Greatest High School Football Coaches Today
High school football dates back about 150 years to the late 1800s. So it’s even older than the NFL, which began in 1920. In fact, some of the greatest coaches in football history got their starts coaching in high school, including Browns and Bengals founder Paul Brown.
Brown won four national championships while at Massillon Washington High School in Ohio, and many consider him to be the greatest high school coach of all time. While that may be true, we are out to find the greatest active high school football coach.
Just as the NFL has Bill Belichick and college football has Nick Saban, high school football has its equivalent — that coach who is head and shoulders above all others in the game.
These are the best current high school football coaches.
25. Kenny Sanchez, Bishop Gorman High School (Las Vegas, Nevada)
Note: These rankings take into account the level of competition, sustained excellence, and above all else, winning. All stats are from MaxPreps.com and through the 2018 season.
Career: 5 seasons (2015-present)
Coaching record: 54-5 (.915 winning percentage)
Accolades: 5 state championships, 1 national championship
Bottom line: It’s always hard to follow a legend, especially when that legend is in your family.
Kenny’s brother, Tony, won a national championship at Bishop Gorman in 2014 before making the jump from high school to college, becoming the head coach of nearby UNLV.
Tony handed over the reins to Kenny, who then proceeded to better his brother by winning back-to-back national championships in 2015 and 2016, giving Bishop Gorman three straight overall.
That success came while the school playing a national schedule with opponents from California to New Jersey to Florida to Texas, so Sanchez and Gorman have never backed down from a challenge.
24. Tom Knotts, Dutch Fork High School (Irmo, South Carolina)
Career: 36 seasons (1983-2003, 2005-present)
Coaching record: 416-64 (.867 winning percentage)
Accolades: 12 state championships
Bottom line: Tom Knotts is a coaching legend in the Carolinas and won state championships at three different schools.
Before joining Dutch Fork, he coached at Independence High in Charlotte, where his team once had a 109-game winning streak. That is the second-longest streak in high school football history and the longest by a public high school.
He doesn’t have a three-digit winning streak at Dutch Fork High, but he does have three straight state championships. Just minutes after winning his third in a row in 2018, Knotts already was looking ahead to 2019 and declared that his team was going for the four-peat.
23. John DiBiaso, Catholic Memorial School (West Roxbury, Massachusetts)
Career: 38 seasons (1982-present)
Coaching record: 314-78-2 (.801 winning percentage)
Accolades: 13 state championships
Bottom line: John DiBiaso built his name at a school across town as he was the coach of Everett High School for 26 years.
There, he won the third-most games in Massachusetts high school football history and was equally accomplished on the hardwood, winning over 500 basketball games and being inducted into the Massachusetts Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
DiBiaso is the only coach in state history to win at least 300 football games and 500 basketball games. While that shows he’s had a lengthy and incredible coaching career, DiBiaso downplayed the accomplishment, "It means I’m very, very old."
22. Jim Roth, Southern Columbia Area High School (Catawissa, Pennsylvania)
Career: 36 seasons (1984-present)
Coaching record: 428-63-2 (.872 winning percentage)
Accolades: 9 state championships
Bottom line: How great a coach is Jim Roth? With a 16-0 season in 2018, his Southern Columbia Tigers won their third state title in four years and extended their regular-season winning streak to an astounding 71 games.
The Tigers enacted their region’s mercy rule during five wins, including the state championship, which they won 49-14. As a team, Southern Columbia scored 860 points during the 2018 season, tying an all-time Pennsylvania record.
But it could have outright claimed the record had the coach played his starters in the second halves of blowouts.
"I think for how good are players' stats were, they can be misleading," said Roth. "It is hard to believe some of those numbers that they were able to produce while just playing a half in the majority of our games."
21. David Gentry, Murphy High School (Murphy, North Carolina)
Career: 49 seasons (1971-present)
Coaching record: 404-188-3 (.682 winning percentage)
Accolades: 8 state championships, inducted into National High School Athletic Coaches Association's Hall of Fame
Bottom line: David Gentry had two coaching stints before landing at Murphy High, and he posted losing records in both places. But he found his groove in Murphy, North Carolina, a small town in the Smoky Mountains just outside of Knoxville, Tennessee.
