Mooresville High School’s new football coach, a familiar face, can’t wait to get started

Zach Mayo has known for about a week that he would be the new head football coach at Mooresville High School, but he couldn’t tell anyone.

He had to wait for the school board to approve the hire. The school officially hired Mayo, 26, on Wednesday, about five weeks after Joe Nixon resigned to become system athletic director for Rowan County Schools.

Mayo has been on staff for four years, coaching the offensive line under Nixon. He felt his familiarity with the school, players, program and parents played a role in him getting the nod.

“I felt like we got this program going in the right direction, and it was the timing of everything with coach Nixon leaving,” Mayo said. “Nobody can fault him. He’s doing something that benefits him and his family. It makes a whole lot of sense. And with me being on staff and us having a strong staff in place, I think that was a big thing that helped me (get the job). It’s just the relationships we had, and relationships with the kids. It was perfect timing and I felt like it worked out right, and I’m super excited to be out there.”

Mayo will take over a team that was 11-1 last season and is 28-7 over the past three years, with back-to-back Greater Metro 4A conference championships. He said the Blue Devils will return 16 starters, including nine on offense.

“I wouldn’t say there’s any pressure,” Mayo said. “Like I said, we have such amazing support from the administration downtown, and then great coaches on staff. I have a couple former head coaches on staff I can lean on and the staff will stay together. We still have our (offensive and defensive) coordinators in place. I feel we have one of the best strength programs in the state right now, and it helps when you’ve got really good football players, and we’ve got that, too.”

Mayo grew up around football, following his dad, Scott Burleson, who was defensive coordinator at Mount Pleasant for legendary coach Mike Johns, who the school named its football stadium for last year. Johns retired in 2021 with 148 career wins in 23 seasons, second-most in Cabarrus County history at a local school behind Concord’s E.Z. Smith.

Mayo met his wife, Maddie, while he was going to school and playing for Johns at Mount Pleasant. Her grandfather, Buddy Ammerson, was on staff at nearly A.L. Brown High School, when the Wonders were a state power and won a state title in 1997.

“I’ve grown up around football my entire life,” Mayo said. “I’ve been around the locker room since I was a little kid.”

After he left high school, Mayo played offensive line in college at Catawba. While there, he interned with Nixon, who was then head coach at West Rowan High School in Mount Ulla. When Nixon was leaving to go to Mooresville four years ago, Mayo was about to graduate and looking for a job. Nixon had a weightlifting and coaching spot.

“I was lucky enough to ride over there with (Nixon),” Mayo said.

And now he’s got the head job at one of the most high school football-crazy towns in the area.

“The big thing is,” Mayo said, “I can’t sit here and promise championships or anything like that, but we’ll hold these young men accountable and keep doing things that right way. And we’re going to fight for these young people everyday, to give them the best opportunity to be successful and keep molding them into the great young men and future leaders they can become.”