After 26 years as an assistant, Stratford High defensive coordinator Joe Marion is getting his opportunity as a head man.

Marion, 52, was named the school's third head coach in its history on Monday, replacing longtime head coach Ray Stackley, who retired in February. Marion was an assistant coach at the school for 26 years, serving as the defensive coordinator since 2000.

"It's certainly an honor to be replacing someone like coach Stackley, a man that I have the utmost respect for as a person and a coach," said Marion on Monday night. "Stratford is a great place to work and coach and I am excited that I will be able to continue to work here. I have had in my mind to be a head coach for some time and there is no better place than Stratford to fulfill my dream."

Marion, whose brother Bobby is the head coach at West Ashley High School, is a 1984 graduate of The Citadel and was a four-year member of the football program, playing three years under Art Baker and a year under Tom Moore. He just completed his 29th year overall in coaching, having worked previously at St. Stephen Academy and Andrews Academy prior to his time at Stratford.

Marion was one of two members of the current staff to be interviewed as a finalist for the position, the other being offensive coordinator Dennie McDaniel. Marion is hopeful that McDaniel will continue in his role on his staff.

"We talked a lot throughout the process and our intentions were to work for and with each other, regardless of who was hired as the head coach," says Marion. "As far as I'm concerned, I would love to have Dennie remain on the staff. He is a coach with great passion and energy and he is an outstanding offensive coordinator. Obviously, if he has other opportunities, he will have to make that decision, but I would love to have him as a member of my staff."

Marion says his former role on the staff, as linebackers coach and defensive coordinator, could possibly be filled by a current member of the staff. The coach also has to fill a position as receivers coach since John Chalus was named athletic director last week. That position could be combined with that of head baseball coach, which Chalus also has coached since 1992.

One of Marion's "other" jobs in recent years was a college baseball umpire. He has worked for the SEC and ACC for the last several years but said he will step back from major conference umpiring in a few weeks.

"Umpiring sort of started out like a hobby, like golf is for some people," he said. "I love doing it, but obviously in this new role, I will have to focus more of my energy into our football program. Maybe I will continue to umpire some locally, but my focus is on Stratford football from here on out."

The new coach is hoping to instill many of the same principles that have been established by his predecessor.

"Do things the right way and be thorough in everything you do. That's what coach Stackley was all about and that's what we want to continue," he said.