New Mobile Christian head coach Charles Lawson built one of the state’s best defenses over the last three years as the Leopards’ defensive coordinator. (Call News file photo)
By JIMMY WIGFIELD
When Mobile Christian defensive coordinator Charles Lawson was introduced to the team as the Leopards’ new head football coach Tuesday afternoon, the assembled players leaped to their feet and applauded.
“It was the kind of reaction you’d hope to have,” Mobile Christian head of school Clint Mitchell said.
Lawson, 44, succeeds Ronnie Cottrell, who announced his resignation Monday after leading the Leopards to a 15-0 finish and the Class 3A state championship in 2023.
“He gave me a fair shot at it,” Lawson said of Mitchell. “There was a week of back and forth. It was a little bit of a surprise to me, although I knew it would come from in house.”
In Lawson’s three years as defensive coordinator, Mobile Christian allowed 16 points per game. On the way to the Blue Map in 2023, the Leopards led Class 3A against the score, allowing just 10.1 points per game.
Lawson returns seven defensive starters in 2024, including linebacker Kentonio Kelly, who led the state with 210 tackles and was named the Class 3A Lineman of the Year Tuesday, so the championship expectations Cottrell built won’t diminish.
“The good thing about it is I’ve been here all nine years under coach Cottrell for this run, so it’s bred the same way,” Lawson said. “I’m going to lead this program the exact same way and keep it going. I don’t expect any drop off.”
Lawson conceded moving up from Class 3A to 4A will be challenging but said the program should contend.
“Moving up to 4A will be tough,” he said. “There will be teams we play that will bring in all new offenses and defenses while we’ll be going both ways but our guys are built that way. They’re hungry and ready to go.”
Mitchell said Lawson has a lot of desirable characteristics that guided his decision.
“Charles is a great man of character in the nine years he’s been here,” Mitchell said. “I’d say the program has been known more for the defense the last several years. He’s got great kids he’s coached up and he’s on a great trajectory in his career. He has a great love for the players. He has built relationships but also holds them to a high standard.”
Mitchell said Mobile Christian did not need or want a protracted search for a new coach.
“We wanted the staff to know we had confidence in them and we didn’t want our kids and families worried about what would happen,” he said. “The process has been going on since the end of the season. Coach Cottrell was honest and transparent. We knew it would be an attractive job and the people here on staff know what Mobile Christian is about and the mission. We knew we had great X’s and O’s coaches and the right guys were here.”