He started at Murphy in 1984 and won a state title in his fourth season behind the play of future Pro Bowl receiver Carl Pickens. However, Gentry has experienced his most success as of late. The Bulldogs have won at least 10 games every year in this decade and have won three state titles.
Even other longtime coaches in the area are amazed at what Gentry and Murphy High have done.
"He does it the old-fashioned way, and I admire that," said Franklin coach Josh Brooks, who has coached against Gentry in games each of the past 14 years. "I can’t wrap my mind around his numbers, and when you have won as much as he has at the level he has played against for that long, it’s really unbelievable."
20. Mike Smith, Hampton High School (Hampton, Virginia)
Career: 49 seasons (1971-present)
Coaching record: 490-93-2 (.840 winning percentage)
Accolades: 12 state championships, 2 national championships, Virginia’s winningest coach in high school football history
Bottom line: Coach Mike Smith knows football. He has sent nine players to the NFL with the first being Hall of Fame lineman Dwight Stephenson and the most recent being Pro Bowl quarterback Tyrod Taylor.
The 1980s saw a kind of dominance from the Hampton Crabbers that we haven’t seen since as the team made the state title game every year. They won half of those state championship games, and then in the 1990s, they added another four state titles.
Their best teams came in 1996 and 1997 when they won back-to-back national championships behind the play of quarterback/defensive back Ronald Curry, who would later play quarterback at UNC and wide receiver in the NFL.
19. Allan Trimble, Jenks High School (Jenks, Oklahoma)
Career: 24 seasons (1996-present)
Coaching record: 252-44 (.851 winning percentage)
Accolades: 13 state championships
Bottom line: It didn’t take long for Allan Trimble to make his mark on the Jenks program — he won a state title in his first year (1996).
He proceeded to win five more in a row with the best of that bunch coming in 1997 when his team went 14-0. The Trojans outscored opponents 535-118 and featured two future NFL players, Rocky Calmus and Sean Mahan.
Trimble then won three more titles in the 10 years succeeding that six-peat before another dynastic era this decade. Jenks went on a four-title streak from 2012 to 2015, and he has accounted for 13 of the program’s 16 state championships.
18. Bob Beatty, Trinity High School (Louisville, Kentucky)
Career: 20 seasons (2000-present)
Coaching record: 231-42 (.846 winning percentage)
Accolades: 13 state championships, 1 national championship
Bottom line: Bob Beatty runs the Trinity High program just as many college or NFL coaches run their teams. That is epitomized by this quote: "We try to get more done in two hours than other teams do in two weeks. There are no superfluous meetings. It's all about efficiency and winning."
That approach has paid off. The only thing more impressive than the 13 state titles he’s won is the 60 players he’s sent off to college football. That includes such players as Brian Brohm, Brandon Lloyd and Rondale Moore.
Beatty's finest season came in 2011 when his team went undefeated, was christened the national champion, and he was named the USA Today Coach of the Year.
17. Justin Alumbaugh, De La Salle High School (Concord, California)
Career: 7 seasons (2013-present)
Coaching record: 75-7 (.915 winning percentage)
Accolades: 2 state championships
Bottom line: It’s never easy replacing a legend, but that’s what Justin Alumbaugh had to do once former De La Salle coach Bob Ladouceur retired in 2013.
Ladouceur won 11 national championships and had a 151-game winning streak at De La Salle, and Alumbaugh picked up right where he left off, winning two state titles in his short tenure as head coach.
The Spartans have made six straight state championship games under Alumbaugh compared to just seven losses over that stretch.
Alumbaugh also has provided continuity for the De La Salle program since he was a former player and assistant under Ladouceur before being promoted.
16. Troy McAllister, Wendell Phillips Academy High School (Chicago, Illinois)
Career: 10 seasons (2010-present)
Coaching record: 83-24 (.776 winning percentage)
Accolades: 2 state championships
Bottom line: Chicago is known more for its great prep basketball than prep football, which only makes Troy McAllister’s accomplishments even more amazing.
