Choctaw football coach Greg Thomas steps down after 13 years

Seth Stringer
Northwest Florida Daily News

FORT WALTON BEACH — Choctaw football’s all-time wins leader is stepping down.

Greg Thomas, the man with 74 wins during his 13-year tenure at the Indians' helm, has resigned as head football coach after an 0-8 2020 campaign.

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“I am grateful for the energy and effort coach Thomas has invested in the student-athletes at Choctaw as both a coach and an athletic director,” Choctaw Principal Michelle Heck said. “His coaching career has spanned 33 years and it has been nothing short of incredible and impactful in so many athletes’ lives.”

Greg Thomas coaches on the sideline during a game last season.

Thomas will remain on as athletic director, a position no longer tied to the head football coaching position, through the 2020-2021 school year and is eligible to re-apply for the job once it comes available.

“I’m very fortunate they gave me the opportunity and I’ve enjoyed being the head coach here for 13 years, but now I’m focused on the athletic director side of it,” said Thomas, who hopes to retain the AD position after the hiring process concludes. “I’m going to continue to try and make Choctaw second to none athletically.”

The decision comes after a four-year drought of playoff wins in which Choctaw went 17-31 and didn’t finish above .500.

Thomas’ saving grace through that dry spell was extending a seven-game win streak over archrival Fort Walton Beach, but that ended this year with a 35-28 loss to the Vikings at Steve Riggs Stadium.

With numbers low, COVID-19 contact tracing procedures keeping countless players sidelined and their all-area quarterback out with a leg injury, the Indians were outscored 336-187 and their winless campaign was capped by last week’s 38-33 playoff loss to Ribault.

“We found kids to play every game, but I know our record was terrible,” Thomas said. “But all things considered, I’m proud of this group and I thought it was a good year with the adversity we faced.”

2020 won’t define Thomas’ legacy.

Hired in 2008, Thomas came to Fort Walton Beach fresh off four straight state titles at J.H. Rose High in Greenville, North Carolina, from 2003-2006. And that pedigree led to many milestones.

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Against Fort Walton, Thomas went 9-4.

Thomas also led the Indians to the Final Four in 2014, a 19-15 loss against Armwood the only thing separating the Indians from a state title appearance. That year Choctaw was the top area program in the FHSAA’s Sunshine Cup standings and the Daily News’ Power of the Panhandle.

The back-to-back region finals appearances in 2013 and 2014 contributed to Thomas’ 7-7 record in the playoffs with the Indians, pushing his all-time postseason mark to 31-22.

Meanwhile just four times did the Indians finish below .500. Thomas extending his career record as head coach to 213-113-1.

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“I’m proud of what we accomplished the last 13 years,” Thomas said. “It’s a big challenge here. It’s like a rollers coaster. You get some talented groups and then you gotta really work hard to be competitive. We were competitive.”

Now the Indians will look for their next leader on the gridiron, a process Thomas said he won’t be involved in.

“I am looking forward to working through the process of hiring the next head football coach for Choctaw,” Heck said. “The process will begin soon and should be completed by March.  I certainly want to have our new coach named and in place well before spring football begins.”