E.A. Sports Today

Time to return

Six years after retiring from Cleburne County, Lee will return to serve as Tigers’ head football coach with new ideas from Georgia.

Cleburne County pitcher/outfielder Trevor Houston is flanked by then-Tigers coach Vaughn Lee (left) and Wallace-Hanceville assistant Ben Hawkins during a 2017 signing ceremony. Lee is returning to Cleburne County after six years away to become the Tigers’ next head football coach. (File photo).

By Joe Medley
East Alabama Sports Today

HEFLIN – Vaughn Lee retired from Cleburne County High School’s athletics department in 2018, saying “it’s just time” to end his 20-year run.

Now, it’s time to start a new run.

The Cleburne County Board of Education approved Monday Lee’s hiring as the school’s next head football coach. An advisory committee culled “50 or so” applicants, and Lee was among three finalists. Cleburne County principal Ron Ervin said.

“The thing that separated Vaughn Lee for me from the rest was relationships,” Ervin said. “Coach Lee has been coaching for 32 years, and he spent two decades of those years at Cleburne County High School.  He coached/taught several of the coaches in our athletic department and also several teachers on our campus. 

Since leaving Cleburne County in 2018, Vaughn Lee has coached at Temple and Central-Carrolton in Georgia. (Submitted photo)

“He also coached/taught a lot of our stakeholders right now, so there’s already an established relationship that will be invaluable for us because the trust, faith, and confidence in the leadership of the program will be there. Plus he’s a dang good coach who has had success at every stop he has made.” 

Lee’s return after coaching five years in Georgia comes after Joby Burns announced his retirement in late February. Burns coached Cleburne County’s football program five seasons.

Lee was most known for his work with Cleburne County’s baseball program during his 20-year first stay. 

The baseball program had only one playoff appearance prior to Lee taking the reins, but his tenure saw the Tigers qualify for the state playoffs 16 times, including his last 14 years on the job. Cleburne County advanced to the state quarterfinals three times and won nine area championships in Class 4A and 5A.

Over his last 12 years, the Tigers had 11 players sign college baseball scholarships. Additionally, it raised more than $60,000 to make facility improvements.

In football, Lee also served as Cleburne County’s offensive coordinator under long-time Tigers head coach Michael Short. Since retiring in 2018, he served three years as offensive coordinator at Temple (Ga.) High School and two years as middle school head coach at Central-Carrollton. 

He was set to become the varsity wide receivers coach when the chance to return home beckoned.

“It’s another opportunity to come in and build relationships with the players and, kind of, surround myself with people that have built a culture that we, hopefully, can build on,” Lee said. “That’s the biggest attraction of the job. … 

“It was time for me to have a change at that time (2018), but now that I’ve been away for awhile, and I’ve grown to see some different ideas and seen some people do things different ways, I can blend that with things that we had here for a long time.”

Lee said five years in Georgia have infused in him new ideas to match with what he knows of Cleburne County culture.

“I’m really proud of the things that we’ve accomplished in the past,” he said. “At the same time, times have changed some, and building relationships with players is one of the biggest things I learned in my time being in Georgia.

“Building relationships with players and how I kind of are maybe a little different now. It’s just to blend the old-school Cleburne County with these new things that I’ve been around.”

Lee said offensive schemes will suit the talent on his roster, but there’s a long-term vision.

“I know Cleburne County is going to have some tough, hard-nosed kids that are going to work real hard and have a lot of Tiger pride about themselves,” he said. “I know those ingredients haven’t changed. …

“We’ve got to match our skill set that we have. That’s the most important thing you can do, but also develop that skill set to, maybe, move towards that new style of football.”

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