Phil Jones, the former Winder-Barrow High School head football coach who guided the Bulldoggs to one of their longest-sustained runs of success and led the team on a historic state semifinal run in 1993, died Saturday, Dec. 26. He was 74.
Jones passed away in hospice care after a prolonged illness, surrounded by family, according to a Facebook post from his daughter, Connie.
“Earth lost a great man today, but the angels in heaven are singing!” Connie Jones wrote. “We will miss him deeply but we are happy he’s whole, healed and at peace. Mom and I were right with him when he took his last breath - we are so grateful for that gift! Dad, we know you’re watching over us, along with all your friends, fellow coaches and your beloved players! We love you more than words could ever say, and you will live forever in our minds and hearts.”
Jones, a native of Thomaston, coached football for 47 seasons and was a head coach at Jeff Davis, Fitzgerald and Dooly County prior to taking over the Winder-Barrow program in 1984. In 13 seasons with the Bulldoggs, Jones went 81-58-2 — including a 10-1 mark and undefeated regular season in 1989 and a 11-3 finish in 1993, when the Bulldoggs advanced to the GHSA Class 3A semifinals before losing to Thomasville. It remains the deepest playoff run in program history.
Jones left Winder-Barrow after the 1996 season and joined the college ranks in 1998, coaching for three years at Georgia under Jim Donnan. He then had stints at Southern Methodist and Gardner-Webb before starting the program at Shorter University in Rome. Jones went 54-65 in 12 seasons before his retirement following the 2015 season. His most successful campaign was in 2008 when the Hawks finished with nine wins and qualified for the NAIA playoffs.
Jones was 159-107-4 in 25 seasons as a high school head coach; his most successful year came in 1983 when he led Dooly County to a 14-1 mark and a state runner-up finish.
Jones was welcomed back to Winder in 2017 as the grand marshal of the high school’s annual homecoming parade. Ironically that season, the Bulldoggs had their most successful season in more than 20 years, finishing 9-3 and winning their first playoff game since that 1993 season under Jones.
“Our Bulldogg hearts are heavy over the loss of our former coach, Phil Jones,” members of the WBHS Touchdown Club wrote in a Twitter post Saturday. “Coach Jones and (wife, Janie) made a difference in the lives of countless students at WBHS and our community is better because of the love they poured over everyone. He was the utmost example of what ‘GG’ is all about, and we are blessed to have called him ‘our coach.’”