By R. Alan Richardson
Young coaches seem to always bring the energy to the game. Such is the case with the Junior Varsity football coaches at MCHS. Coaches Carter Shultz and Marvin Mathis have a passion for football and for coaching young men that is obvious in their tone. The two community coaches have an obvious respect for one another and couldn’t say enough about their counterpart. We sat down with these two after the JV football season to assess their success after a 6-1 campaign. Their insight into what it means to work with those younger kids on and off the field was transparent during our conversation.
Mathis, the offensive coordinator, was asked to compare last season’s 5-2 record to this one. He said, “We ended the season last year with losses to East Jackson and Hart County. This year was the opposite. We lost to Monroe Area 17-12 in a game we should have won, but it was nice to finish out against those two Region opponents with wins. This season was much more successful in that we were more consistent with our plays and on offense. It was hit-or-miss early in the season, but our knowledge improved and the consistency was there as we progressed through the schedule. They did very well with the basic plays, and having Pratt (Spivey) with some varsity experience out there was a real plus for us. DJ (Smith) also played well at quarterback behind Pratt. Once he learns how to play the QB position, he’s going to be a very dangerous young man with his ability to run the ball. He’s got some good wheels.”
Shultz, who heads up the defensive side of the ball, assessed his group saying, “I thought we played pretty well throughout the season, but at times gave up scores we shouldn’t have. They were a consistent group and even when we had to go to our bench, the younger and less experienced guys stepped up and did a great job for us. We have three defensive backs that will see some important minutes next year at the varsity level. One of our strengths was our defensive line. They gave us a good push and good pass rush all year. Jam Lewis played well at linebacker. There are some good players in this group that will definitely help us next year on the varsity. It’s said that a team develops characteristics of their coach. Our defense was a pretty salty group like me. They hated for teams to score on them and didn’t like it. It really bothered them. That’s what it takes to become a good defensive unit and individual player.”
The two continued with Mathis commenting, “Winning at this level is great, but my take on the overall picture is doing the right things. I believe it’s important to go out and not sit down in the offseason. That means playing other sports and getting in the weight room. Programs like track, basketball, football, and soccer all complement one another. It keeps them busy and out of trouble and helps them stay positive. Winning and losing games is important, but winning off the field is just as important.” Shultz chimed in, “The thing is we’re a AAA school and, much like our varsity, have to play both ways and lots of minutes. We ask a lot of them. They play a ton of plays; almost every single play. It could be easy to feel sorry for yourself and not perform or take a play off. But they rose to the occasion.”
Instilling that mindset at the lower level will pay dividends in years to come. Does it help when these players get to the next level? Shultz responded, “Coaching at the JV level is about them figuring out A-how to win, and B-how not to lose. My first two years I tried to out scheme people and come up with some magic formula for winning. It all boils down to you can’t beat yourself. Most of the time at the JV level, and really any level, if you do that you’re going to win the game.”
The JV squad, under Mathis and Shultz, has compiled an overall record of 16-5 over the past three seasons going 5-2, 5-2, and 6-1. Does that impact things down the road? “I think building a winning culture now by playing pretty much the same schedule and opponents as the varsity, will pay dividends for us in future years. These guys are used to winning. They expect to win. That is key to a winning tradition,” added Shultz.
In the final game of the season at Hart County the Bulldogs came up big with a 32-21 win, but the score shouldn’t have been that close according to the coaches. Morgan allowed the orange and black to score three times in the first half on thee “blunders”. First it was a muffed punt that gave Hart possession on the Bulldog 10 that resulted in a score. They also ran a kickoff back for a touchdown and then hit a Hail Mary pass from the 50 yard line as the buzzer sounded to end the half. The Dogs led 26-21 at intermission before shutting out the opposing Bulldogs the remainder of the night. Coach Mathis explained, “It could have been much worse. We probably left four touchdowns out there, but the second half we put the ball on the ground and pounded it out. We controlled the clock and ate up some time to get the win.”
Shultz weighed in on the final game saying, “Overall it was a good performance. To beat them at their place like that is awesome. They are a Region opponent who these guys will face for the next two or three years. Down the road, they’ll remember that. Our varsity is young, so the addition of a lot of these JV players next year to the varsity will give us a good looking roster. We have a chance to be pretty good for the next few years.”