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Thomasville hopes new coach Ryals will bring them back to winning ways

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THOMASVILLE, GA (WALB) -

In Georgia high school football history, you can't talk about great programs without throwing in Thomasville High

The Bulldogs are the sixth winningest football team in the state, but have been down in recent years.

Dogs' fans hope new head coach Leroy Ryals will lead them back to glory.

Ryals joins THS after seven years at Clarke Central High School in Athens. He led the Gladiators to three region titles and a state championship game appearance in 2009.

The new man in charge says he knew the program would have talent, but he's been pleased with their drive.

"I knew they had talent here. There's a lot of kids who can run. They'll hit and they'll run around and be excited about football. That's what you like," Ryals says. "We're not overwhelmingly big, by no stretch of the imagination, but we've got kids that love football and love to work. When you have that nucleus, you have a chance to be okay."

In addition to previous GHSA coaching experience, Ryals also has SEC roots.

He spent time on Nick Saban's staff at LSU as a tight end and special teams coach in 2004.

Ryals says he learned a lot about running a successful football team from Saban, and even sounds like the four-time national champion in discussing the team's goals.

"I let [the team] set the goals. They're just typical goals that everybody sets:  try to win a state championship, win the region, all that stuff," Ryals says. "But my goal, personally, is to see them get better and better each week. Not worrying about the ending results, just worrying about the process we're sticking with right now."

The Bulldogs open the Leroy Ryals era August 23 at hated rival Thomas Co. Central.

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