If one ever wondered how much Ben Corley poured into the Winder-Barrow High School football program, one needed to have looked no further than the 2009 season opener against Madison County.

The Bulldoggs had suffered a tougher-than-nails last-minute loss to visiting Madison County. In a game in which it appeared a victory was within reach, a gutwrenching loss was handed to Corley and his team.

Approximately 30 minutes after the game was over, the look on the coach’s face said it. He had put everything he could into the game and it had just slipped away.

Last week Corley’s job as head football coach was torn away as he was informed the school would be going in a “new direction.”

Corley said after meeting with athletic director Justin Grant he felt he had no choice but to step down.

“I was told the program needed to move in a new direction,” Corley told the Barrow Journal. “I felt we had made improvement in several areas. Overall, I saw us improving by leaps and bounds in many areas except wins. Even in that area we were more competitive this season. I believe we were set to really improve our win total next season.”

Defensive coordinator Gary Counts and offensive coordinator Elton Lynn were also released.

Corley pointed to the fact the Bulldoggs will have more than 20 seniors in 2010.

“I felt we were ready to take that next step,” Corley said. “I know the players have really worked hard and I wish them the best of luck next season. I just hate we won’t be there with them to enjoy the benefits.”

Corley just completed his eighth football season with the Bulldogg program. He was promoted to head coach when Brian Allison returned to Union County High School. Corley came to WBHS with Allison from Union County.

He is also a former head basketball coach at WBHS although he gave up those duties a few years ago to concentrate on football.

The timing of the move is also tough, Corley said.

“It’s tough on my family,” he said. “It is also tough on many of the assistants as I know they will have to look at other possibilities. We will pray about the right move and then decide where we go from here.”

Corley said he has already looked into some openings and would continue doing so in coming days and weeks.

WBHS principal Al Darby said he was unable to comment much about the issue. He did stress “Coach Corley is very much a hard worker who has the best interest of our student-athletes at heart.”

The principal said “it was a very difficult decision to make.”

“We wish him the best in his future coaching endeavors,” Darby said.

The coaching search will be a national one, the principal said.

“We want to move quickly to have someone in place for preparations leading up to spring,” Darby said.

WBHS athletic director Justin Grant and Darby will conduct the search.

“Wins and losses played a factor in the decision,” Grant said. “However, it was not the only factor. It had nothing to do with what was going on across town (at Apalachee). I don’t want to say a lot because I care about Coach Corley and his family.”

Grant said the remainder of the coaching staff would have the opportunity to be retained by the new head coach. Resumes are already being received. Interviews will likely not begin until January.

Grant, Darby and “outside council” are handling the search. It will be Grant who makes a recommendation to Darby, who in turn will make a recommendation to the Barrow County Board of Education.

Grant did say Monday he has not spoken to nor heard from former University of Georgia defensive coordinator Willie Martinez about the job despite rumors to the contrary. Grant said he would talk to him if he learned Martinez was interested.

Former University of Georgia women’s assistant basketball coach Brenda Hill is at WBHS as varsity girls basketball coach.

While Corley was head coach for just two seasons, Grant said he believes it was time for a change.

“I felt two years was enough time to make a decision concerning a change,” the WBHS athletic director said Monday.

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