Rio Americano High School

The Mirada

Rio Americano High School

The Mirada

Rio Americano High School

The Mirada

Head Football Coach Leaving Rio for Coaching Position at University of West Georgia

Reid Sanders will become running back coach for the UWG Wolves
Photo By Rami Al Mufti
Reid talking with a referee at a game. He took Rio from a 1-8 record before his tenure to a 9-3 record in his final seson.

After leading Rio Americano to its most successful season in this century, football coach Reid Sanders is leaving to take a job as running back coach at the University of West Georgia. West Georgia has been remaking its coaching staff since hiring Joel Taylor as its new head coach in December. Next season the Wolves will join the Atlantic Sun Conference and move up to NCAA Division I.

“Our running backs are in for a treat. He is very knowledgeable of all the intricacies that go along with that position, and we’re thrilled to have him joining the Wolves family.”

— UWG head coach Joel Taylor

Coach Taylor said he was excited to get Sanders.

During his two years at Rio, Sanders took a team that had a small roster and just one win in 2021, to a robust program with an 8-2 regular season record and a playoff berth in 2023. It was the team’s best start since 1993 and first playoff victory (a 20-19 road win against Fairfield) in over a decade.

But it wasn’t the victories that came first to Sander’s mind when he reflected on his time at Rio Americano.

“Just being a part of the school, I think that’s going to be my number one [memory],” said Sanders, who was also a campus monitor. “Just being able to walk around campus, mingle with all the student body, get to know them on a personal level and all the connections and relationships that I built while I was here.”

Coming to a school with a struggling football program, Sanders knew he had to do something fast to turn the Rio team around. His first plan was to create a tight-knit community among the players.

He attributes the program’s turnaround to “the buy-in from the student-athletes.” 

“I think that the biggest thing from year one to year two is just getting everybody on board with the small things it takes to be successful,” Sanders said.

Principal Cliff Kelly praised Sanders’ ability to adapt and create team unity. 

“I thought he did a very good job working with kids as a coach,” said Kelly. “Being a new coach is difficult because you have to learn about the community and meet the parents, meet the kids and also learn to work with the staff to best support students and I thought he did a great job at that.” 

Rio Americano Athletic Director William Taylor said that Sanders succeeded by pushing his players to do their best.

“If we’re gonna judge success by wins and losses then yes he did an incredible job for his second year,” AD Taylor said. “I think the real victory was the culture of the team and the expectations that the players had on themselves. I think what he really did was he taught the kids the expectations of what it takes to be a good football player.”

Before coming to Rio Americano, Sanders was an assistant coach at Capital Christian. He played quarterback in high school in Georgia and at Southern University in Louisiana. He started coaching as a student assistant at Southern in 2012 and has worked at universities and high schools since then.

He said he regrets leaving after such a short tenure, but could not pass on the opportunity to return to college coaching and the South. He expects the program to continue to grow under new leadership. 

“I definitely thought we were moving in the right direction, but I don’t think it’s over ’cause I’m not here,” he said. “I’m only one person.” 

Sanders will always be appreciated, and he will always think back on the time he spent at Rio.

“I think a lot of people think it’s a one-way street, but I’ve learned just as much from them as they’ve learned from me,” Sanders said. “I think helping them become better people, helping them build confidence in themselves helped me become a better coach, better teacher, a better person.”

What football players are saying about Coach Reid

“I felt like he could truly see what we were capable of along with the rest of our coaching staff and really showed us in how he pushed us to our limit and then some and if anything it helped me find out that we can set higher goals and we should learn to be ok with being uncomfortable” – John Canterbury

“Coach Reid completely turned the football program around with his never ending work ethic and disciplined every single player to be the best they can be, on the field and off the field.” – Max Jamison

“Coach Reid was a mentor to us. He came into a not-so-good program and turned it around in two years. And we will forever be grateful for all the sacrifices he made for us.” – Andrew Gross

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  • nameerApr 11, 2024 at 11:03 AM

    It is sad that coach Reid is leaving, but sometimes taking on new challenges allows for growth to occur.