Swain County Schools announced this morning, Friday, Jan. 29 that effective immediately Swain High School Head Football Coach Neil Blankenship will take a temporary leave of absence from his football coaching duties.
It is important for the Maroon Devil faithful to know that this comes at the request and with full knowledge of Coach Blankenship in order to allow him to spend more time with his family, according to the release.
Eric Stephenson will be serve as interim head coach and Scotty McMahan will be the interim associate head coach this season. The door will be open for Coach Blankenship to return as head coach whenever he feels comfortable to do so, according to the district.
Coach Blankenship will continue to serve Swain High School as their Athletic Director.
Blankenship has been the head football coach at Swain High School for the past eight seasons and has compiled a 77-33 overall mark during that time. He is only the fourth football coach Swain has had in the last 42 years. His 77 wins are third most all-time at Swain behind only legends Boyce Deitz (201) and Rod White (94).
“I am appreciative to Mr. Mark Sale (Superintendent) and our Board of Education for allowing me to take this leave of absence to attend to family matters, and very grateful that they are leaving the door open for me to return to coaching a sport I love in a community that I am blessed to be a part of,” Blankenship said.
The Maroon Devils football season will kick off with its first game on Feb. 26 away at Cherokee. This is an incredibly different season for the team due to statewide changes made by the N.C. High School Athletic Association as it made adjustments due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The season is far later than usual and will be shortened, with playoffs set for April.