Tuesday, July 08, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Red Devils’ staff finally complete

Leader sports editor

New Jacksonville football coach Barry Hickingbotham finally has a complete staff of assistants and a defensive coordinator with the addition of Brian McDermott, who was hired last Wednesday.

McDermott has been the defensive coordinator at Hazen for the last several years and has deep roots in Jacksonville, which were two key requirements for Hickingbotham.

“The person in charge of the defense being from Jacksonville and having that passion for this town and this program, I think is key to getting this thing to where we envision getting to,” said Hickingbotham. “Coach McDermott is from here, graduated from here in the mid-90s. His dad works at Ashland Chemical, his mom worked for the school district at the middle school for years. We have four of our six coaches who graduated from Jacksonville High School.”

The hire also completed a lengthy process of getting a staff back in place after the loss of head coach Rick Russell, and the subsequent departure of assistant coach Hank Hawk from the football staff. It will also, hopefully, slow the rapid current of turnover among the JHS football staff that plagued Russell’s three years at the helm.

Hickingbotham will be the offensive coordinator and call the plays. With him on the offensive side of the ball will be Adam Thrash, who joined Jacksonville’s staff in December of 2012. He was a record-setting quarterback at Pulaski Academy and was a backup quarterback for four years at the University of Alabama.

Athletic director Jerry Wilson, who has been at JHS for more than 30 years, and has been part of the football program the entire time, will coach running backs. He was an All-State back at Benton High School and a three-year starter at OBU.

McDermott will coach the offensive line in addition to his coordinator duties. Also coaching the defensive backfield will be Larry Burrows, who has held that same position for the last several seasons. The ninth-grade coach will again be Terrod Hatcher, a former 1,000-yard running back at JHS who is in his second year coaching the Red Devil freshmen.

Hatcher has no assistant, but Hickingbotham said all the high-school coaches will be helping with the ninth-graders.

“Right now we don’t really have the size of staff that’s ideal, so it will be a coaching by committee type thing,” Hickingbotham said. “We’re all going to have to help out in other areas any way we need to.”

The first-year head coach isn’t taking very long to implement a plan he’s had for years. The Red Devils will travel to Walnut Ridge later this month for a three-day retreat at Williams Baptist University.

Hickingbotham said there would be some offense and defense installation, but the primary goal is team and character building.

“It’s something I’ve never been exposed to as a coach, but it’s something I’ve always kept in the back of my mind to do if ever I became a head coach,” Hickingbotham said. “It’s mainly a team building, team bonding thing. As a coach you don’t get much of a chance to talk to these kids about values and doing the right thing.

“You’re always so pressed for time to get this offense installed, or that defense installed. Up there we’ll have them from dawn till dusk for three days. So we’re going to spend a lot of time on that sort of thing, and we’re going to start working on implementing some of the game plan as well.”