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Tuesday, Dec 18 2012 08:38 PM

Mills steps down as Liberty football coach

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    By Rod Thornburg/ Special to The Californian

    Liberty Football Preview liberty's head coach Tony Mills.

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BY ZACH EWING Californian staff writer zewing@bakersfield.com

Citing fatigue from a year-round schedule, Tony Mills stepped down as Liberty's football coach Tuesday after five mostly successful seasons.

Mills will remain the Patriots' baseball coach; he will begin his seventh season in that capacity in February.

"It's something I ask myself year after year: 'Do you want to be a two-sport coach again?'" Mills said. "I had always said, 'Let's do it again,' but it's just a situation now where I'm tired. And whenever you question your commitment, you're just not being fair to the kids."

Mills was 37-21 in five years at Liberty. He won two Southeast Yosemite League championships in 2008 and 2009 and led the Patriots to the Central Section Division I semifinals in 2009 and this past season, when they upset top seed Clovis 25-23 in the quarterfinals.

Mills also engineered upsets of state top-10 teams Centennial in 2010 (Cody Kessler's senior season) and Bakersfield this season.

"You can't replace the Friday nights," Mills said. "That's what I'm going to miss most about it. There's something about Friday nights, and it's going to be tough when we play Delano in that first game next fall."

Mills also said he'll miss relationships he built with players.

"In baseball, you get a kid from January to about the middle of May, maybe the end of May," Mills said. "Football is just different. You spend 11 months with the kids. You watch them develop."

Liberty athletic director Tim Davis said he would open the football coaching position for applications when the new semester starts Jan. 7. He said he hoped to make a hire by Feb. 15.

"We get comments all the time: How do you do two sports at a major school like that? He's the only guy I know that could have pulled it off like he did for five years," Davis said. "We're just sort of re-grouping, but the good thing about it is we're hoping to have a teacher opening to go with it."

North's Cy Silver, who just completed his second football season, is the only other area coach who pulls off the football-baseball double.

Mills said he has left the football program in good shape -- the Patriots return started many underclassmen, including quarterback Josh Medina, and the frosh-soph team won the Southwest Yosemite League title -- but that it's time to focus on baseball.

"I'm 99.9 percnet sure I'll only be a baseball coach and never coach football again," Mills said. "But you never know what the future holds."

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