Canton Academy welcomes new coaches
With a new school year comes a great deal of change for the Canton Academy Panthers. After recently welcoming new headmaster Tripp McCarty, the Panthers have also brought on an entirely new football coaching staff, new head softball, new head girls basketball coach, and a new baseball staff.
With new coaching positions also came a new principal, Coach Ryan Laster. Laster was previously at Washington School, where he taught and coached football. Before his time at Washington, he was a head coach and head of school at Lee Academy in Lee, Arkansas. He has been at CA all summer and is excited for the school year.
“Our biggest challenge is change. Not everyone likes change, but change is good, and we’re making changes for the positive. It will take some time to get used to it all and build some new relationships. Once our faculty and staff and parents see the change is for the better, everything will go smoothly,” he said.
Laster made the transition to Canton with his son, Taylor, who will be a freshman, and his wife Misty, who is a special education teacher. The two have been married for sixteen years.
Laster will also serve as an assistant baseball coach and the defensive coordinator for the football team.
The gridiron will look different with Head Coach Gage Posey on the sidelines, along with his new staff.
After being in medical school for two years, Posey realized his true passion was helping and coaching young athletes. It was then he made the decision to trade his lab coat for a whistle.
This is Posey’s first head coaching position, and he said, “I was nervous at first, because we got a new coaching staff, and I would put this staff up against anyone in the state. They’ve been very helpful to me in regards to learning the ups and downs of head coaching so far, and I’m really excited for the season.”
Posey said the players have made the transition worthwhile.
“One thing that stands out is the team chemistry. They all get along really well and push each other. For example, I asked just the quarterbacks to come train with me a few days ago, and twenty-one kids showed up. They all want to work, and they all want to work together.”
The Panthers will face off against Sylva Bay Academy on August 13, and Posey said, “I feel confident with where we’re at right now. I think we can expect big things from Canton this year.”
Also joining the staff is Robbie Isonhood, offensive line coach, who has previously coached at Parklane Academy and Centerville Academy.
“I actually started coaching in 2008 and was thrown into the offensive line under Justin Sawyer, who played at Ole Miss. I learned most of my basics from Justin. We won a state championship that year, and, in 2009, Justin left, and I became the head offensive line coach.”
“I also coach the defensive line. I like coaching the big boys. They are the most underappreciated guys on the football team, in my opinion, and I enjoy spending my time with them,” said Isonhood.
Coach Isonhood is another Panther who is returning home. He graduated from CA in 1986.
“I moved back home, and I’ve known Coach McCarty for forever. Coach McCarty knew I’d moved back home and called to see if I had any interest in coming to coach the football team,” he said.
Forever bleeding black and gold, Isonhood is excited to be back on the field.
Another CA alum, AB Williams, is returning sooner than most. A recent college graduate and son of CA Athletic Director Ben Williams, AB serves as the weight room director, head strength coach, and assistant lineman coach.
Being so close in age to some of the players, AB said, “It’s definitely a double-edged sword; being close to their age, I can relate to them more, but also I have to demand that respect from them. I have to find that balance with them.”
“I’m looking forward to seeing if this team meets what they are capable of. They have a lot of talent and can accomplish a lot, so I’m ready to see if they can meet those standards,” he added.
Also new to the CA coaching staff - but not new to CA - is Head Softball Coach William Whitehead.
Coach Whitehead is an experienced softball coach, having led several local programs successfully to state championship levels. With thirteen years coaching varsity softball at Tri-County Academy, East Rankin Academy, and Jackson Academy, coaching summer tournament softball teams ranging in ages of eight to eighteen, and serving as a softball umpire and basketball referee for MHSAA and MAIS, he strives to build a strong work ethic, mental toughness, and life lessons for his players that can benefit them in the future.
Coach Whitehead is a graduate of CA, class of 1980, and is looking forward to coming back where he has had fond memories throughout his sports career.
He and his wife, Sharon, reside in Madison and have one daughter, Jessica Whitehead Browning.
Brandy Hall has also joined CA as the new head girls basketball coach.
In January of 2009, at the age of 19, Hall became her mother’s junior high and high school girls’ assistant at Adams County Christian School and started coaching her own third and fourth-grade team. In August of 2013, Hall was named junior high girls head coach. She led this team, which she had coached through elementary school, to three undefeated junior high seasons.
In August of 2017, Coach Hall took the head junior high/assistant high school girls coaching position at Centreville Academy, and, in May of 2018, she was named high school girls head coach. In her three years as head coach at Centreville, Hall led her junior high girls to three district championships and her high school girls to a state championship and two overall tournament appearances, advancing to the top eight this past March.
Hall was chosen to coach in the MAIS All-Star game in 2019 and 2021 and was named MAIS Coach of the Year in 2020.
“To some, basketball may be just a game, but the same as in life, there are more lessons to be learned than the sport itself. I’ve always said that God’s plan is bigger than mine, and it is. I thank Him for giving me the opportunity to further my career here at Canton Academy, and I’m looking forward to meeting and working with some great people,” said Hall.
Panthers will begin their school year athletics with softball and football and fans are ready to see some winning scores from these new coaches.