This Week in Texas High School Football: January 10
State wrap-up, La Vega's Willie Williams steps down, Coplin heads to Arkansas HS ranks
State championship wrap-up
In order to put a bow on the 2017 UIL State Football Championships, we have to start at the top with just how much fun the weekend was. If you look at the 10 games played on the 11-man slate, eight out of the 10 were competitive games well into the fourth quarter and of course we had the classic Friday night tilt of Highland Park-Manvel which will be talked about for years. Moving to the attendance front, concerns about a drop in attendance due to the Christmas holiday were valid as this year’s games were the second-lowest attended behind the 2015 games in Houston. There are a few silver linings if you are a fan of the games remaining at AT&T Stadium and those include the Class 1A games seeing an increase in attendance and the 10 games from 6A down to 2A still topped the 200,000 mark and averaged over 20,000 fans per game. As for where the games will be held in 2018, that’s still a mystery as the UIL’s contract with AT&T Stadium ended this year. Jamey Harrison of the UIL told the Dallas Morning News last week that the UIL prefers to enter into a two-year deal with the venue and that the UIL does expect to get a proposal from NRG Stadium in Houston and perhaps the Alamodome in San Antonio. The UIL Legislative Council has not shown much support for a true rotation of the title game sites as of yet. Look for an announcement on the 2018 and 2019 state title games before realignment on February 1.
Speaking of UIL Realignment, the big day is Thursday, February 1 and of course we’ll have full coverage and reaction from what is by far the biggest day of the off-season. The UIL has already released the classification breaks and the enrollments of all member schools and we took the liberty of crafting our own statewide mock realignment for 6A-2A at the link below (Texas Football Insiders Only):
Willie Williams steps down at Waco Lavega
The whispers in north Waco the past couple of years have been confirmed as longtime head coach Willie Williams move into an athletic director-only role and Williams’ longtime defensive coordinator Don Hyde will be promoted to head football coach. Williams, who guided LaVega to the 2015 4A Division I State Championship, had openly talked of a change once his son Jamal Williams graduated. Jamal, a four-year starter at QB finished up his career in a state semi-final loss to Carthage in December.
Conroe ISD Moves Quickly
There were two open jobs in Conroe ISD at the start of the off-season and both were filled before Christmas. Shortly after the end of the 2017 season, Robert Walker announced his retirement leaving an opening at Conroe High School. Alief Taylor defensive coordinator Cedric Hardeman was named the head football coach and campus coordinator on December 20. Conroe’s newest high school, Grand Oaks which is located off Grand Parkway, will open its doors in the fall of 2018 and will begin UIL varsity play in 2020. The school already has its head football coach in place in LaMarque’s Mike Jackson. Jackson who posted a solid record in seven seasons at LaMarque also had the challenge of navigating the program through troubled times in the school district before the entire district was absorbed into Texas City ISD.
Fort Worth Paschal makes a change
After three difficult seasons in which they won just five total games, Matt Miracle is out as head football coach at Fort Worth Paschal. Paschal is one of the state’s tougher jobs as they are Fort Worth ISD’s only 6A program and regularly compete against suburban schools with more resources, Paschal also lost several players off a talented group as they transferred to nearby private schools over the past couple of seasons.
Brian Ford retires at Humble Summer Creek
Brian Ford, who built the Summer Creek program from the ground up when the school opened in 2009, has announced his retirement opening what many feel is a very attractive job in the Houston area. The Bulldogs finished 7-4 this year falling to Friendswood 27-26 in the area playoffs.
Aldine ISD update
Both Aldine Eisenhower and Aldine MacArthur will have new head coaches in place for the 2018 season, however the process for finding the new guy at each school is in a bit of a holding pattern at the moment. In speaking with a source in the Aldine ISD Athletic Department, the focus is currently on finding a new athletic director and that process should be completed later this month. Once that hire is made, the process to name a new coach at both schools will ramp up immediately with a hire expected to be made sometime in February.
Update from Pearland
I spoke to Pearland ISD AD Eric Wells regarding the vacancies at both Pearland and Pearland Dawson. We start at Pearland Dawson, where Wells had coached since the opening of the school before moving into an administrative role at the end of the 2017 season. Pearland, who was led by former defensive coordinator James Farmer on an interim basis in 2017 after the retirement of Tony Heath in June, has reposted its job as well. Farmer, as expected, is in the mix as well after leading the Oilers to the playoffs in 2017. Wells advised interviews for both jobs will take place in January once the spring semester starts up and a hire is expected to be made at or before the February Pearland ISD School Board meeting.
