New First Assembly coach takes over for Mike Minter

Mike Dunn is used to being a leader at First Assembly Christian School: He has been the principal of its middle school for the last six years.

In that span, Dunn, 45, has also been an assistant coach for the Eagles' football team, mostly under the direction of former Carolina Panther Mike Minter.

So when Minter decided to move on to be the co-defensive coordinator at Johnson C. Smith University last month, Dunn was quickly selected as interim head coach.

"Mike is a great fit because he has been with the program, he knows the kids and what it is all about," said First Assembly athletic director Dave Murr. "I think Mike knows a lot about football and will do a great job."

Dunn grew up around the game - his father, Bill, was the University of Virginia's strength coach when Mike was a young boy. Then Dunn went on to play college football as a defensive lineman at Wingate University.

"I've been around football pretty much all of my life, so this is nothing new," said Dunn. "This is a great opportunity, but right now I have no aspirations of being the head coach in the long term. I'm focused on this team and this season."

Dunn says his success will have a lot to do with having nearly the entire First Assembly coaching staff stay with him, including offensive coordinator Bo Kinard and defensive coordinator Tony Harris.

The coaching staff helps ease the loss of several key players from last year's state championship team, including quarterback Andrew Goodman, who transferred back to Mallard Creek, and Michael Minter Jr., who left the school at the same time as his father to play football in Nebraska.

But the Eagles are still talented and experienced, with junior Allen Calvert and senior Dante Simmons leading the way at quarterback. Calvert and Simmons bring different skill sets to the table and offer the team a variety of looks.

Senior Fred Bates might be the team's most versatile player, lining up mostly at running back.

Bates scored on 40- and 60-yard touchdown runs to help the Eagles rally to an 18-15 win over Forsyth Country Day in the season opener.

Bates also gets a lot of help from 6-foot-7, 330-pound senior tackle Schuyler Coleman and Jonathan Martin on the offensive line.

The defensive end is equally as strong led, all-state linebacker Easton Sprabary who had 144 tackles last year. Sprabary, a four-year starter, has a lot of veteran help with Matt Newsome and Ben Price also in the fold at linebacker while Bates and Simmons lead the secondary.

"I can't say we won't have our challenges this year," said Dunn about his Eagles.

"But we have a good core of players back with a great coaching staff and we are excited about what we can do."

After going 33-4 and winning the last two state championships in the last three seasons under Minter, expectations won't be any different with Dunn in charge.

"There is definitely an air of expectation because we've been playing for state championships on a regular basis," said Dunn . "We don't plan on changing that, and our goal will be to get back to that game."

The Eagles have looked very good this season with opening win over Forsyth Country Day and a hard-fought 17-8 loss to Charlotte Christian.

There is still a long way to go with Charlotte Country Day on Sept. 9 and then the Carolina Piedmont conference slate still to come.

For Dunn, it could be a season to remember as his only year at the helm of the program, or it could be the start of something special.

"I am a principal first and foremost, so that is my top priority," he said.

"But you never know. Right now, I am just focusing game-by-game on the season at hand. I will sit down and talk about the future when the season is over."