The eighth winner of the 2017 season is Wes Tankersley of Ridgeland High School in Rossville. Tankersley was nominated by Rob Stinson, the athletic director at Ridgeland, who explained in one sentence what Tankersley means to the program.
"He has brought back a once-proud program to be a playoff contender again," Stinson said.
This season, the Panthers are ranked No. 6 in Class AAAA and are 7-0 on the year. Ridgeland has shut out two opponents and has only allowed six touchdowns all season, two to Heritage-Catoosa in its 35-14 victory on Oct. 13. Last season, the Panthers finished with a 9-2 record and made it to the second round of the playoffs.
But Tankersley's influence goes beyond his role as coach. He involves himself with the community, because that's what it takes: a community.
"He started a recreation league program to help rebuild the football and soccer programs that had fallen to [low] numbers," Stinson said. "Now, this year, they have over 100 people participating in the Ridgeland Athletic Academy. He started a breakfast program on Fridays and also works to make sure the younger athletes know football safety and proper tackling."
For his program, Tankersley has made it paramount to show his student-athletes how they impact the community with their grades and their actions.
"He has helped show many student-athletes the importance of grades and good citizenship in both the community and school," Stinson said. "I just feel he deserves recognition for all of his hard work."
Tankersley and the Panthers will face Pickens at home on Friday in a Region 6-AAAA battle. Ridgeland has a commanding 3-0 lead in the region race, and if the Panthers win out, they will take the region again this year.