High School Sports

9 thoughts: Big decisions ahead for D'Iberville, West Harrison football teams

 Buddy Singleton recently announced his retirement from coaching.
TIM ISBELL/SUN HERALD Buddy Singleton recently announced his retirement from coaching.

He got the right hire last year when he brought on Casey Cain at Harrison Central. After a slow start, the Red Rebels rebounded and not only clinched a playoff spot -- they finished second in the region.

What Trosclair did was find a coach in Cain who could rejuvenate the program and bring kids back out to the field. Cain opened up the offense, and with the help of a big-play defensive unit, got HCHS going in the right direction.

2. Busy, busy

Now Trosclair has two openings to fill. And, like last year, it's imperative he finds the "right fit."

"We're looking for somebody to step in and continue the winning tradition that coach Singleton established at D'Iberville," Trosclair said last week. "At West Harrison we're looking for someone to start it."

The assumption is that the Warriors' gig will draw applicants from across the region, in addition to several good internal candidates who are already familiar with D'Iberville's traditions.

Singleton's second tour at D'Iberville included a 14-win campaign and four consecutive nine-win seasons.

"D'Iberville is a good football school. I think there will be a gazillion folks who apply because I've had a lot of people ask me," Singleton said. "Hopefully they'll select the right person. It's a good job and a good location. We've been pretty successful over the years. I think the whole program is in very good shape."

3. Warriors sales pitch

D'Iberville has had success in the past and Singleton thinks the future will be no different for a number of reasons.

His unsolicited sales pitch: "Since Katrina, the school has grown and will continue to grow. Facilities are good. We have turf and a nice fieldhouse. If you want to coach high school football, it's a great location."

He continued, speaking about the perks of playing on the Coast: "In North Mississippi you have to travel all over the country. Here, you can hop on I-10 and be at just about every school you're going to play."

Having lived in North Mississippi, my mileage on Friday nights can vouch for Singleton's statement.

4. What the Warriors need

So, all that said, what do the Warriors need? The game didn't pass Singleton by, but the 75-year-old coach felt like now was the right time to be a fan. As with any life-long coach, the decision to hang up the whistle and clipboard for good doesn't come easily or overnight.

D'Iberville was plagued by inconsistent play this season. One Friday they looked like the best team on the Coast, and then the next ...

"The main thing is I think you need someone who can come in with a lot of energy," Singleton said. "Football is year-round. When I first started, you went through football season and then that was it. You don't ever end now. It's always going.

"It takes somebody with a lot of energy and work ethic. It'll be a lot of pressure on whoever goes in there. We lost a lot of players from this year but I think we have a good nucleus and a good program."

5. Advice

Singleton has been at the helm of D'Iberville during most of its high and low -- albeit sparse -- times. So what's some advice for the next head Warrior?

It all begins and ends with community.

"D'Iberville is a unique community. A lot of the schools, you go to ball games and there's a lot of empty seats. Well, at D'Iberville it's packed out. You have great support," he said. "They love you when you win and cuss you when you lose. That's just the way it is."

He continued: "Getting involved in the community and working hard is about all I can say. I started there a long time ago and had no idea. I thought I'd be there a year or two and then move on. It's been a lifetime."

6. Hurricanes coming

D'Iberville is obviously a popular vacancy, but don't be surprised if West Harrison draws its fair share of attention as well.

There's a lot of potential with the Hurricanes' athletic program as a whole. Brittany Rogers has built the softball program into a power. Otis Gates and Milton Ray have done the same with the basketball programs. Last year marked a turning point for the baseball program under David Marsland as the Diamond 'Canes made the postseason for the first time in school history. Now it's the football team's turn.

7. Harden's tenure

It was a difficult three years for Sean Harden at West Harrison but I don't think it was for a lack of effort or knowledge.

And it took a big man to come to terms that maybe he wasn't going to be the right fit to turn get the program to turn the corner.

Despite two winless seasons after a four-win debut in 2013, Harden wasn't "forced out." He left on his own terms.

""West Harrison is a great place with wonderful students, faculty and administration. I care enough about it to step away as head football coach and give somebody else a chance to give our student-athletes the opportunity to achieve greater things," Harden told the Sun Herald in a statement. "It's going to happen. Bright things are in the future."

8. Where to begin

West Harrison has enough athletes to win. It will just come down to getting players out to the football field and keeping them throughout the season.

According to MaxPreps.com, West Harrison had 48 players, third lowest in the difficult Region 4-5A. For the program to move forward, the school's community will need to rally around the program both in terms of fan support and players. That's where the foundation moving forward will be laid. The 'Canes have a number of good players coming up through their system. It will be up to the next coach to see they reach their potential.

9. Waiting until April

With all of the football talk on National Signing Day, some of the basketball players can get pushed to the side. One to watch moving forward is West Harrison's Ameshya Williams. Considered one of the top players in the state, averaging a double-double, WHHS coach Otis Gates said he expects Williams to wait until April to make a final decision. As of now, Gates said Mississippi State, Southern Miss, Virginia Tech, Tulane, Louisiana Tech and Troy are all after Williams. LSU offered Williams this summer, but he said contact with the Tigers has cooled as of late.

As always, thanks for reading.

Patrick Ochs, a Sun Herald sports reporter, can be reached at pochs@sunherald.com or followed on Twitter at PatrickOchs.