Thoughts on Ponder leaving IP, how ex-area coaches fared in 2013

Over the past year, I got the impression that Scott Ponder eventually would be parting ways with Iowa Park at some point.

From what I’ve been told, there were fractions of people who supported Ponder and those who wanted him gone. That’s not the ideal situation.

Any coach will take some heat when his team loses, and the Hawks were 6-24 in the past three years after Ponder’s 8-3 inaugural season that featured Lee Clubb running the show.   

And any coach who starts his son at quarterback will take even more heat, fair or not. When Case McCoy led Graham to a district title as a freshman, I remember them getting flack for it.

Like him or not, Ponder did a lot of good things for Iowa Park. I’m not sure there would be the new football field and other athletic amenities if Ponder hadn’t been there pushing for the bond. He got more participation into the football program and built excitement, especially when the team switched from the Wing-T to the spread.

I’m not going to be a Ponder apologist – I thought he’d have better results. But he had to make a tough disciplinary decision before the 2013 season that cost them some this year.  

I’m not surprised Ponder left – I had heard he was looking. And while I would have thought he’d have ended up at a traditionally better school than Bells, Ponder is going to a place where the expectations won’t be real high. I got the impression he’s looking forward to the challenge of turning Bells around.

Bells is probably a better job now that it’s dropping down to Class A (2A next year) because Gunter, S&S Consolidated and Leonard won’t be in the same district. We’ll see what he can do.  

* And what about Iowa Park? It’s a better job than when Ponder first started. With the new facilities, they are going to get a better pool of applicants than four years ago. And they’ve got some good classes coming up.

Plus, Iowa Park won’t have to play Graham in district any longer as the Hawks will be in the smaller 3A (called 4A next year) division.

I’ll be interested to see who’s in the mix. I’ve heard a few good names so far, but obviously we’re still a long way away from getting there.

* Add Bells to the list of teams I’ll be keeping an eye on now. Whenever an area coach leaves, I usually try to keep track of how they’ve done at their next stop.

Here’s a list of former area coaches now calling the shots elsewhere and how they fared in 2013 (I apologize if I’ve forgotten anyone recently):

– Keith Hall, Gainesville (12-1): Former Vernon coach helped Leopards go three rounds deep in second straight year at 3A level.

– Wayne Hutchinson, Stamford (14-1): Former Knox City coach led Bulldogs to second straight A Div. II state title.

– Steve Smith, Post (9-3): Former Archer City coach has turned around another struggling program, winning first playoff game this year. Eighteen of his 20 wins have come in past two years.

– Rocky Smart, Clyde (8-4) Former Seymour coach is 13-9 in two years at hometown and won a playoff game before losing to Bushland in second round.

– Brandon Brown, Clifton (2-8): Former Jacksboro coach was 16-24 in four years.

– Jeff Williamson, Jim Ned (4-6): Former Graham offensive coordinator just had his best year. 7-23 in three years with Indians but a really tough district.

– Dusty Robinson, Valley Mills (1-9): Former Iowa Park/Archer City defensive coordinator is 14-18 in three years at Waco-area Class A school – where my in-laws happen to live.

– Andy Correll, Memphis (3-7): Former Vernon coach is 5-15 in two years at school that’s in tough district with Stratford, Panhandle.  

– Cody Patton, Tioga (4-5): Former Holliday coach starting up six-man program that played as independent team in 2013.

– Tommy Allison, Robinson (8-3): Former Jacksboro coach is 23-10 in three years at 3A school outside Waco.

– Gary McElroy, Burleson (6-5): Former Nocona coach rebounded from 0-10 inaugural 2012 to six wins in 2013. Lost 76-6 to Aledo in first round of playoffs.

– Chris Melson, Mansfield Legacy (10-3): Former Electra coach is 27-38 since starting Legacy’s program, which began varsity action in 2007. This past year, which ended in a third-round loss to Highland Park at AT&T Stadium, was his best.

– Steve Stewart, West Hardin (3-6): Former Electra coach is 7-12 in two years at Class A school.

– Bill Green, Pauls Valley, Okla. (2-8): Former Windthorst coach lost first seven games in first year at 3A Oklahoma school.

Random Note: I run into some of these guys every once in a while. Covered Hall coaching Gainesville at Vernon this year. Saw Hutchinson scouting Windthorst-Sundown playoff game and Smith at Coach Lowrance’s funeral service. Ran into Correll at Class A state golf last spring in Austin (Memphis is a golf powerhouse) and bumped into Melson after Graham-Gilmer 2012 semifinal at Mansfield’s stadium. Saw McElroy at the Oil Bowl last summer and talked to Robinson at Class A regional track meet in Abilene last spring. It’s a small world we live in.

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