When he joined Phillips in 2010, the team only had 12 players. Nearly a decade later, the school has won two state championships courtesy of a pair of 14-0 teams. That makes Phillips the first Chicago Public League school to ever win a state championship.
For his work, McAllister was awarded the 2018 Gatorade Coaching Excellence Award, a national award that honors the best coaches across the country.
15. John Roderique, Webb City High School (Webb City, Missouri)
Career: 23 seasons (1997-present)
Coaching record: 273-25 (.916 winning percentage)
Accolades: 11 state championships
Bottom line: John Roderique has the highest winning percentage of any coach on this list, and having 10 undefeated seasons helps in that regard.
Since 2010, Webb City High has six state championships — compared to just seven total losses.
Roderique already has been inducted into several Hall of Fames, including the Missouri Football Coaches’ Association and the Webb City Athletics Hall of Fame.
But a rarity is Roderique’s program being enshrined. Webb City’s football program has been inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame due to their decades of dominance.
14. Bob Hyland, St. Mary’s Springs (Fond du Lac, Wisconsin)
Career: 49 seasons (1971-present)
Coaching record: 465-105-2 (.816 winning percentage)
Accolades: 16 state championships, Wisconsin’s winningest high school football coach
Bottom line: If you’re a Wisconsin high school team on a lengthy winning streak, the last thing you want to see is Bob Hyland’s Cardinals on your schedule.
In 1987, Hyland and St. Mary’s Springs ended the 48-game winning streak of Manitowoc Lincoln Ships, which was the longest in state history.
Thirty-one years later, the Kimberly Papermakers were on an even longer streak, and this one reached 70 games. But that record streak came to an end at the hands of Hyland’s team.
Those two upset wins are one more than the number of wins he had in his first two seasons combined at the school as St. Mary’s Springs went 1-15-2.
13. Phillip Haywood, Belfry High School (Belfry, Kentucky)
Career: 45 seasons (1975-present)
Coaching record: 438-135 (.764 winning percentage)
Accolades: 6 state championships, Kentucky’s all-time winningest high school football coach
Bottom line: The Belfry High Pirates won four straight titles from 2013 to 2016, and even though their streak ended in 2017, their coach earned a prestigious award that year.
Phillip Haywood became the first coach in Kentucky high school football history to be named the national coach of the year. The award could have been a lifetime achievement award as Haywood has a Hall of Fame resume highlighted by six state titles.
Even though being a coach has been his life for the last 45 years, Haywood doesn’t prioritize it above his faith or his family.
Coincidentally, in 2013, Haywood wrote a book titled "Faith, Family, and Football."
12. Gary Joseph, Katy High School (Katy, Texas)
Career: 16 seasons (2004-present)
Coaching record: 201-20 (.910 winning percentage)
Accolades: 4 championships, 1 national championship
Bottom line: Since Texas high school football started in 1892, no coach has reached 200 wins faster than Gary Joseph.
He coached Andy Dalton to a state championship game in 2005, and even though the Tigers fell short, Joseph’s Katy teams have won four state titles.
In 2012, Joseph was named the National Coach of the Year, and in 2015, his team was named the national champion. One year later, Joseph was inducted into the Texas Sports Hall of Fame.
The coaching gene has been passed onto his kids. His son is the offensive coordinator at a high school in Austin, and his daughter is an athletic coordinator at a junior high school in Katy.
11. John Herrington, Harrison High School (Farmington Hills, Michigan)
Career: 50 seasons (1970-present)
Coaching record: 441-112-1 (.800 winning percentage)
Accolades: 13 state championships, Winningest coach in Michigan high school football history
Bottom line: Harrison High School opened in 1970, and John Herrington has been the coach for the school’s entire existence.
He also coached baseball at the school for over 40 years, but it’s his "one game at a time" mentality on the gridiron that separated him from his peers.
Herrington never focused on anything but the next game on the schedule — choosing only to acknowledge what’s in front of him and his team — so he never overlooked any opponent.
He was a subscriber to the Lou Holtz philosophy of "Everybody is Florida State," and Herrington built up his program so much that Harrison High is now considered other teams' "Florida State."
