The Crossville Lions football team will have a new face on the sidelines this fall after head coach Dusty Darnell announced his resignation at a DeKalb County Board of Education meeting last Thursday.
Darnell was the head coach of the Lions for the past three seasons, guiding the team to marks of 2-8, 2-8, and 3-7 after spending the previous 15 season as an assistant at Crossville and Sardis, before eventually taking over Crossville in the spring of 2018.
Darnell, a Crossville graduate, said the decision weighed heavily on him and that ultimately it came down to what he felt was best for him and his family. Recently, Darnell had a fourth child that was born during the 2020 football season.
“I appreciate the opportunity that was given to me to lead the football program the last three years, by coach (Jon) Peppers,” Darnell said in a text message to The Reporter. “I couldn’t have asked for any more support from the administration and community, they were very supportive. My decision to step down wasn’t an easy decision, I’ve wrestled with it for the past few weeks. At the end of the day, I’m trying to do what’s best for my family. I wish nothing but the best to the Crossville football program.”
Darnell took over the team on an interim basis back in April of 2018 after the previous head coach, Miles Holcomb, left to take an assistant coaching position at Hoover High following two seasons at the helm of Crossville, eventually leading to Darnell taking the position on a full-time basis starting with that 2018 season.
The Lions have been searching for success on the football field for the past decade, with the last playoff appearance coming in 2017 when the team finished the season 4-7. The last winning season for the team came all the way back in 2010 when they finished 6-5 at the 4A level of play.
“Coach Darnell did a great job the last two seasons and especially this past season having to deal with all the COVID-19 regulations,” Crossville Principal and Athletic Director Jon Peppers said. “He was able to maintain the program through some lean years but with the recent addition to his family, fourth child born during football season, he needed to be more available to his family. Coaching sports now requires a 12-month obligation and that can be stressful for some families. Going forward, we will look for a candidate that will form relationships as well as motivate student-athletes to become their very best."
Darnell graduated from Crossville High School in 1997 and was a standout player on those teams, earning All-State honors, eventually leading him to Jacksonville State. At JSU, Darnell lettered in both 2000 and 2001 for the Gamecocks, before returning to Crossville to begin his coaching career.
Following his playing career, Darnell was an assistant coach for Crossville from 2002 to 2006, before he left to become a coach at Sardis, where he stayed for a decade, helping Sardis to a playoff appearances in 2014, 2012, 2011, 2009, 2008, and 2007.
From Sardis, Darnell returned to Crossville where he was an assistant on Holcomb’s staff for one season before taking over as head coach.
An interim coach has not been announced, and Darnell will remain at Crossville as a teacher, Peppers said.