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All-Area football coach - Toby Kasell, East Columbus


In three years, Toby Kasell turned East Columbus from a cellar dweller to a state title contender.

East Columbus hasn’t been known for great football; before 2012, the Gators had never won more than seven games in a season. But Kasell came to the school with experience at winning programs in Florida and in North Carolina, and brought the Gators into relevance.

To get there, the 2012 StarNews All-Area Coach of the Year relied heavily on team speed. The Gators didn’t have a lot of size but did have speed, including members from a talented 400-meter relay on the school’s track & field team. The Gators outran a host of opponents, and got a few of the big wins Kasell had been seeking to build a winning culture.

East Columbus opened the season by going 3-1 against the Waccamaw Conference, beating larger schools like East Bladen, North Brunswick and Whiteville. The season didn’t end until East Columbus had barely lost to state powerhouse Albemarle in the third round of the Class 1A playoffs.

There’s still room for Kasell and East Columbus to grow. The Gators dropped close games to South Columbus, Southweest Onslow and Anson County, in addition to the 19-18 season-ending loss to Albemarle.

But in terms of turning East Columbus into a winner, Kasell is already there.

– Powell Latimer