Leader Blues

Monday, July 31, 2006

SPORTS >> Max Hatfield takes over Jacksonville ninth grade

By RAY BENTON
Leader sports editor

Jacksonville High School has a new front man for its ninth-grade football program. Former assistant ninth-grade football coach and assistant high school girls basketball coach Max Hatfield was named the new head coach Thursday after former coach Eric Redmond took a job at Maumelle Middle School, an Oak Grove feeder school. Hatfield has been in coaching just five years, and all five have been at Jacksonville.

He spent two seasons as an assistant football coach at Jacksonville Junior High, and since has held the position prior to this promotion. He will also be the head boys track coach for the freshmen. “I’m really happy about it,” Hatfield said. “To me the main thing for the ninth-grade coach is to prepare them for high school and still be competitive. We want to get them into the high-school program already knowing the terminology and base formations. So we’re going to run what the high school runs.”

Hatfield will also be an unofficial part of the high school coaching staff, and will be helped by the high school staff with his group. “It’s going to be more team oriented this year,” Hatfield said. “We’re going to work together more. Last year with the new coach and the new scheduling format, everything was new and it just made it kind of difficult for everybody. It takes some time to get used to the situation.” Hatfield feels he has a good group of athletes coming up from the middle school, and a team that already knows most of the terminology and running game that he will be using this season.

“We’re going to be pretty good,” Hatfield said. “With what Barry Hickingbotham did with them last year, and how much success they had, we should be competitive. Coach Hickingbotham and coach Stuckey did a good job with what they taught them last year. They did most of our running game, so we’ll have to see what we have as far as passing. It’s one of those things where we’ll have to wait until they get here to evaluate what we have. Once we do that we’ll know more about what direction to go.” The new coach will be leading his freshmen Red Devils into a brand new conference after the longstanding Metro Conference dissolved last year. Jacksonville’s new league will consist of Mills, LR Christian, Robinson, White Hall, Oak Grove, Sylvan Hills, Pulaski Academy, North Pulaski and CAC. Jacksonville and Sylvan Hills won’t be allowed to compete for a conference championship in any sport for two years, but that doesn’t deter Hatfield.

“That doesn’t mean we can’t go out there and beat everybody we can,” Hatfield said. “If we go out there and win all our games, it’ll mean something. To me, if you do well, it doesn’t really matter.” Hatfield spent years as operations manager at Airbon Express before deciding to go back to school and finish his degree. After doing so he began working at Jacksonville Junior High and pursuing his Masters, which he completed this year. With the addition of Hatfield, Jacksonville should have some stability at the helm of the freshmen team. “I’m looking at it as an opportunity for sure, but also as a home,” Hatfield said. “I’m comfortable in the ninth grade job. It’s definitely not a stepping stone kind of thing.”