Together, Marietta (Ga.) Wheeler High football coach Mike Collins and senior quarterback Elijah Staley helped transform the Wildcats from a program that won just one game between 2009-11 to one that qualified for the state playoffs last season.
Now, six games into their third season together, Collins booted Staley from the team over what appears to be a fairly tame disagreement between the two. The story first came to light courtesy of none other than Craig Sager II, once dubbed the Spawn of Sager.
The 6-foot-6 Staley, who has committed to Mississippi State for both football and basketball, wanted the freedom to make any necessary adjustments at the line of scrimmage -- a la Peyton Manning, Tom Brady or any number of quarterbacks -- his father Norman Campbell told the Clarion-Ledger.
However, Collins wasn't having it. The two reportedly argued at halftime of a game against Milton High (Milton, Ga.), and the coach benched his star quarterback for the second half. The result? A 38-9 loss -- the team's third straight loss and worst scoring output of the fall.
"Elijah got frustrated and voiced his opinion going into halftime," Campbell told the Clarion-Ledger. "You can't find a way better to handle it than kicking him off the team? That's a problem to me. He's a 17-year old kid, of course he's going to make mistakes."
Both Staley's mother and father voiced their displeasure with Collins' decision on Twitter. Meanwhile, Collins demanded an apology from the future Bulldog, but the one he got apparently wasn't sufficient to keep him and his 1,015 passing yards on the roster.
"I apologized for how I approached the situation but I didn't apologize for what I said," Staley told the Clarion-Ledger. "I don’t feel the need to because that's how I feel."
Now, not only does Wheeler's football team face an uphill battle for the playoffs, but it may cost the basketball team a shot at the state title in Georgia's highest classification.
The Wildcats came within two points of reaching the state title game this past winter, when Staley averaged 18 points and 10 boards as an All-State forward, but Campbell told the Clarion-Ledger there's now a "99 percent chance" he graduates early and enrolls early at Mississippi State. That is, as long as he doesn't ask the Bulldogs for too much freedom.