There was speculation a year ago that veteran football coach Perry Liles would eventually take over for Mike Ray at Calhoun City when Liles joined the Wildcats’ staff. That became official Monday night – a week before the start of practice – as Liles was officially named as Ray’s replacement.
With Liles officially hired as Calhoun City’s new coach, all of the Northeast Mississippi high school football coaching vacancies have been filled before next Monday’s official start of practice.
Liles replaces Mike Ray, who stepped down in late June after 14 seasons to become the principal at Calhoun City Middle School.
The 45-year-old Liles takes over the reigns of the Wildcats program after spending last season as an offensive and defensive line coach on Ray’s staff. This season, Liles will handle the defensive coordinator duties, while Travis England will resume his offensive coordinator role.
Liles came over to Calhoun City last year, triggering some speculation that he might eventually be the Wildcats’ head coach. On Tuesday, he said he really came there just to be closer to his children, who moved there with his ex-wife.
“I just want to be around them,” he said. “My son will be a seventh grader and will start playing football this fall.”
Despite last season being his first and only as a Wildcats assistant, he is no stranger to Calhoun City.
“I went to high school at Calhoun City,” he said. “Coach Ray and I were teammates there. I was an offensive lineman and defensive lineman.”
From there he went on to play at Northwest Mississippi Community College, where he was a freshman on the 1982 national championship team.
Liles is well acquainted with the head coaching ranks. “I’ve been a head coach 12 of the 20 years I’ve been coaching high school football,” he said.
Proven track record
Before coming to Calhoun City, he spent six seasons as head coach at Charleston, where he led the Tigers to the MHSAA Class 3A state championship game in 2005.
“We won a lot of games at Charleston,” said Liles, who spent four years as Coffeeville’s coach prior to taking the Charleston job. “You’re a lot better coach when you have good players.”
Coaching good players is something that Liles has been blessed with in his coaching career. He coached Dwayne Chandler and Reggie Kelly at Aberdeen, with the former having a short stint with the Dallas Cowboys after playing at Oklahoma and the latter still playing as a tight end for the Cincinnati Bengals.
Chandler is now an assistant strength and conditioning coach for the Denver Broncos.
Liles sounds confident he will continue to have good players at Calhoun City.
“We really have a good football team,” he said. “Coach Ray has left us with a really good situation.”
He said that the program lost eight seniors, five who actually started, from last year’s team that made it to the Class 1A state championship game.
“We were so young,” he said. “We started four freshman on the defensive line.”
Another young player that has caught Liles’ eye is quarterback J.R. Jennings.
“He’s just 15 and I thought he was older,” Liles said.
As a former assistant at bigger schools such as Crystal Springs and Madison Central, Liles knows this year will be a lot tougher for Calhoun City, which moves up to Class 2A after snapping Ray Brooks’ 24-game winning streak in the state semifinals last November.
“In 2A, there’s a lot better competition,” said Liles, who is 76-67-1 as a head coach. “It will be like playing Ray Brooks every week.”
Calhoun City takes the field against Coffeeville in a classic on Aug. 21, then opens the regular season Aug. 28 at home against Houston.
John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal