By Shannon Fagan, WEIS Sports Director
PIEDMONT – A little less than two weeks removed from Steve Smith announcing his intention to leave Piedmont for the Westbrook Christian head football coaching/athletic director positions, the Bulldogs are turning to a very familiar face in the interim to lead their football program.
Longtime defensive coordinator James Blanchard said he was told by Piedmont High School principal Dr. Adam Clemons on Tuesday afternoon that he would be Piedmont’s interim head coach until the position is filled.
Blanchard has been with the Bulldogs for the past 17 years. He was also the Bulldogs’ head baseball coach for eight seasons (2009-16), in which he guided the Bulldogs to new heights in that sport.
He’s hoping to carry on the program’s championship tradition by becoming the Bulldogs’ head football coach full time.
“Piedmont is where my heart is. That’s where my soul is. I love this place,” Blanchard said. “We started this a long time ago. I’ve seen it grow from nothing to where it’s at now. Coach Smith laid the foundation. I’ve learned a lot from him, and I’m just ready to carry it on.”
Blanchard said he’s heard nothing but support from the players, the coaching staff, and the community at-large.
“It’s been overwhelming to be honest,” he said. “I’m honored to be the interim coach. I wish we’d go ahead and pull the trigger on the head coach, but I know the board has got to meet. I heard that was in February. I just hope it happens. I hope they do the right thing for the coaching staff, the players and the community. I’m ready to do it. I think the players are ready. The coaching staff has just been overwhelmingly in support, just like the players.
“I’m just ready to get it started to be honest and I think the team is too. The players are ready to know. The coaching staff is ready to know. I think the community is ready to know. I’ve had a lot of support from the community – not just our community, but a lot coaches around the state and a lot of people I know around the state.”
Since Blanchard has been on board the Bulldog football staff, Piedmont has won five Class 3A state championships, two state runners-up (including last season), and 10 region championships. The Bulldogs went 12-3 last season and averaged giving up 16.5 points per game.