Stuart Cunningham was looking for the right spot to try his hand as a head football coach one more time before his career ends.
And he feels like he’s found the ideal school in Hall County.
On Wednesday, Chestatee High announced that it has hired Cunningham to take over the football program, which takes effect officially when the new semester starts on Jan. 6.
A 34-year veteran in education who was head coach at Habersham Central for four seasons (2009-2012), Cunningham is eager to hit the ground running when the calendar turns to 2023.
In 2022, Cunningham returned home to Habersham Central where he worked as its linebackers coach.
However, the head-coaching position opened at Chestatee, and it was a matter of the right place at the right time.
“Chestatee is a very community-oriented program where they do things the right way,” said Cunningham, who was an assistant football coach at North Hall from 2014-2021. “They have really good facilities and all the staff is bought in and supports one another.”
Still on staff at South Habersham Middle School, Cunningham spent most of the day Wednesday in meetings with his future Chestatee players, assistant coaches and its faculty members.
One of his first priorities at Chestatee is to get the weightroom running the way he sees fit.
“I want to make sure our kids are training for the sports they’re playing right now,” Cunningham said.
At a young age, Cunningham knew he was geared toward a career in education and coaching.
His father, Samuel Cunningham, had a 34-year coaching career in football, girls basketball and track and field.
Stuart Cunningham started his career at Lumpkin County, then he spent time working and coaching at Dawson County and then Monticello, before returning to northeast Georgia.
The new Chestatee football coach has a diverse coaching background, just like his father did.
Cunningham was previously head wrestling coach at North Hall.
Also, he’s coached tennis and track through the years.
For Cunningham, the coaching family tree also extends to the next generation with his twin daughters (Lindy and Lauren) and son, Coleman, all three working in coaching.
The new Chestatee coach takes the post previously held by Shaun Conley, who retired after the 2022 season.
Cunningham said he’s close friends with Conley, and he is looking to keep the same community spirit strong with the War Eagles’ program.
“I don’t think you can find many better men than Stuart Cunningham,” Chestatee athletics director Matt Stowers. “And you would be hard pressed to find someone with more football knowledge. He is a proven winner that will put our kids in the best situations to become successful in everything they do. I have no doubt that coach Cunningham will put a great product on the field this fall, and he will have our kids prepared to make playoff runs for years to come. Chestatee is the place to be for kids that want to have an amazing high school football experience.”
Cunningham is now the fifth head football coach in program history for the War Eagles, which opened in the fall of 2002.
Chestatee finished 2-8 this past season and is looking to make the postseason for the first time since 2016, which was Conley’s first year in charge.