Ledford coach Chris Adams

Ledford coach Chris Adams talks with the team during practice prior to the 2018 football season. Adams recently stepped down as both baseball coach and football coach to become vice principal at East Davidson.

WALLBURG — Chris Adams accomplished a lot of things during his two decades coaching at Ledford.

Now Adams embarks on a new challenge, as he leaves Ledford and coaching to become the assistant principal at East Davidson.

“It certainly wasn’t a decision I took lightly,” Adams said. “The majority of my career has been here at Ledford. And pretty much half my life has been invested in this place. I take a lot of pride in this year, and I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of successes.

“But more importantly I’ve been fortunate to meet a lot of really good student-athletes and be around some coaches who are some of the best friends of my life. And just be part of a community that really has become like my family. … I’m excited about the future and thankful for the past.”

Adams began coaching at his alma mater, High Point Central, during the mid-1990s while a student at High Point. He volunteered to help Gary Whitman with the football team and had a successful three-year tenure coaching baseball.

After two years at Central Davidson, where he was an assistant football coach and head softball coach, he moved over to Ledford in 1999 — assisting football coach Dickie Cline and coaching the track team. He became head baseball coach in 2002.

“I was fairly young in the process then,” Adams said. “I was 25, 26 years old jumping into a big job. And I was just trying to think of ways to make Coach Hinkle, because I know how invested he was in this program — the legend he is. I was young, but I learned a lot.”

During Adams’ initial run coaching baseball, Ledford won 20 games five times, reached the fourth round three times and the regional finals twice. He left in 2008 to become assistant principal at Central Davidson. But two years later he was back as the football coach, and he resumed coaching baseball in 2014.

“What I learned at that point was that I still had a burning desire to coach,” said Adams, who replaced baseball coach Kemp Smith — who also left to become assistant principal at East Davidson. “And I still had a lot of good years ahead of me as well.”

In the eight years since Adams returned to coaching baseball, Ledford continued its high-level play, making two more trips to the regional finals. It finally broke through in 2018, when it won a school-record 29 games and reached the state championship series for the first time.

“What an incredible run,” he recalled.

The Panthers lost a down-to-the-wire series against powerhouse Whiteville, but they proved to be a perennial contender as well — winning eight regular-season and seven conference tournament titles, posting nine 20-win seasons and making the playoffs 12 times in Adams’ 15 years.

He leaves with a 275-106 record at Ledford and a 311-134 record overall.

“It was supposed to be one year,” he said of resuming coaching baseball, “but after one year there wasn’t going to be any way I was getting out. It was like, ‘We’ve got to do a little better.’ Next thing you know, here I am coaching both of them for eight years — which I never thought that would happen.”

On the football field, Adams and his staff steadily shaped Ledford into a winner. His first year, in 2010, the Panthers went 2-9. Every year after that was a stepping stone — a pair of .500 seasons, then a pair of seven-win years followed by three nine-win seasons and three trips to the second round of the playoffs.

Ledford broke out in 2018 — tallying a school-record 13 wins, winning the conference championship with a dramatic victory over rival North Davidson and making its first regional final since 1976. The Black Knights won the rematch in front of a huge crowd at Ledford, but that season set the bar.

Overall, the Panthers went 78-22 in 11 seasons under Adams, who edged out Cline for the longest tenure in program history by a year. Ledford made the playoffs nine straight seasons, halted only this year by the COVID-crunched spring football season.

“One of the things I take the most pride in is that we got just a little bit better every year,” Adams said. “I just felt like we kept improving, and we kept working to get better. Every year, we kept thinking, ‘We’ve got to do a little bit more.’ … I love the way we built the program and got it to that level.

“It took a lot of hard work by a lot of people — built from the ground up. Because, again, we came in and started 2-9. So, we went from 2-9 to almost playing for the state championship. That’s something we were very proud of — and I saw ‘we’ because there were so many people involved with that.”

The hiring of longtime assistant coach Chris Doby as the head football coach and, although a new baseball coach hasn’t been named yet, the strong support surrounding the baseball program leave him feeling positive about where both programs are headed. And he’s looking forward to a new direction himself.

“I knew what I wanted to do when I was a kid,” he said. “I was very fortunate because of the role models I had. The guys at Ferndale and High Point Central were guys that I aspired to be like — Coach Carter, Coach Andy Chappell, Coach Whitman and many more. I was surrounded by so many great role models. …

“We knocked on the door a few times. Winning a state championship would’ve been the ultimate goal, but we fell a little bit short. Early in my career, I thought that was what you’d ultimately be measured by. But the older and wiser I’ve gotten, just having the opportunities we had along the way are things we can cherish forever. A lot of coaches don’t get those, and I’m very thankful.”