No one had to tell Robbie Turbyfill it was time.
After a 16-6 loss to Hancock County last Friday night, Cloudland’s head football coach saw his team 0-3 and what he described as not playing well at all. He knew something drastic was needed to turn around the season and the direction of the program.
“It’s something I thought about for a little while,” said Turbyfill, who compiled a 24-24 record during Turbyfill his tenure. “When I saw we didn’t perform well the other night, I felt it was time for a change, something to spark these kids so they can be successful. When I took over the program, I said no one would have to tell when it was time to step down. I would know when it was time.”
Turbyfill, who led the Highlanders to the playoffs all of his previous four seasons, emphasized he wasn’t forced out, that it was solely his decision. After all, his teams regularly competed for the Mountain East Conference title, finishing second to Hampton in three of the past four seasons.
Still a social studies teacher, as well as being in charge of the in-school suspension and attendance programs, Turbyfill remains a large part of the Cloudland community.
“I wasn’t forced out in any way. I’m not leaving on bad terms,” said Turbyfill, a former All-State player for the Highlanders. “I’ve supported the program and the school my whole life. I want what’s best for the program and these kids.” Although his decision was based on what was best for the kids and the program, when he stepped back from the situation, he realized it was a great opportunity to spend more time with his wife, Ashley, and their two-year-old child.
Coincidentally, the timing of the announcement was no accident.
This is Cloudland’s bye week and Taylor Whitehead, who was supposed to be the starting quarterback at the start of the season, is expected to return next week after missing the first three weeks with an injury. The Highlanders also return seven other players who were missing in last week’s loss to the Indians.
“When I looked at this decision, it was our bye week and Taylor’s going to be back Monday,” Turbyfill said. “All total, I had eight players out for the Hancock game. We’re giving whoever takes it over a chance to be successful.”
As of press time, Cloudland was yet to name a replacement.
Despite the announcement coming during the season, Turbyfill said the administration both at the school and with the Carter County School System have been supportive of his decision.
“Mr. (Randy) Birchfield (Cloudland principal), our entire staff and our entire school system including (director of schools) Dr. (Shirley) Ellis have been great about everything,” he said. “They’ve supported my decision and only want what’s best for the kids.”
Turbyfill added he has offered to help the football team with bookwork, breaking down films or scouting if needed. He’s also open to helping with another sport if asked to. He feels this is just a temporary break from coaching that he will likely be on the sidelines at some other point.
“Throughout my years of coaching, I’ve made so many friends,” Turbyfill said. “I’m committed to teaching at Cloudland, but in the future you never know what will come along. Without a doubt, I think I’ll coach again in some sport.”