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BY ZACH EWING Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
Tony Mills announced today that he was shedding one of his coaching responsibilities at Liberty: He is stepping down after five years as the school's football coach, though he will remain the Patriots' baseball coach and enter his seventh season in February.
Mills' reason was pretty simple: He's tired. He was always a baseball guy, and that's what he gets to do now, instead of going through a long, stressful football season, then transitioning to baseball while trying to coordinate off-season football practices and weight training.
“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 his five years and twice won the SEYL before Liberty made the jump to the SWYL. He also reached the Division I section semifinals twice, including this past season after upsetting top seed Clovis 25-23 in the quarterfinals.
He's also engineered two of the more memorable upsets in recent Kern County history, both against teams ranked in Cal Hi Sports' state top 10. The first came in 2009, when Liberty stunned Cody Kessler's untested Centennial team, avenging a loss to the Golden Hawks in the section semifinals the year before. The other came this year, when Liberty went to Griffith Field and snapped state No. 5 Bakersfield's 18-game winning streak with a 28-17 victory.
And that pairing doesn't even include the Clovis victory last month, which included two fourth-quarter fumble-return touchdowns to stun the Cougars.
"At the end of the day, I can look myself in the mirror and know I did the best I could do," Mills said.
Liberty athletic director Tim Davis said he'll wait until the new semester starts Jan. 7 to begin a search for Mills' football replacement, but that he hoped to have the new coach named by Feb. 15 or so.
This is the first known head coaching change in Kern County this off-season. Last year there were nine openings: Bakersfield Christian, Frazier Mountain, Garces, Kennedy, McFarland, Mira Monte, Rosamond, Taft and West.