Early Coaching Movements Within Texas as Season Winds Down

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Photo: Sherry Milliken/TexasHSFootball

With only one week of action remaining in the 2017 season, schools across Texas are beginning to take stock of what they have for next year. The vast majority of high school programs will be without a few players due to graduation, but a smaller amount will be looking elsewhere for a new head coach. Five small school programs in the state have already begun taking this step:


Photo: Courtesy of Olney ISD

In one of the first moves in the state, the Olney ISD made the decision to reassign Mark Young elsewhere in the district, shedding the position of head football coach and athletic director; first reported by Zach Duncan of the Wichita Falls Times-Record News. The decision was made November 8, as teams were gearing up to play one last regular season game (Olney had a bye week in week 10).

“It is public knowledge that Mark Young was released from his duties as Athletic Director and Head Football Coach for Olney ISD,” said superintendent Dr. Greg Roach in a statement. “The intent of this notification is to make it abundantly clear that Coach Young’s reassignment was based solely on the District’s decision to make programming changes, move in a different direction with our athletic department, and the desire to begin immediately.”

“In no way is this reflective of the integrity of Mark Young. Olney ISD can do nothing but be appreciative of his herculean efforts to begin the rebuilding of a struggling program. Coach Young’s work ethic and commitment are above reproach,” the statement continued. “Olney ISD wishes Coach Young the best and with certainty knows that he will positively impact the lives of students for years to come.”

Young’s four-year tenure with the Cubs ended with a 1-39 record, snapping a 38-game losing streak with a win over Archer City in 2015; though the win has since been followed by a currently active 22-game losing skid.

Olney last qualified for the postseason in 2006 — their last postseason win coming in 2000 — and have recorded four winless seasons since. Young’s successor will be the fourth to occupy the position since the 2006 season: Damon Rodgers coached for two more seasons with 8-2 and 3-7 finishes, Gunter Rodriguez compiled a 7-33 record from 2009-2012, and Hugh Farmer spent a season as the Cubs head man before departing to Seymour.


Photo: Courtesy of Sundown ISD

Steve Smith spent the majority of his tenure in Archer City, guiding the Wildcats from 2004-2010 with a successful 12-1 finish in 2008. After three years and back to back nine-win seasons in Post, Smith remained in the Lubbock area but moved further northwest to Sundown. After a strong 10-2 finish this season, the coach has decided to retire effective after the district’s spring break concludes, as first reported by the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal’s Mike Graham December 11.

“He’s left us in really good shape as far as football goes,” noted Sundown ISD Superintendent Scott Marshall. “He’s done us a great job, we wish him nothing but the best.”

The Roughnecks under Smith compiled a 25-21 record, with all four teams qualifying for the postseason. Smith in 16 years compiled an overall record of 104-74 in Anton, Archer City, Post and Sundown.

The search for a replacement begins internally, according to Marshall. The process will last until next week, after which time the position will be posted publicly.


Kurt Haberthur’s tenure as the Bobcats head man started off strong, with Sunray claiming an undefeated regular season in 2011. The Bobcats qualified for the playoffs four times since then, but hit a skid in 2017 with a 4-6 record. The six-year head coach was reassigned November 16.

According to Sunray ISD Superintendent Marshall Harrison, the position was filled Monday. Matt Strickland will enter his 15th year of coaching as the Bobcats new head football coach and athletic director after various coaching stops in West Texas, including Seminole, Midland Greenwood, Lamesa and Valera Panther Creek. He had previously served as the head man across state lines in Cloudcroft, New Mexico.

“He believes that Junior High and High School athletics should be an avenue of teaching young men and women the principals needed to have and lead a successful life,” the announcement post on the Sunray ISD Facebook page stated. “The ideas and morals encouraged and demonstrated by the coaching staff and school atmosphere should lead and guide the student athletes into becoming an incredible asset for our future generations.”


Photo: Courtesy of Maypearl ISD

Closer to the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex, the Maypearl Panthers qualified for the postseason in four of the last five seasons, including in 2017 under third year coach Tal Sanders. It would be the coach’s last however, as Sanders decided to retire earlier this month after two decades of coaching.

“He’s done an excellent job for us, with his maturity and ability to lead our program,” stated Maypearl ISD Superintendent Ritchie Bowling. “We hate to see him go, but we also congratulate him on his retirement and future endeavors.”

Sanders remained close to the North Texas region, guiding programs in Ferris, Tom Bean and Lake Worth before closing out his career in Maypearl.

According to Bowling, the process to find a replacement will begin in 2018 with public postings of the position.

The Warriors haven’t qualified for the postseason since 2005, with five different coaches guiding the program since that time. There will now be a sixth looking to right the ship, with Tony Johnson out as the head football coach after three seasons.

Johnson previously lead the Maypearl program for the 2012 season, and had served as an assistant in Duncanville and South Grand Prairie before taking the position in Bonham. The Warriors finished with a 3-7 record in 2017, the most wins since 2013.


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