Kitna to the NFL?
After taking Waxahachie to the third round of the playoffs in his third year at the helm, the rumor mill has been red hot around Waxahachie and it appears Waxahachie head coach Jon Kitna is entertaining offers to move to the NFL. According to the Sporting News, Coach Kitna this week interviewed for a position on staff with the Cincinnati Bengals. Kitna, who had a lengthy career as a quarterback in the NFL, went back to his native state Washington after his retirement and was a successful head coach at Tacoma Lincoln before coming to Texas to lead Waxahachie. Kitna has a strong resume and with his numerous ties to the NFL and, in my view, it’s a matter of when, not if he makes a jump to the professional game.
Kirkland goes the college route
It’s been a whirlwind couple of seasons for Josh Kirkland who in the spring of 2016 was hired for his first head coaching job at El Paso Parkland. After leading the Matadors to an 8-4 mark, he moved on to Class 6A Kyle Lehman. After one season at Lehman, Kirkland is on the move once more as he joins the staff of childhood friend Eric Morris at the University of Incarnate Word in San Antonio. It’ll be Kirkland’s first college gig, but he’s coached in nearly every part of the state as an assistant of head coaches, so he’ll have his fair of share of recruiting contacts.
I spoke to Pflugerville ISD Athletic Director Todd Raymond on Monday and he indicated the interview process to replace retired head coach George Hermann would begin sometime next week. Over 100 applications have been received for the vacancy. Expect two rounds of interviews for this job with an initial group of up to ten brought in for the first round of interviews. That group will be cut to a group of finalists who will come in for a second round of interviews. Coach Raymond indicated in a best-case scenario the hire would be made right before realignment, but that the process could go into February if that additional time is needed.
Already a busy off-season in the Valley
For whatever reason, the coaching carousel always gets turning down in the Valley a lot quicker than in other parts of the state and once again it’s the case this off-season. We start in Edinburg, where Rene Saenz was reassigned after four years and a sub .500 record at the largest school in the district. Saenz never won more than five games in a single season at North, a departure from the previous tenure which ended in back to back double-digit wins. It’s been a struggle for Donna North since the Chiefs began varsity football in 2014. The program hasn’t won more than two games in a season and now will be on its third head coach after the retirement of Matthew Rokovich. Adding to the frustration for North fans is in 2018, they will be making the move to Class 6A. We’ll see if the program’s new leader Joe Marichalar can turn things around. Marichalar was reassigned at Edcouch-Elsa at the end of the season. Speaking of Edcouch-Elsa, administration moved quickly in hiring Kingsville Academy head coach Bradley Chavez to lead the way. Chavez knows South Texas well as aside from his stint at Kingsville Academy, he was an assistant on the staff at Texas A&M-Kingsville.
Donna back to Class 5A
When the UIL initially released its classification breaks and school enrollments, both Donna ISD high schools, Donna and Donna North, were showing as moved up from Class 5A to Class 6A. Apparently, Donna ISD, due to a clerical error, submitted an incorrect number for Donna High and the district appealed its placement. On December 29, the UIL announced that the appeal had been granted and Donna High will be placed into Class 5A Division-I thus creating the very real possibility of a 10-team district in the Valley in the upcoming realignment.
Interviews at Amarillo High
The process for replacing Mel Maxfield at Amarillo High is about to ramp up as interviews will begin next week. A total of 75 resumes were received and the district anticipates just a single round of interviews before a name is brought to the Amarillo ISD school board at the January 22 meeting.
Strunk resigns at Lubbock High
After seven seasons, Lubbock High head coach Jason Strunk turned in his resignation on Wednesday. Strunk did have some success at LHS leading the Westerners to their first playoff appearance in 36 years in 2012 and he certainly changed the culture at one of the state’s toughest jobs. Strunk is highly thought of in coaching circles and will likely land on his feet at another spot sooner rather than later.
As many expected, Everman stayed in-house in its hiring of a new head football coach and atthletic director after Dale Keeling announced his retirement after 20 seasons in Tarrant County. Everman never publicly posted the job and that was a strong indication longtime assistant athletic director and defensive coordinator Dale Matlock was going to be promoted. Matlock, who arrived at Everman in 1998 with Keeling from Irion County, will be in his first head coaching job.
