Valdosta High School’s nationally renowned football program is at the center of Netflix’s Titletown High, which mixes the drama of Varsity Blues and the passion of the Friday Night Lights franchise. Creator Jason Sciavicco, who created and executive produced MTV’s Two-A-Days, breaks down what audiences need to know about the Georgia-based Wildcats, their infamous head coach, Rush Propst, and the controversies surrounding the 2020-2021 football season.
“It always kind of stuck with me that at some point we need to do Two-A-Days again,” Sciavicco tells ET, revealing he stayed in touch with Propst, who was the coach featured in the MTV reality series. And when the creator heard Propst was tapped to lead Valdosta High School’s football program, it became clear they had to follow them. “When you take Rush Propst and you take the tradition that is Valdosta, it was just like, ‘We’ve got to do a series.’”
Valdosta High School Wildcats
Valdosta is a South Georgia city located in Lowndes County, where football is everything.
The high school, which is home to the Wildcats, has garnered national attention for its football team having the most wins in the U.S. In addition to their 929 wins (as of the 2019 season), the program has won six national championships, 24 state championships and 42 regional championships.
In 2008, ESPN dubbed the city, “Titletown, USA,” after winning a SportsNation poll that asked fans to nominate towns and cities across America based on their championship history. One of the Wildcats' most notable rivals is Lowndes High School, which is located just across town. And in the same year Valdosta was named Titletown, the Vikings were ranked No. 2 in the nation by ESPN.
Players followed over the course of season 1 include quarterback and California transfer Jake Garcia, the quiet leader-in-training Amari Jones, playboy Grayson Leavy, and Jacarious Peak, a hype man with lots of potential, as well as people in their lives over the course of a pandemic-plagued season.
“After about three, four weeks, we kind of settled in on the characters that you see,” Sciavicco says, explaining that Garcia is “a kid that you’re going to see play on Sundays,” while Grayson represents the “relatable” Valdosta kid “who grew up always wanting to be a Wildcat.”
And then, when it comes to Peak, who gets caught up in girlfriend drama with Amari, “that’s another thing people relate to in high school… and it really becomes awkward when that’s the guy that’s supposed to be blocking for you when you’re the quarterback,” Sciavicco adds.
Before appearing on camera in Two-A-Days, Propst had a long high school coaching career that dated back to 1977. It wasn’t until he was hired as head coach at Hoover High School in Hoover, Alabama, that he rose to prominence by leading the Buccaneers to 110 wins and five state championships, including four consecutive titles from 2002 to 2005. During his nine years at Hoover, it became one of the top-ranked football programs of the nation.
In 2007, rumors of multiple affairs and children out of wedlock made local news, despite Propst's constant denials. However, by the end of the year, the coach announced he would resign at the end of the 2007-2008 season. According to USA Today, Propst admitted to having a relationship with another woman outside of his marriage and having another child.
“I am remorseful for what I have done. I have failed you as a community,” he said in a statement. “I made mistakes. I could have done things differently, but I don’t admit wrongdoing inside the walls of Hoover High School.”
In 2008, Propst was named head coach at Colquitt County High School in Moultrie, Georgia, where he had more of a rocky record and didn’t win a state championship until 2014. For two consecutive years, the team went undefeated and took home the AAAAAA state title.
In 2016, he reportedly head-butted a player that led to a suspension that he was able to appeal and overturn. However, three years later, the Colquitt County Board of Education voted Propst out of his job after an investigation revealed he violated several of the Code of Ethics for Educators.
In 2020, Propst, who’s looking for his 300th career win on the series, was hired to lead the Valdosta High School football program after replacing coach Alan Rodemaker, who was voted out.
When it comes to appearing on the docuseries, Sciavicco says Propst’s past was not an issue here. “I’m not one to judge somebody’s personal life and what they do,” he explains. “But I will say the issue that he had at Hoover with the second family, he’s now married to that woman and has been with her ever since.”
Sciavicco adds, “He’s an unapologetic, win-at-all-costs kind of guy. And I think the reality is, to compete at this level, there are certain things that you have to do. And I’ve been around a lot of programs on a lot of different levels all across this country and it’s very similar.”
Ongoing Turmoil in Titletown
Propst’s arrival at Valdosta didn’t come without scandal.
Prior to hiring him, the Valdosta Board of Education voted Rodemaker out at the end of the 2019 season, despite leading the Wildcats to a second straight appearance in the state quarterfinals since first joining in 2016.
In April 2020, the former coach, who is white, fired a lawsuit against the school board’s five Black members who voted against him, alleging racial discrimination. According to ESPN, Rodemaker’s wife, Leah, “also sued the individual board members, the Valdosta Board of Education and the Valdosta City School District in a separate federal lawsuit, citing many of the same allegations.”
Later, Michael “Nub” Nelson, the 65-year-old former executive director of Valdosta’s Touchdown Club, was dismissed from his longtime job after a recording of Propst leaked online in May 2020, bringing even more unwanted attention to the school. According to the New York Times, Propst alleged that various universities were illegally bribing high school recruits and that Valdosta’s booster program set aside money for his needs.
And the docuseries addresses all of it head on. “We don’t hide behind anything,” Sciavicco says, adding that they interviewed those involved, including Nelson. In the end, they were given “one hundred percent access all the way to the end, all the way to the very last frame in season 1.”
Things at Valdosta are anything but certain.
By the end of the 2020-2021 season, Valdosta was also hit with sanctions and suspensions after it was determined that Propst and the team improperly recruited several players, including Garcia and Jones.
While Jones and other players face suspensions going into the 2021-2022 football season, Propst was unceremoniously let go just after one season after his contract wasn’t renewed following the recruiting allegations. It’s since been reported that he’s headed to Piedmont High School.
What that means for Titletown High is unclear, but Sciavicco is optimistic about the docuseries’ future on Netflix. “We’re all very positive,” he says, before adding that Propst’s status at Valdosta is something they have to consider. And when the time comes, “We’ll make a decision, ‘Do we go back to Valdosta or do another school?’”