By Maurice Patton
As Zion Christian comes off two of its more competitive football campaigns in recent memory, it will be up to a new coach to continue the momentum.
Brad Lowery’s resignation was confirmed Monday by school officials, ending a 12-year tenure with the Eagle gridiron program. He served as head coach for the final four of those, posting a 14-24 record that includes four-win finishes in both 2019 and last fall.
“He has a church he pastors and he also the last couple of years has started a school through his church,” Zion athletics director Derek Boyd said. “He didn’t feel he could give us enough time and do it correctly now that his school is starting to grow some.
“He told the kids on Friday. He talked to me and (head of school Rick) Jarvis a few days before and said ‘this is what I need to do’. I think some of them were shocked. I think some of them are upset, and I understand that, because not only does he do a good job coaching but he’s also a good Christian role model for them. He’s what we want to be at Zion. We’re thankful and blessed for the 12 years he has been with us.”
Zion split its first eight games last season – playing eventual Class A state champion Fayetteville close early before eventually falling 41-16 before winning three straight games in addition to stunning Mt. Pleasant 34-27 – behind junior quarterback/linebacker Luke Perko, who finished the fall as the area’s second-leading rusher (822 yards, seven touchdowns) and passer (1,432 yards, 22 TDs).
Perko took the Eagles’ offensive reins from Mark Lowery, who led the area with 2,038 passing yards and 24 TDs in 2019 as Zion opened the campaign 3-1 before dropping four of its last five contests.
“We were 4-6 (in 2020); we beat some teams, and we actually had a chance to probably be 6-4,” Boyd said. “If you talk to Coach Lowery, I think he’d tell you that as would some of the players as well.
“He’d been with those seniors a long time. We lose nine seniors. I think he felt like the timing was right for him.”
The process to identify Lowery’s successor will be an expeditious one, Boyd hopes.
“We’re going to try to move as quickly as we can,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll bring in four to five (candidates) in the next couple of weeks and make a decision as soon as we can, as we know it’s important to try to get spring practice in if we can.”
Lowery indicated via text that he is out of state for the rest of the week and unavailable for comment.