The replacement for John Worley as Hickory High School football coach is a familiar rival within the Northwestern conference.
Tom Harper, who has been the head coach at Alexander Central for the past five seasons, takes over the Red Tornadoes’ football program.
"Taking on a new coaching job for such a strong school as Hickory High can be daunting, but I won’t let fear keep me from a new challenge," Harper said in a statement released by Hickory Public Schools. "This is what I teach my students. I won’t let the apprehensive side of me win. I am going through it, not around it. I need to practice what I preach as I constantly teach my students that we should not let fear dictate our actions. I accept this challenge and I know we will be successful."
Not only will Harper guide the football program at Hickory, but he will also serve as athletic director, while coordinating field maintenance, after school weight training and serve as a physical education instructor.
“Coach Harper has the background, organizational skills, motivational skills and experiences needed to lead a successful football program and athletic program,” said Dr. Walter Hart, superintendent, Hickory Public Schools. “Every single one of the many, many references we talked to gave glowing comments about his coaching, his mentoring of all young people and the positive impact he makes on the total school environment. Coach Harper wants to compete for championships; he understands that championships are won based on hard work, high expectations, planning, organization, integrity and character."
During his tenure as Cougar’s head coach, Harper guided Alexander Central to the playoffs each of his five seasons.
His most successful year came in 2009, when he guided the Cougars to an 11-2 record.
Last season, the Cougars finished 6-6.
Harper has coaching experience in the 2A ranks, where he guided East Burke from 1999-2001. His Cavalier teams finished with a total record of 8-24.
Also included on Harper’s resume are stints as a Freedom High School assistant coach and time with Catawba College, his college alma mater.
Harper is a 1988 alum of Catawba College and a graduate of Daniel High School (S.C.) in 1982.
Harper thanked the departing Worley for his time as football coach and athletic director.
"I am appreciative of the coaching leadership accomplished by John Worley," Hart said. "Worley has done an excellent job with making Hickory High School athletics a first-class program. Now, I will do all that I can to take Hickory High to the next level."