J.Z. George High School athletic director Nathan Moncrief has filled two openings on his athletic staff with the hirings of James “Rusty” Smith and Michael “Slick” Hargett.

Smith and Hargett both come to North Carrollton from Charleston High School.

Smith will be the head football coach, replacing Ben Burton, who resigned in mid-April to join the staff at Winona High School. Burton led the Jaguar program for six years, compiling a 25-47 overall record as head coach.

Smith is a Charleston native, graduating from the high school in 2004. He then attended Northwest Mississippi Community College and earned a bachelor’s degree in biology education from Delta State University in 2010. He is currently working on his master’s degree in education leadership from Arkansas State University.

“I have 10 total years coaching experience in a highly successful program. I am a hard worker and love the game of football,” said Smith, who was the special teams and strength coach and the head JV coach from 2015-2019 at Charleston. “I know the type of work you have to put in to be successful.

“My dream from Day 1 has been to be a head coach. I interviewed at other schools before, but the timing wasn’t right. I’m thankful for J.Z. George giving me this chance.”

Smith started as the junior high coach for a brief six-month period in 2011 at CHS, then moved to the varsity staff in the fall of 2011. He has worked with defensive tackles and ends, linebackers, tight ends and running backs in his time at Charleston.

“Coach Smith comes to us from a fine football program. Everybody I talked to about him complimented his hard work ethic and his reputation. He’s a strong discipline guy, and we felt like he would mesh well with our kids and staff,” Moncrief said. “He was a strong candidate during the interview process. He is not going to dance around. He’s not a used car salesman. He will get straight to the point.”

Smith was part of a Charleston staff that led the Tigers to a state football title in 2011 and appeared in five state championship games overall. CHS also played in seven North half title games.

Winning will take time, and he has a good idea of the formula.

“We will have to work hard and do what it takes to be successful. It will probably get worse before it gets better. The kids and the staff will have to buy in and believe in what we are doing,” Smith said. “I played under some very good coaches during my high school days at Charleston, and I’ve had the honor of working with some fine coaches the last 10 years.

“I want us to be a team that believes in physicality. We can’t be afraid to hit a team in the mouth. I know we are all waiting to return, and we are hoping that we can get started on June 1. If we can start that day, we will begin working in the weight room and getting our guys in shape. We will all have to work under whatever new rules are implemented.”

Hargett will serve as the head baseball coach, replacing Tristan Ellingburg, who has accepted a position at Holmes Community College. The Jaguar baseball team only played one game this spring, going 0-1. The lone loss came to Hargett’s Tigers, a 12-0 setback.

Hargett served as head baseball coach for 10 years at CHS, making the playoffs eight times. He also assisted with the football team all 10 years.

Before Charleston, Hargett was Doug Shanks’ assistant at Mississippi Valley State for three seasons. He played for Northwest Community College and was a member of the teams that won two NJCAA state titles.

Charleston went 2-1 before the season was halted by the coronavirus. Hargett and his wife, Michelle, live in Grenada.

nContact Calvin Stevens at cstevens@gwcommonwealth.com.

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