Lea named new football coach at Cedar Ridge

Updated: February 13, 2020

Cory Lea built a reputation by turning around football programs in Vance and Durham Counties.

Now, he’ll try to do it in Hillsborough.

Lea was formally named the new head coach of the Cedar Ridge Red Wolves on Thursday afternoon in a tweet from Athletic Director Andy Simmons. He was formally approved by the Orange County School Board, as first reported by Hillsboroughsports.com, on Monday night.

Lea replaces Torrian Hinton, who served as interim coach last season. Antonio King resigned as Cedar Ridge’s head coach after the first practice of summer training camp last July to become the running backs coach at North Carolina Central, his alma mater.

In 2019, Hinton coached Cedar Ridge to a 1-10 season in its first varsity campaign after the school didn’t field a team the year before. King coached a junior varsity squad in 2018 and continued spring workouts last May to help secure enough players to have a varsity team again.

Cedar Ridge’s victory over Chapel Hill on October 11 was its first varsity win on the gridiron in 465 days.

Lea departs Riverside after three seasons. He led the Pirates to a share of the 2018 Triangle 6 Championship, when they finished 4-1 and tied Jordan atop the league. It was only the second conference championship in school history and its first since 2002, when they won the PAC-6 Conference under former coach Linny Wrenn.

In 2006, Riverside reached the 4-AA State Championship game under Tommy Blalock. In the subsequent eleven years, the Pirates only had one winning season (in 2013).

Lea arrived from Northern Vance in 2017 and briefly took the Pirates to the top of Durham football. The Pirates defeated Hillside, Jordan, and Northern Durham during Lea’s stint.

After going 4-7 in 2017, they had consecutive winning seasons for the first time since 2001-02. Last fall, Riverside defeated crosstown rival Northern Durham for the first time since 2013 and only the second time in the 2010s.

When Lea took over at Northern Vance in 2015, the Vikings had gone a combined 9-57 from 2009-14. In Lea’s first year, they went 5-6, ending the year with a 26-17 upset win at Cedar Ridge. It was Northern Vance’s winningest season in seven years.

In 2016, Lea led the Vikings to another 5-6 campaign. They likely would have made the state playoffs, but were ineligible after three players were ejected from an August game against Warren County for fighting.

Lea was the next-to-last coach in Northern Vance history. Antwain Cook replaced Lea and Northern Vance consolidated with neighboring Southern Vance to form Vance County High in 2018.

Since the Red Wolves went 12-3 in 2010 and reached 2-AA Eastern Regional Championship game, they’ve had six head coaches in eight years (seven if you count Melvin Griffin, who served as interim coach for about three weeks after Scott Loosemore resigned in August 2018).

Last season was actually the second time in recent years that an assistant had to fill in as interim head coach for an entire season because of an August emergency. In 2015, former Cummings head coach Steve Johnson was hired as head coach, but suffered a thoracic aortic aneurysm just before practice was supposed to start. Loosemore served as interim coach in 2015, then became permanent coach the following year.

Lea also served as Riverside’s offensive coordinator in 2014. He previously was an assistant at Granville Central. His first job as a head coach was at Bartlett Yancey in 2011, where he remained for three seasons.

Cedar Ridge will open 2020 at Carrboro on August 21.

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