Chris Bunting is stepping down after just one season as St. Stephens football coach. His last day at the school is Feb. 19.
Bunting, 32, is leaving his head coaching post with the Indians to take the defensive coordinator position at AAAA Clover High School (S.C.) under newly hired coach Chad Smith.
Smith and Bunting were assistants at West Montgomery together and have also coached in camps and scrimmages together before.
"It was a tough decision," Bunting said. "Chad and I go back a long ways. We've shared a lot of things in dealing with football over the years. He got a job down at Clover last month. He called me and told me he wanted me to come down there. I turned him down at first, but he kept the dialogue open, and I ended up taking a visit down there. There are a lot of great things about the place. It was just one of those things where he is a good friend of mine. We are probably going to end up hiring some people I've worked with in the past. It's closer to some of my family. There are a lot of benefits about the job. It was an opportunity that I had a hard time turning down."
Bunting had been at St. Stephens High since 2009 when he joined Fred Whalen's coaching staff. Bunting had also served as St. Stephens track and field coach.
On Jan. 19, 2012, Bunting replaced Whalen as the next football coach at St. Stephens High School.
In his only season as head coach, Bunting coached the Indians to a 2-9 record, picking up wins against North Buncombe (20-10) and Fred T. Foard (35-13) in weeks eight and nine of the 2012 campaign.
Bunting has enjoyed the progress that the Indians football program has made during his four years at the school.
"Some of these guys that are going to be rising seniors I've seen since they first stepped on campus here," he said. "These kids have come a long ways from the first time I saw them. Their work ethic has improved. Their mental toughness has improved. They really have come a long ways. There is still room to grow physically and in leadership roles. There are a lot of things that have to be done to get better at St. Stephens, but we're making a lot of progress. These kids have put a lot of sweat into it. With a new stadium and weight room coming around, there are going to be some nice things surrounding them and making their efforts a lot better."
Before coming to St. Stephens, Bunting served as a defensive coordinator for three high schools, including West Montgomery (2001, 2005-08), North Stanly (2002-04) and Patton (2009).
Bunting now has the opportunity and challenge of coaching the Blue Eagles' defense against some the AAA Region III's premiere powerhouse schools in South Carolina.
"Professionally, coaching at Clover is a big time step up because of they league they are in," he said. "They have Northwestern, who has played in five state title games in the past few years, and South Pointe has produced some elite talent. They've got a couple of guys in the NFL that have come out of there. It is one of the tougher leagues in all of the Southeastern United States. Professionally, it's a big step up. The pay is great down there in South Carolina. It was definitely a tough decision with this being my first head coaching opportunity here at St. Stephens. I wanted to try and do it the right way."
St. Stephens High School has already started the search for a new football and track coach, according to a press release sent by the school on Monday.
If the school decides to go in house with their next coach, they will have several options, including assistant coaches Todd Cook (20 seasons with school), John Wernquist (three seasons), Matt Jones (three seasons), Derek Binns (one season) and Darrin Sherrill (one season).
The next Indians football coach will be the seventh head coach at the school since 1996.
Bunting had a few words of advice for the next Saint head football coach.
"Much like I had to realize when I first got the head coaching job here, you're going to have to change some of the mentality," Bunting said. "It's still a work in progress. You've got to realize the kids we've got here are hard-working kids. You don't have elite talent, but you have kids that will lay it all on the line. They'll work their tails off. You've got to be patient until that cultivates."
St. Stephens head football coaches (since 1978)
George Nazaravich (1978)
Marty Curtis (1979-82)
Roland Scott (1983-86)
Dick Foster (1987-95)
Gary Moore (1996-97)
Frank Snider (1998-99)
John Jarman (2000-02)
Doug Justice (2003-07)
Fred Whalen (2008-11)
Chris Bunting (2012)