SPORTS>> Search for football coach underway
By RAY BENTON
Leader sports editor
The opening for the head football coaching position at Jacksonville High School has generated much interest from several coaches. The opening was left when Johnny Watson, head Devil for 23 years, stepped down to take the head coaching position at Little Rock Christian Academy.
Although the position wasn’t officially posted by the Pulaski County Special School District until last Friday, many coaches had already contacted JHS principal Kenneth Clark about the job.
A spokesperson from the district office says no one has officially applied as of Monday morning, and that the district office would only handle applications from outside the district. Clark would handle all applications from people already employed by PCSSD. Clark mentioned several potential applicants that he’s been in contact with.
Among the 10 applicant mentioned by Clark, five are already employed in the Jacksonville district.
All four paid assistants on the current JHS staff applied. Jerry Wilson, who is also the head basketball coach, defensive coordinator Rick Russell and offensive coordinator Marvin Lindley applied almost immediately upon Watson’s resignation. Last week, fellow assistant George Belew added his name to the list.
“He (Belew) came to see me late last week and said he wanted to throw his hat in the ring, which I encourage.” Clark said. “We’ve already got a very strong list of candidates and it’s probably just going to get stronger. I think this will be one of the top football jobs available.”
The other district applicant is Eric Redmon, who just completed his first year as head coach at Jacksonville Junior High after two seasons as an assistant at Pulaski Robinson Junior High.
Clark said North Pulaski assistant Rich Rodgers gave notice weeks ago that he would apply if the position came open, but hasn’t done so as of yet.
One interested party from outside the district has already enjoyed much success as a head football coach.
Mark Whatley, who is currently coaching at Newport, is a former Red Devil who helped lead the Rison Wildcats to the class AA state title before stepping up to class AAA Newport.
Pine Bluff Dollarway head coach George Shelton has also contacted Clark. Shelton led Dollarway to the class AAA state championship game last year, before losing to CAC. Shelton’s Cardinals were the only team to beat class AAAA state champion Wynne last season.
There were also two applicants from Texas, including another former Red Devil in Howard McMahan. McMahan is currently the defensive coordinator at Copperas Cove, Texas, which went 10-2 last season in class 5A, won the district 13 championship and the bi-district championship against the district 15 champion.
The other Texas coach showing interest in the position is Marshall defensive coordinator Ed Hula. Marshall competes in class 4A, and was ranked as highly as sixth in the state last season.
Clark is excited about the strength of the list of applicants, and hopes to be able to make a decision soon. The opening has to be posted for 10 working days before the position can be filled. May 6 is the final day the job must be posted, and Clark wants to have a coach hired by May 16, the first day of spring practice. He isn’t however, making that date a hard deadline.
“I would really like to have someone in there by the start of spring practice,” Clark said. “And that’s what we’ll do if we can. Most important is doing what’s best for the kids and the program, and we’ll take the necessary time to make the right decision.”
Clark is now in the process of putting a committee together to help make that decision. He doesn’t yet know who will be part of the committee, but says it will likely be made up of two teachers, two members of the community, his administration staff and PCSSD athletic director Jerry Welch.