Football fans at Aldine, Eisenhower and Nimitz will see three new faces roaming the sidelines when the 2004 football season begins the last weekend of August.
To say all three programs have undergone change since last season would be an understatement.
The transformation started in February when Bill Smith, the long-time head football coach at Aldine Senior announced his retirement and was succeeded by Fort Worth Dunbar head coach Bob Jones. Later in the spring, the Nimitz Senior job came open when Randy Rowe resigned and was replaced by David Suggs, who served as head coach at Beaumont Central for the last two years.
Aldine ISD Director of Athletics Daryl Wade had just filled the Nimitz job when Eisenhower Senior head coach Richard Carson told him he was leaving the Eagles to start up his own program at College Park High in The Woodlands, which will open in the 2005-06 school year. Wade found Carson’s replacement in Larry Haynes, who served as the head football coach and athletic director at Crosby High School prior to landing the Eisenhower job.
“It was definitely a busy and interesting spring semester,” Wade said, with a laugh. “I can’t ever remember having to find three new head football coaches, but thanks to the success Bill, Randy and Richard produced, we didn’t have to go out looking for applicants. They came to us.”
Wade said he’s looking forward to seeing how each of the three new head coaches fare in their first year on the job. MacArthur High’s Jerry Drones becomes the senior head coach in the district now that the three “rookies” have come on board.
Jones, who served as Dunbar’s head coach for seven years (he has 23 years of coaching experience), forged a 46-29 record at Dunbar, including four district titles and five playoff appearances.
The Lexington, NE native is well aware he has some big shoes to fill.”It’s a big challenge,” Jones said. “Coach Smith was Aldine High School and made this program what it is today. He will always be important to this program and the field house will always be open to him. We want him to continue to be a part of things around here.”
Jones, 45, who was coached in high school by University of Wisconsin head coach Barry Alvarez, said Mustang fans won’t see a whole lot of changes offensively or defensively when the 2004 season opens Sept. 4 against Madison at Butler Stadium.
“We’ll run out of the I-formation and do a lot of the things coach Smith did. We will probably throw a little more because we feel we have good talent at the skill positions. You might even see us use the shot gun from time to time. Defensively, we’ll continue to base out of the 4-3.”
Aldine returns five offensive and six defensive starters among 16 lettermen who were part of a 9-2 team a year ago. Jones, 45, is excited about the upcoming season and looking forward to competing for the District 18-5A title.
“We think we have a chance to have a successful football team. Our goals will always be to come out of non-district play with a winning record, to come out of district with a title and to come out of the playoffs with a state title.”
Jones and his wife Tammy have two sons, Andrew 15, and Alex, 12.
Nimitz’s new head coach inherits a program that has reached the playoffs three of the last four years and Suggs wants to continue the winning ways Cougar fans have become accustomed to. Suggs, 44, has served as a head coach for eight years (Beaumont Central, Port Arthur Lincoln, Willowridge and Daytona Beach (FL) Mainland and has 20 years of coaching experience. He brings a 45-41 career record and five playoff appearances to Nimitz. He too is looking forward to a new district and a new challenge.
“This is a great job because you are working in a school district that is respected throughout the state. Aldine ISD does a great job of educating kids and they support athletics. This is an opportunity to be in a situation where we can be successful year in and year out.”
Offensively, Suggs said the Cougars will have a multiple I formation look. “We feel like our offense is versatile enough to adapt to our personnel.”
Defensively the Cougars will employ an eight-man front.
Unlike Jones and Haynes, Suggs was able to go through part of spring training with his new team. He said the nine days they spent learning a new system should be beneficial when the season opens Aug. 28 against Clear Brook in Thorne Stadium.
“We felt it was a good transition. We did a lot of things on the fly trying to learn one another, but we got a lot accomplished in the spring.
This is a good group of kids and we will be relying on our seniors to lead us when we get back to work in August.”
The Cougars return eight offensive and six defensive starters among 17 lettermen who led Nimitz to the Division II quarterfinals and an 8-5 record in 2003.
“They’ve had success in the past and we want to build on that. We also want to establish a major, major drive with our kids being successful academically. We want to become more than a good group of athletes. We want to become a good group of student-athletes.”
Haynes also takes over a program that has been one of the most successful programs in the Houston area and state over the last 12 years. The 47-year-old Haynes is known for taking over losing programs and building winners. He likes the fact that this time around, he enters a program that is firmly established.
“I feel this is one of the elite jobs in the state in an elite district,” said Haynes, who brings a 112-49-3 record to his new job. “People rave about Aldine ISD and I’m happy to be part of the Aldine family. This is the first program I’ve taken over that has an established winning tradition. Pat (Patterson) and Richard (Carson) did an outstanding job. I’m not here to rock the boat, I’m here to row it.”
Haynes said Eagle fans will see a lot of different looks offensively. He and his staff will evaluate the talent on hand and fit an offense around it. Haynes did point out that the Eagles will throw the ball more this year. “We’ll probably run it 60 percent of the time and throw it 40 percent of the time,” he said.
Defensively, Eisenhower will use an eight-man front that utilizes the blitz and man-to-man coverage in the secondary.
Haynes is excited about the prospects for the 2004 campaign, which begins Aug. 28 against state runner-up The Woodlands in Reliant Stadium (this will be the first regular season game ever played in Reliant Stadium) as well he should. The Eagles return seven offensive and six defensive starters among 20 lettermen who led the Eagles to the district title and a 9-2 record in 2003.
“How successful we are will depend on our senior leadership and the response we’ve gotten from the kids thus far has been phenomenal,” Haynes said. “Our ultimate goal is to win the whole thing (state title). We may not get there this year, but we’ll work to get there every year.”
While there won’t be a new face on the sidelines for the MacArthur Generals, there will be plenty of new faces on the field, according to Drones, who enters his fourth year as head coach. MacArthur returns six offensive and four defensive starters among 17 lettermen from last year’s 4-6 team.
“We’re going to be very young this year,” Drones said. “We’ve only got 10 seniors on the team, so we’re going to look to some of our young kids for leadership.”
Drones said the core of the team will revolve around the juniors on the roster.
“We played 15 sophomores last year and they are now juniors, so we have some experience, but we’ve got to stay healthy. Depth is going to be a real concern for us.”
The Generals should know how they will fare in the 18-5A race once they finish with a tough non-district schedule that includes Galveston Ball, Conroe and Klein Collins.
“Our non-district schedule is going to be tough. If we come through that in good shape, we could do something in district,” Drones said. “I know we’ll play hard and we’ll put people out there who will play hard. We should be OK everywhere but on the defensive line, where we lost all four starters and three reserves.”