***Disclaimer: Any information on coach firings, hirings, and the possibilities of such in this article are purely speculation and scenarios we would like to see but the chances are fairly low and almost out of the question. Any such talk is merely rumors and not direct from any sources. Any thing you find offensive is probably meant as a joke, so lighten up. You have been warned.***
The grass is turning a beautiful tan as we head into the holidays, but football is still on the minds of many and on the wishlist of some. So as we get ready to dive into giftwrap and seconds this Christmas, we’ll supply you with that extra present under the tree with Valley’s pastime all wrapped up in a bow.
These are just some of the early storylines to be aware of as you head into 2017. We can already hear the first whistle. Jesus please help our deranged football-ladened minds.
2017 Offseason Could Be Quietest in Years
Malone, Mathis Could Be Last Hires For a While
Ah, we’ve come so far in just two years. In that span of time every Sequatchie Valley football program has made a head coaching change. Even the longest tenured coach, Vic Grider, has only two years on his current stint after taking a hiatus in 2012. And, to the surprise of many, only one team really took a step back this season: Bledsoe County. Josh Owensby took over the program from Jason Reel, who is now the Athletic Director for the Warriors, two seasons ago and made the playoffs in his first campaign. His squad was not so lucky this time around.
That being said, every coach could hold their position for quite some time. In fact, Joey Mathis and Tracy Malone could be the last coaching hires of the decade. Yes, DECADE. And as much turnover as the Valley has had in the past two seasons, it’s long overdue. In fact, the only reason one can see a coaching vacancy before 2020 is if more money comes calling. And it’s a little outrageous to call for a stint of stability so early in these tenures–only one-two years in–but how shocked would you be to hear that a coaching job is up for grabs in the Valley this offseason? Probably more shocked than if Les Miles said he was taking that job. In the long run, the current Valley coaching lineup is one of the more stable rings you’ll see, even if they are crazy and snappy with their football: win or get out…or coach a few more years…it’s up to you.
Meanwhile on the Mountain, We’re Waiting For a ‘Signal’
Eagles Yet to Name a Head Coach Since Wise’s Departure
It’s no longer the perennial job it once was. Let’s face it, Bill Price knew when the talent mine was up, and he left in a hurry. Ty Wise, the next man up, did what he could with an average talent pool but ultimately resigned in November. That coaching vacancy was very enlightening to the Valley, which is currently teeming with head coaching prospects from the already-established head honchos to the assistants and coordinators that have made 2016 success a success on the football field. In fact, you shouldn’t be surprised to see any one coach snatched away from the Sequatchie Valley.
The Eagles have a program much like the Indians did two years ago. After what looked like a great hire (Ken Colquette), the wins didn’t match up with expectations. A once blossoming football program with all the amenities and support one could ask for was doomed to the darkest regions of gridiron shame. Amongst the storm, Adam Caine put in his application in the mix, and, well you know the rest. Signal Mountain has one more shot to get things right, and with the potential of a separate school system from Hamilton County, it could open the door for widespread open-enrollment. And that could be enough to lure a coach away from an above-average, on-the-brink program and up the mountain.
On the other hand, the Eagles are turning into a team that doesn’t rely on blue-chip prospects, but rather home-grown talent, to win ball games. And as we venture farther and farther away from the days of the ill-eagles and recruiting this and weaving around the rules that, Signal Mountain, in a strange way, will have become what the Sequatchie Valley brand of football is in order to win: nurturing hard-nosed players among the chaos of a crazy but resilient fan base. Signal Mountain, we haven’t claimed you as a Valley team yet because, to be honest, there’s still some hate between the lines in regards to your bouts with South Pittsburg, the 75-0 shutout of Whitwell, the somewhat sticky situation you had with recruiting that somehow got twisted and blamed on Sequatchie County and therefore spurred a one-sided rivalry that has more threats than Indian touchdowns, and your Class 2A State Championship you won as a school that was as big as any 3A or 4A school at the time.
But Signal Mountain, we’re warming up to you. If only because you’re struggling. If only because you might have to resort to our style of football. If only because Chattanooga still kind of has a bad taste in its mouth when it has to speak of your football. If only because it’s a shorter and less cluttered trip to the Valley than to Notre Dame or Chattanooga Christian. If only because it’s Christmas time and I feel the need to reach out to the Eagles, which is probably the only reason I wrote this piece in the first place.
Oh yeah, if you’re looking for candidates, I’d start your shortlist with Chad Barger. That is, if he’s ready to get those coaching hands dirty with a once prestigious program that’s since gone downhill (Check: Sequatchie County Pre-2008.)
Valley Losing a Lot of Star Power
As They Say, Reload Not Rebuild
The Valley as a whole lost a whole lot players who are almost irreplaceable. To name a few, Alex Kirkendoll–Class 2A Mr. Football Lineman of the Year–Hunter McClain, Hunter Davenport, Mitch Butner–all either finalists or semifinalists for Mr. Football–Kyle Cates (Sequatchie County), Joseph Gore (Bledsoe County), Hunter Zeman (Marion County), Hogan Holland (South Pittsburg), Ishmael Avila (Marion County), James McDaniel (Grundy County), Eli Morrison (Marion County), Kevin Castro (Grundy County), Drew Daniels (South Pittsburg), John Higgins (Sequatchie County), Matthew Burrows (Grundy County), Kyree Pryor (South Pittsburg), Cole Angel (Bledsoe County), Joseph Lilly, III (South Pittsburg), Austin Stevens (Sequatchie County), Derrick Pursley (Bledsoe County), and Lajuan Ford (South Pittsburg). And that just scratches the surface of what the Valley will be missing in 2017.
Plenty, though, haven’t declared for the draft like some college stars have elected to do. We’ll see plenty of familiar faces next season including athletes like Ethan Barker (Sequatchie County), Cade Kennemore (South Pittsburg), Trace Condra (Whitwell), Kevin Whitson (Bledsoe County), Jacob Saylors (Marion County), Garrett Raulston (South Pittsburg), Gabe Boring (Bledsoe County), Josh Wingo (Grundy County), Spencer Ables (Sequatchie County), Grayson Lawson (Marion County), Garrett Shrum (Whitwell), Corbin Lusk (Grundy County), Tyray Cothron (South Pittsburg), Caleb Reed (Sequatchie County), and Hudson Petty (Whitwell). Next season, expect a lot of reloading instead of rebuilding as the Valley continues football’s version of the circle of life.