Brookhaven Academy names Ryan Ross new head football coach

Published 3:30 pm Friday, February 16, 2024

Editor’s Note: Toyota of Brookhaven presents our Inside Sports video interview with Ryan Ross.

A name familiar to area football fans is coming back to Lincoln County to lead the Brookhaven Academy program.

The school announced on Friday that it has hired Brookhaven native Ryan Ross as its next head football coach.

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Ross is replacing Reggie Lea, who returned to the sidelines after a long break from coaching to lead the Cougars for one season, as the team finished with a 2-8 record in 2023.

“The timing of this for me and my family couldn’t have been better,” said Ross on Friday afternoon after the school announced the hiring via social media. “I’m excited about getting back home and getting to work.”

It’s the second time for Ross to lead a local program as he was head coach at Loyd Star from 2007-2009. After going 3-6 in 2007 and 4-6 in 2008, Ross and the Hornets had a breakthrough in 2009, going 10-2 and making the second round of the MHSAA 2A playoffs.

Ross had spent much of his career prior to Loyd Star working in the junior college system. He was an assistant at Southwest Mississippi CC and Mississippi Delta CC before taking the head job at LS.

A 1992 graduate of Brookhaven High who also attended Brookhaven Academy during his younger years, Ross left the Hornets to become offensive coordinator at Brookhaven High in 2010. In total, Ross was an assistant on the staff at Brookhaven High on three separate occasions and he was also an assistant coach at McComb High earlier in his career.

Ross was actually named the head coach at Brookhaven High in 2010, when the Panthers were coming off a run to the MHSAA 5A state championship game. A little more than a month after accepting that job, he was named the head coach at Ocean Springs High School.

Ocean Springs and Jackson County is where Ross was for the longest continuous time in his coaching career. From 2011-2019, Ross went 61-44 at OS. His best team was a 2014 squad that finished 11-2 overall and won Region 4-6A before being knocked out of the second round of the playoffs by Oak Grove.

“Ocean Springs is a very special place,” said Ross. “It’s one of the top school districts in the state year in and out for a reason. I was very fortunate to raise my family and to coach football at an awesome place like that.”

Ross finished his public-school coaching career in Mississippi by serving as the head coach at Long Beach from 2020-2021. In 14 seasons as a head coach, his career record is 79-76.

Currently, Ross is commuting across state lines from his home in Ocean Springs to work as an assistant on the staff at 7A Alma Bryant High near Mobile.

After retiring from Long Beach, Ross thought he had a job lined up in the private sector. When that career opportunity in the shipbuilding industry fell through, he found himself doing odd jobs here and there during a year when his parents’ health began to fade.

“My mama passed away in 2022, when I was out of coaching and looking back, it feels like God was really guiding my family through that time,” said Ross. “There is no way I could have been able to be back here in Lincoln County and be with her and then be here with my dad after he had a stroke if I had been a head football coach on the coast during that time.”

Ross and his wife Mary Louise are the parents of 15-year-old twins Luke and Lilly and sons Hogan and Stone. Ross was able to coach Hogan and Stone in football during his time at Ocean Springs.

“We were going to move home to Lincoln County even before this job came open,” said Ross. “My son Luke has special needs and some of the best decisions for his future involved us coming back here. My wife works for Hurst Review, doing a job that she loves and that involves a lot of travel. It just all made sense for us to come back home and for me to be able to lead this football team feels like something that was meant to be.”

He’s inheriting a Brookhaven Academy program that went 16-6 in two combined years under former head coach Anthony Hart, who held the job before the hiring of Lea. Like Ross, Hart had previously retired from the state’s public school system but left abruptly to go back to the MSHAA ranks and coach again at Lafayette High, a school where he previously won two state championships.

The Cougars won the first state football championship in school history in 1993, when BA alum and current Madison-Ridgeland Academy head coach Herbert Davis led the program for a single season. Davis came back to coach again at BA from 2008-2010. In that span the team went 35-6 and finished 15-0 to capture another state title in 2009.

The second time Davis left Brookhaven Academy, he did so to go to Ocean Springs, where he was offensive coordinator for Ross in his first two seasons as the leader of the Greyhounds.

Tripp McCarty replaced Davis at Brookhaven Academy and he too won a state title leading the Cougars in 2012. When McCarty left for the head job at Pillow Academy following the 2013 season, the Cougars hired Blake Purvis, who went a combined 3-17 in two seasons.

That 2015 team went 0-10 and the next year BA again went 0-10 again under new head coach Ron Rushing. The program was plagued by low participation numbers as they had to forfeit the final two games of the 2016 season due to not having enough healthy players.

Rushing, now the head coach at Parklane Academy, recruited the hallways of the school to grow his roster and program. He brought in players that made an impact on the field after previously only playing basketball, tennis, or baseball. Over Rushing’s final four seasons, BA went a combined 34-17 and won six total playoff games.

The program was nursed back under Rushing and handed off in good shape to Hart for his two years.

Getting participation numbers back up will be a primary focus for Ross. The 2023 team at BA had 37 players on the varsity roster, with only five of those being seniors and 16 players being freshmen.

As members of MAIS District 3-5A, the Cougars compete against Parklane Academy, Adams County Christian School, Cathedral School, Silliman Institute and Oak Forest Academy.

ACCS went 12-3 last season and beat Simpson Academy 47-29 in the 5A title game. Parklane Academy beat ACCS in the regular season, before losing 41-34 to the Rebels in the second round.

“Your football program is a product that you’ve got to sell people on,” said Ross. “And that starts with the people that you have coming back and the people who might not be playing, that you want to join up with you. I met with every boy in the school this morning to share that message with them. The next part of it is putting in the work, which is what you’ve got to do if you want to win.”