HAVELOCK — Caleb King rocked the state high school football world Wednesday with the announcement he was stepping down as head coach at Havelock and taking a job in South Carolina.
King told New Bern’s The Sun Journal that it was incredibly hard to leave his alma mater, but the opportunity to take even better care of his family was too good to pass up.
According to WSPA.com, King has accepted the head coaching job at Easley High School in Easley, S.C.
He took the job at Havelock after two years at East Carteret. His job with the Mariners was his first head coaching position after serving as an assistant coach at Havelock for eight seasons.
Over the past two years with the Rams, King led the squad to a 27-3 record, a 3A state runner-up finish and a trip to the east regional final. His teams won back-to-back Coastal Conference titles with a 10-0 record.
He previously served as the associate head coach and defensive coordinator during a streak that saw the Rams win three straight state championships from 2011-2014.
When he signed on at East, the Mariners had gone a combined 21-69 in the previous eight years, failing to win a playoff game in that time. He led the program to a 23-5 record and six playoff wins in two years.
East went 11-3 in 2015 and 12-2 in 2016. King also led the team to back-to-back undefeated runs through the 1A Coastal Plains Conference – he’s yet to lose a league game in four years as a head coach.
The Mariners had won double-digit games in a season and captured league titles just four times in their previous 50 years of football.
He also took the team to the third round of the state playoffs in 2015 and the fourth round in 2016. East had advanced that far in the playoffs only four times in the previous 50 years.
In 2016, the Mariners set a school record by scoring 620 points and became the first squad in school history to not allow a point in conference play, outscoring their opponents 267-0. They registered seven shutouts total.
Jim Bob Bryant left Havelock after the 2016 season following nine seasons as the Rams head coach to take the job at Freedom. He lasted one season there and is now coaching in Georgia. And while King enjoyed his time at East, the opportunity to return to his alma mater proved a dream come true.
Havelock is in King’s blood.
He met his wife, Jenna, there. She was a cheerleader, and he was a football player when they crossed paths in 1998. Now they have two children, Caden and Scarlett.
The 2002 graduate shined on the offensive and defensive lines as a player for the Rams and earned a spot on the East-West All-Star Game.
On the day he was introduced as the coach, there was a sign in front of the school showing a photo of King during his Rams assistant coaching days that read, “Welcome Home Coach King: Havelock Roots Run Deep!”
King, the son of a U.S. Marine Corps colonel, said at the time that he wanted to be the Rams head coach since he was 15 years old.
At Easley, he’ll take over a program that has struggled in recent years. The Green Wave went 4-6 this past fall and 3-4 in 5A Region 1 to place fifth in the eight-team league. They were outscored 174-309 in a conference featuring just two teams that finished above .500, and one of those was 7-5. The other, T.L. Hanna, went 14-1 and was the 5A state runner-up.
Easley hasn’t won more than six games in a season since 2012, going 29-37 in those six years.
John Windham stepped down after this past season. He led the Green Wave to a 20-23 record in four seasons. Windham came to Easley after four seasons as defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at Furman University.
South Carolina pays a bigger salary to high school football coaches than its neighbor to the north. In September 2016, The State reported that 10 athletic directors and or coaches made at least $100,000 or more per year with four from the Midlands and four in Anderson County. Easley is located adjacent to both of those areas.