PHELPS, Ky. — Standing on the precipice looking over.
The Phelps Hornet football team has been beat like a sock in the wash with work boots. Phelps’s legacy is as battered and torn as it has been in decades and the end was crashing down to faster than most could have predicted. Last season they went win less, yes; even after playing Jenkins, even after the return of the only coach (Butch Joplin) to ever take a Phelps Hornets football team to a perfect season, the Hornets still couldn’t get anything going. They had played on borrowed fields and creek banks for over a half decade and the numbers on the roster were at an all-time low. The team was as close to folding as they had ever been at the end of last season.
Earlier this year the powers that be around Hornetville announced the hiring of a new football coach, former Belfry, and UK Wildcat stand out David Jones would lead the Hornets int he upcoming years.
Jones stepped right in and went to work with what the program needed most, which was room to grow. He automatically took the team out of district play and began working the players in fundamentals. During the drill Jones noticed, “A lot of these kids had great athletic ability, they just didn’t have the knowledge to make it all work.”
This is were Jones will shine with his collegiate and professional level of knowledge int he world of football, his time spent as an assistant coach under the direction of one of the most winningest coaches in Kentucky High School sports history, Phillip Haywood, didn’t hurt either. During the workouts and preparation for the upcoming season Jones hooked up with another program that was currently looking for a new path to take.
Kentucky Christian University is part of the Mid-South Conference with teams like Pikeville and Georgetown. The KCU Knights have been building and building for seasons without the final result they were looking for. The knights are in the East Division and are looking to test out a new direction with their recruiting style. They are looking deeper into the hollers and hills of Eastern Kentucky for football talent.
During pre-season workouts Jones began filming and cataloging the players individual workouts, this came in handy when they fell into the hands of KCY assistant coach Brennan Marion, who took notice of the talent and size on displayed. Since the first viewing KCU has become increasingly involved in communicating with Jones about his players. Multiple players have already received offers to play for the knights.
Marion said, “We see this as a way to take care of our program, we have to take care of home base so to speak, their is tons of talent in Eastern Kentucky and we are after the local kids just like WKU, UK , and Morehead State. Back when I was a high school coach before I moved to Arizona State to coach, I understood the problems that are faced when it comes to small town schools gaining recognition. I was able to help kids get noticed by making them easily accessible to colleges and that has helped us a lot with what Coach Jones is doing.” Marion continued by saying, ” we taught kids how to clean up their twitter profiles and their huddle profiles, we taught them the proper channels and they began to get noticed.”
Adam Dotson is one such player from Phelps that is being heavily looked at by KCU, he has received and offer to play for the Knights. Dotson was the center for Phelps during last season, with the bad vibe surrounding the Hornets little attention was given to individual players abilities. After taping a few of Dotson’s workouts Jones sent in the tapes and to everyone’s surprise there was a quick response. Jordan Wolford will be transferring to Phelps in the upcoming season, he has also received an offer from KCU along with a few other players at this time.
Marion said of Jones, “He is a good leader and he has a lot of helpful knowledge for those kids there at Phelps, from what we have seen the kids from Phelps are tough and hungry, there will always be things to improve on but we are looking for kids like that who have character and a willingness to improve.”
Jones said, “My phone has been very busy about my players. I’ve just been videoing our workouts and calling the coaches I know, my boys have been blessed to play at the next level. My job as a coach is to get my boys every opportunity there is out of there. Out of seven upcoming seniors we have 5 with offers. Phelps football has got a busy schedule this summer going to places, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
For the players who have trudged through the mud, been beaten over and over for the past three years this is an uplifting omen of what is to come. The season has yet to begin and improvement upon the field is still hidden beneath speculation. The environment surrounding the program is looking up and that is a crucial first step.
When the program was in the depth of turmoil many players jumped ship in search of a better program, many found homes in neighboring programs; some of those players are seeing the light surrounding Phelps and want back in the action. The Hornets have received a few transfers from players who want to move back to their home town. One player, Tyson White is moving back from TN. to play with the Hornets.
There is still no certainty that the Hornets uphill climb will go easy or be free of disaster. The baseball and softball team just learned that lesson abruptly when they learned their brand new fields hold water like a bucket. However, hope is beginning to grow in the community of Phelps, it had been gone for far too long.
Important first steps are being taken daily to improve the mentality of the team, they may still go win less next year but they will be a win less team with a field, a few years later they could be a team with a field and a winning record. Should the generations to come take a big bite of the workload ahead, one day they could move up a competing team in the district.
Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”
(William Plaster is the sports reporter for the Williamson Daily News, he can be reached at 304-235-4242 ext. 2274 or at [email protected] or on twitter @sidplaster)