10. Mike Grant, Eden Prairie High School (Eden Prairie, Minnesota)
Career: 28 seasons (1992-present)
Coaching record: 333-69 (.828 winning percentage)
Accolades: 11 state championships, 2014 NFL National High School Coach of the Year
Bottom line: Mike Grant’s roots in Minnesota run deep, He is the son of Pro Football Hall of Fame coach Bud Grant, who led the Vikings to four Super Bowl appearances. But while Bud was never able to win the big game, Mike has done so 11 times, including four straight from 2014 to 2017.
In 2019, Grant was recognized for his success by being awarded the John Gagliardi Legacy Award, which was named after the famed Saint John’s (Minn.) coach who had more wins than anyone else in college football history. Grant played under Gagliardi at Saint John’s and was honored to receive the award due to his close relationship with his former coach.
"It means a lot to me because of who John was," Grant said of the award. "He was a big part of my life."
9. Randy Allen, Highland Park High School (Dallas, Texas)
Experience: 39 seasons (1981-present)
Coaching record: 392-87-6 (.818 winning percentage)
Accolades: 4 state championships
Bottom line: One of the greatest high school teams of this millennium was the 2005 Highland Park Scots that went 15-0. They were coached by Randy Allen and led by quarterback Matthew Stafford four years before he became the No. 1 pick in the 2009 NFL draft.
The Scots dominated their competition, including a 59-0 thrashing of Marshall High in the 4A state title game. That was the first of four state titles Allen won at Highland, and he later added titles in both 5A and 6A.
Those four seasons are just part of a great overall career for Allen, who has the second-most wins among all active Texas high school coaches, trailing only Phil Danaher (Calallen High).
8. Gary Rankin, Alcoa High School (Alcoa, Tennessee)
Career: 38 seasons (1982-present)
Coaching record: 425-75 (.850 winning percentage)
Accolades: 14 state championships, winningest coach in Tennessee high school football history
Bottom line: Gary Rankin has won at every level possible with Alcoa High. He’s claimed state championships as a 2A school, a 3A school and currently as a 6A school after a recent restructuring.
Alcoa has had three undefeated seasons under Rankin, who took over in 2006. But perhaps his best team was one that wasn’t perfect.
In 2007, the Tornadoes were led by a quarterback named Randall Cobb, who also played on defense and special teams. The team went 14-1 with their lone loss being in a rivalry game against Maryville High.
Alcoa then ran roughshod through the playoffs, winning their five postseason games by an average of 35 points on the way to a state title.
7. Bud Wright, Sheridan High School (Sheridan, Indiana)
Career: 55 seasons (1965-present)
Coaching record: 418-195-2 (.682 winning percentage)
Accolades: 9 state championships, winningest coach in Indiana high school football history
Bottom line: Hey, who said you can’t be a great high school coach in Class 1A? Larry "Bud" Wright has been a staple at the 327-student Sheridan High since Lyndon B. Johnson was president.
Wright has led the Blackhawks to 19 sectional championships and 14 regional championships in addition to his nine state titles.
A sign of a great coach is how he gets his team ready for big games, and there are few who can match Wright’s teams in state championship games.
In Sheridan’s nine state titles under Wright, they have outscored their opposition 266 to 106, a 17.8 average margin of victory.
6. Rich Morgan, Marietta High School (Marietta, Georgia)
Career: 18 seasons (2002-present)
Coaching record: 179-39 (.821 winning percentage)
Accolades: 2 state championships, three-time Under Armour All-American Game coach
Bottom line: Rich Morgan made his name at Oscar Smith High School in Virginia, where the Tigers were the winningest 6A program in the state during his tenure.
After 14 years there, he joined Marietta, where his team got off to a slow start and went 15-19 in his first three seasons. But Morgan has since established his culture on the Blue Devils, and the team is nationally ranked early in the 2019 season.
Morgan’s teams have appeared in national games on ESPN five times, which is something many college programs can’t even say.
Even better, at both Oscar Smith and Marietta, Morgan has sent more than 100 players to Division I schools with football scholarships.
