Todd Winter remembers that being the Pinecrest Academy head football coach wasn’t much of a point of introduction around Forsyth County early on during his tenure with the Paladins.
“Nobody knew who Pinecrest Academy was,” Winter said.
As Winter steps down after five seasons to take the same position at Holy Innocents, he hopes that’s changed.
There’s plenty of evidence to suggest it has. Winter helped make the Paladins a success in the Georgia High School Association after the school joined in 2010, leading the program after he was hired in 2012 to virtually every new milestone: first state playoff appearance (2014), first region championship (2015) and first state playoff victory (2015). Pinecrest never had a losing season under Winter and reached the state playoffs the past three seasons, peaking in 2015 at 10-2 when it ended the season ranked No. 8 in Class 1A.
But Winter is also proud of the traditions created during his tenure. The team’s march from the school campus to make its dramatic entrance; the tailgate section affectionately called “Tent City”; the sledgehammer wielded by one hand-picked Paladins player before each game; and even the homespun phrasing of “Between the Pines” for Pinecrest’s football stadium.
“Those are things that we brought to the school that they can build upon,” Winter said. “We brought a workman’s attitude to the practice field. We brought a we-don’t-care-who-we’re-playing attitude to the field, and accomplished a lot of things, not only in the W and L side and the championship side, but in the development of the kid.”
Winter is leaving the suburban pines of Pinecrest for Atlanta where he’ll replace Ryan Livezey, who started the Holy Innocents program in 2006. After early success, the Bears have struggled more of late, posting three straight losing seasons.
But Winter sees all the ingredients for sustained success with the Bears. He noted the school’s resources, with a bigger coaching staff, two full-time trainers and state of the art training, weight lifting and sports medicine facilities.
It will be a far cry from how Winter started out at Pinecrest. That first spring practice, Winter had 13 players come out for the team. But the program grew to fill Winter’s vision, and it took a whole community.
“The thing that made it extremely difficult are the relationships I have with the kids and families at Pinecrest,” Winter said. “That was what absolutely made it a tough decision. I just felt like God really wanted me to be at Holy Innocents.”
Winter will get to catch up with them soon – the teams scrimmage one another this coming fall.