventh head coach in Ryan Sulkowski.

Sulkowski, a native of Tifton, Georgia, comes to Hunt from Coffee County Central High in Manchester, Tennessee. He succeeds Keith Byrum, the longtime Warriors assistant coach was not retained after three seasons as head coach.

Sulkowski’s hiring was approved and announced by the Wilson County Board of Education on Wednesday.

“We are excited to announce Ryan Sulkowski as our new head football coach,” Hunt athletic director Jon Smith. “He’s got a wealth of football experience in his background and he understands the landscape here from his time in college (as a coach). He also has a wealth of knowledge in the college side of recruiting.”

Sulkowski’s teams at Coffee County went a combined 13-42 in his five seasons, per Maxpreps.com, at the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association 3-A program. However, he posted a 34-13 mark over four seasons at Baker County High in Glen St. Mary, Florida, near Jacksonville. Before that, the 41-year-old Sulkowski spent one season as head coach at Rifle (Colorado) High, going 4-6.

Sulkowski obtained his bachelor’s degree at Valdosta (Georgia) State University in 2001. He played offensive line for head coach Hal Mumme and offensive coordinator Mike Leach for the Blazers. Sulkowski was the offensive coordinator at Hargrave Military Academy in Virginia for three years (2004-07). Previously, he worked as a college assistant coach at Valdosta State (1998-2000), Lenoir-Rhyne (2001), Austin Peay (2002), Chowan (2003) and Clemson (2007-09), where he was a graduate assistant under Tommy Bowden and then current Tigers head coach Dabo Swinney.

The only other Hunt varsity football coach who did not come directly from within the Wilson County Schools ranks was Bruce Snyder, who was the head coach at Princeton High when he was hired in January 1990 to succeed Bill Williamson. But Snyder, who previously was an assistant coach at Fike High in the 1970s, led the Warriors for just one year before giving way to Randy Raper, who won more than 200 games over the next 22 seasons. Raper directed Hunt to three straight North Carolina High School Athletic Association 3-A Eastern finals before stepping down after the 2012 season. 

Under head coach Stevie Hinnant, the Warriors reached the 3-A semifinals again in 2013 but have had just one winning season (2015) since. Hunt has missed the playoffs each of the last three seasons, although the Warriors were expected to make the field last fall until a postgame fight between players from Hunt and Fike resulted in the termination of both schools’ seasons by WCS officials.

Sulkowski’s wife, Heather, is from the Outer Banks and played basketball and volleyball at Barton College before transferring to Peace College (now William Peace University). They have a daughter, Doxie, age 8.

Smith noted that Sulkowski has worked as an athletic director previously and has coached other sports.

“He’s going to be a vital asset to our school,” Smith said.

Sulkowski will be introduced at a “meet-and-greet” function at Hunt on Thursday, March 28, at 7 p.m., Smith said. The public is invited to attend.

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