EARLY — Early athletic director and head football coach Blake Sandford has announced his retirement from coaching and has accepted an administration position within Early ISD as Dean of Students at the high school. Sandford on Monday informed the Early players, coaches, and faculty and revealed his decision publicly Tuesday morning.

“There was an opportunity presented to me that I thought would be nice and a new adventure,” Sandford said. “I'm still going to be in Early, I'm still going to be in education, just retiring from coaching. I'm getting older and it's time to hang up the whistle.”

In an email Sandford send to his Early ISD co-workers, he stated, “I have been blessed by (Early ISD Superintendent) Mr. (Wes) Beck to have an opportunity to move into administration. I cannot begin to thank the many people who have made this job awesome. You all have played a huge part in this athletic program. We have achieved so much. From the day I stepped on campus back in 2001, to now, we have so much to be proud of.”

Also in the email, Sandford said, ”I would like to thank my wife Kim for the sacrifices and support. Our coaches' spouses are the true unsung heroes.”

Football defensive coordinator and boys basketball head coach Daniel Price will serve as interim athletic director and head football coach. No timetable has been provided on when a new head football coach and athletic director will be named.

Sandford has spent the last five years as Early's athletic director and head football coach, and his coaching roots in Brown County go back to 2001. Sandford has made stops at Early, Bangs and Brownwood, where he served as head baseball coach at all three schools. The most successful campaign on the field during his Brown County career came in 2005 when the Longhorn baseball team advanced to the regional finals.

Looking back on his coaching career, Sandford said his fondest moments were, “without a doubt the relationships built with a whole bunch of kids and staff. That's always going to be at the forefront more than the trophies and other accomplishments.”

Also during his time as athletic director and football coach at Early, Sandford served as an assistant coach during the 2017 Myrle Greathouse FCA All-Star Football Classic in Abilene, and in 2016 he received the University Interscholastic League's Sponsor Excellence Award.

Since taking over as Early athletic director, the Longhorns and Lady Horns are approaching 100 academic all-state students, according to Sandford, and a significant number of those students signed to further their athletic career in college.

“The participation in athletics is unreal,” Sandford said. “More than a third of our students, middle school and high school, are involved in athletics. The whole program overall has been successful with three individual state championships on the girls side, playoff runs for the boys and the girls, plus new turf, a new track and a new weight room. I feel like things are better than where they were.”

Sandford closed his letter to his co-workers by stating, “We started this journey with the latin phrase Una Stamus: We Stand As One. I believe we accomplished it. I am proud of all of our programs, programs that make Early so unique. These programs, activities, sports, have enabled all of our kids to be successful, to be well rounded, to graduate with an awesome set of skills that sets them apart from so many other students.”