5. Chuck Kyle, St. Ignatius High School (Cleveland, Ohio)
Career: 37 seasons (1983-present)
Coaching record: 353-90-1 (.797 winning percentage)
Accolades: 11 state championships, 3 national championships
Bottom line: Chuck Kyle’s 11 state championships are matched by the 11 players he’s sent to the NFL, including first-round picks Anthony Gonzale and Chris Hovan, as well as LeCharles Bentley and quarterback Brian Hoyer.
Hovan and Bentley were a part of Kyle’s 1995 national championship-winning team with his other national titles coming in 1989 and 1993.
St. Ignatius is one of just five schools to win at least three national championships over the last 30 years, and Kyle is so respected in Cleveland that the Browns have reached out to him.
In 2016, the Browns hired him as a youth football advisor to assist with the team’s youth football programs, and there’s a good chance many of those kids end up going to St. Ignatius.
4. Phil Danaher, Calallen High School (Corpus Christi, Texas)
Experience: 46 seasons (1974-present)
Coaching record: 459-110-4 (.801 winning percentage)
Accolades: Winningest coach in Texas high school football history
Bottom line: It’s one thing to be the winningest coach in a small state without lots of competition, but it’s another to be the winningest coach in the state renowned for high school football. Phil Danaher owns that title, and he’s worked his way up from a 2A school to a 3A school and is currently at a 4A school with Calallen High.
He turned around the Calallen football program. Before Danaher arrived in 1984, the school had not made the playoffs in 28 years. Since then, he’s posted 26 double-digit win seasons, including a Texas record of 16 straight.
He’s yet to join the chorus of coaches who have won a state title, but he’s the only one who can say they have more wins as a Texas high school football coach than anyone who's ever lived.
3. Bruce Rollinson, Mater Dei High School (Santa Ana, California)
Career: 31 seasons (1989-present)
Coaching record: 300-85-2 (.779 winning percentage)
Accolades: 5 CIF championships, 4 national championships
Bottom line: No active high school football coach has more national titles than Bruce Rollinson, who has won all four of his at Mater Dei.
The private school might as well be labeled "QB High" since Rollinson has produced such signal-callers as Heisman winner Matt Leinart, Heisman finalist Colt Brennan and former USC Trojan Matt Barkley.
Rollinson himself is a former college football player — he played for John McKay at USC — so his players can believe him when he says he knows what it takes to play at the next level.
As for the next chapter in Rollinson’s life, he isn’t ready to start that just yet. Despite pondering retirement after the 2018 season, he announced his return to coach a loaded Mater Dei squad in 2019.
2. Bill Castle, Lakeland Senior High School (Lakeland, Florida)
Career: 44 seasons (1976-present)
Coaching record: 434-90 (.828 winning percentage)
Accolades: 7 state championships, 2 national championships
Bottom line: Bill Castle has averaged roughly 10 wins per year during his career, and 10 also matches the number of players he’s sent to the NFL.
Most of those players have passed through the University of Florida on their way to the pros, including Mike and Maurkice Pouncey, who have combined for 11 Pro Bowls. The Pouncey twins helped lead Lakeland to three consecutive state titles from 2004 to 2006 with national titles also coming in those last two years.
In 2007, Florida High School Football celebrated its 100th anniversary by selecting its All-Century Team. Castle was selected as the coach to also join a mythical roster featuring such Florida greats as Tim Tebow, Emmitt Smith, Deacon Jones and Ray Lewis.
1. John T. Curtis, John Curtis Christian High School (River Ridge, Louisiana)
Career: 51 seasons (1969-present)
Coaching record: 582-64-6 (.900 winning percentage)
Accolades: 27 state championships, 1 national championship
Bottom line: Coaching at the school founded by his father, J.T. Curtis has turned a private school with an enrollment under 900 into a national powerhouse.
The Patriots went winless in Curtis' first season but have since posted 14 undefeated seasons, claimed one national title (2012) and sent 10 players to the NFL.
Curtis did all of this as head coach while also serving as the school’s headmaster, athletic director and pastor.
In 2018, MaxPreps named Curtis the second greatest high school football coach of all time, trailing only former De La Salle coach Bob Ladouceur.
Curtis also is second all-time in high school coaching wins and is about three or four years away from passing John McKissick of Summerville (South Carolina) for the most of any football coach on any level.