Gary Robinson returns to coaching
Gary Robinson, who built the Krum program from the ground up, suddenly resigned shortly before the start of the 2017 season due to health concerns involving his young son. Thankfully, it appears his son’s condition has improved to the point where it appears Robinson can get back into coaching after taking 2017 off. He’ll have quite the job ahead of him as he tries to guide Joshua to the playoffs for the first time since 1996.
Mabank nearing a decision
It appears a decision to hire a new athletic director/head football coach in Mabank is close as the district is down to three apparent finalists. The three finalists are an out-of-state coach, reportedly from Arizona; a current head coach in the Texoma area and a current assistant from the San Antonio area who has prior experience as a head coach at the 6A level. Look for a decision to be made official at the school board meeting set for January 22.
Navasota makes a change
It’s been a tumultuous two years in Grimes County to say the least. After the very public departure of Lee Fedora in the spring of 2016, things haven’t gone very smoothly. Fedora, who led Navasota to two state titles and the Rattlers most successful run in school history, resigned that spring shortly after not having his contract extended by the Navasota school board. Eventually the board did extend Fedora, but the damage to the relationship was already done and Fedora eventually tendered his resignation. Navasota promoted assistant coach Patrick Goodman to the position of Head Football Coach/Athletic Director, but the 2016 season was a disaster with Navasota posting a 2-9 record and falling to fourth place in their district. 2017 showed improvement as Navasota finished the regular season at 6-4, but failed to get out of the first round of the playoffs once again. That improvement was apparently not sufficient enough for Goodman to remain as the HFC/AD and NISD has decided to go a different direction. It will be interesting to see what kind of applicant list the district gets as they certainly got their share of negative publicity in the coaching community after Fedora’s departure.
New Diana’s Coplin heads to Arkansas
There were no doubts after leading New Diana to the regional finals in his second year at the helm and just two years removed from an 0-10 season, Robbie Coplin was going to be a hot commodity among schools looking for a new head coach. DCTF learned during the state championships, that Coplin indeed would be leaving New Diana as he was named the new head football coach at Monticello High School in Arkansas. Coplin, an Arkansas native, takes over at Monticello which is southeast of Little Rock after the program finished 5-6 last year and lost in the first round of the 4A playoffs in Arkansas.Ironically, Coplin returns to Arkansas following in the footsteps of his mentor and now University of Arkansas head coach Chad Morris, whom Coplin worked with at Stephenville and Lake Travis.
Nichols moves into administration at Little River Academy
Over at Little River Academy, Mike Nichols after eight years told DCTF on Wednesday that he’d be transitioning into a role as the district’s athletic director and middle school principal. Nichols, who prior to his time at Academy, was the defensive coordinator at South Garland, he’ll pass the baton as head football coach over to his defensive coordinator Paul Williams.
Kirbyville again in the market
After just one season in deep East Texas, Todd Doughty has decided to leave Kirbvyville and the Wildcats for the second straight off-season will be in search of a new athletic director/head football coach. Doughty, who came to Kirbyville after a solid stint at Electra, posted a 3-6 mark in his lone season at Kirbyville.
With the off-season starting that means it’s also clinic season throughout the state of Texas, here’s a listing of clinics from around the state, if we don’t have you clinic listed e-mail it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
January 13: Kickoff Clinic, Farmersville High School, Farmersville http://www.kickoffclinic.com
January 19-20: Piney Woods Clinic, Hilton Garden Inn, Longview http://pineywoodsfootballclinic.com/
January 19-20: Alamo City Coaches Clinic, El Tropicano Hotel, San Antonio http://www.alamocitycoachesclinic.com/
January 19-21: City of Palms Clinic, Doubletree Hotel, McAllen
January 26-28: DFW Coaches Clinic, Embassy Suites, Grapevine https://www.coachesclinic.net/
January 27: Texan Drive Coaches Clinic, New Caney HS, New Caney
February 9-11: Lone Star Coaching Clinic, Hilton Conference Center, College Station www.lonestarclinic.com
February 15-17: Nike Coach of the Year Clinic, Winstar Casino, Thackerville, OK
February 16-17: Hill Country Football Clinic, Admiral Nimitz Museum, Fredericksburg http://www.hcfc-blc.com
February 16: Four States Clinic, Texas High School, Texarkana
May 5-6: Best Little Clinic in Texas, Wingate Hotel and Conference Center, Round Rock http://www.hcfc-blc.com
June 12-14: Angelo Coaches Clinic, San Angelo http://www.angelofootballclinic.com/index.html
July 22-25: 2018 THSCA Convention & Coaching School, Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, San Antonio http://www.thsca.com/convention