PHELPS, Ky. – For the last decade a dark, looming cloud has been hanging over top of Hornetville.
The new elementary school was built at the location of the old football and baseball fields. Construction on the new fields has dawdled along for some time. Phelps has not played a true home game in four years and they haven’t had a real winning season in several seasons.
The Hornets have had a revolving door of coaches and player participation is at an all-time low. Consolidated schools stand tall around Phelps High School. The class Single A football program has taken some serious hits throughout the years.
However, the ghost of football past has returned to Hornetville with hopes of turning the program around. James “Butch” Joplin has signed the dotted line as the new head coach for Phelps High School. Joplin led The Hornets to their first ever undefeated season back in 1984. The team finished with a record of 10-0 on the regular season.
“That was a great year with some great players, we were heading into the playoffs with a lot of momentum,” recalls Joplin. The Phelps quarterback suffered an injury before the first playoff game and the team lost to Pikeville High School.
After coaching at Phelps, Joplin began coaching at Pikeville High School and helped produce a few state championship appearances for the program. Joplin has been a “gun for hire” ever since, being brought in to different programs that needed Joplin’s particular skills and wisdom.
Joplin was the running back coach at the University of Pikeville for six years and coached at multiple other high schools as a “fixer” of weak areas inside the program. He coached at the old Burch High School before the consolidation and then was an assistant at Mingo Central High School.
Now that the Phelps athletic program has invested a lot of money in improving their facilities, in an effort to compete with larger schools, many believe they made a wise decision to hire Joplin. They hope he can produce results after the new investments in the facilities.
“My goal is to bring discipline back to the program, the program has been loose for the last couple of years, I have a great staff working with me and we work very well together, the kids need to have something they can be proud of and once we start building that participation will follow,” said Joplin.
The new football field and athletic complex will be located where the old elementary school once stood. Expectations are for construction of the complex to be complete by mid-season. “The new facility is a really good thing and the program really needed it , we will be able to get these kids into more of a routine and work in the other activities such as weight training that has been lacking in the years before, if you are going do it, you have to do it right,” said Joplin. As always, Phelps will face tough district opponents this season such as Pikeville and Hazard.
Joplin has coached at Phelps three times before and has produced great results each time. Joplin said “I’m really happy to be back at Phelps, I have always liked it there, the people are good and the kids are great, we need to bring some spirit to the area, the kids need to learn that they can win, but it is going to take a lot of hard work to get there.”
Joplin was a standout athlete for Matewan High School in the 1960’s, he has the knowledge and wisdom to make a big difference for the community of Phelps. Last year Phelps finished in last place of the District 8 standings with a record of 0-9. Phelps will begin their season with an away game against Allen Central on August 21, at 7:30 p.m.
They hope to have construction of the new field and complex completed in time to play their second scheduled home game against Mountcalm High School out of W.Va. on September 18th.
(WilliamPlaster is the sports reporter of the Williamson Daily News, he can be reached at 304-235-4242 ext.2274 or at [email protected] or on twitter @sidplaster)