(This is the second in a series of preseason stories on new high school football coaches, or veteran coaches at a different school, and top players in the Chattanooga area)
The halls at Howard High School were relatively quiet Friday
afternoon. There were no students around
while faculty members were involved with in-service activities most of the day.
Mark Teague came strolling down the hall with fellow
teachers/coaches Walter “Moose” McGary and Alvin Tarver. He had completed the first week of practice
as the Hustlin’ Tigers newest head coach, but you could tell he was ready for
more action, despite giving his team the day off.
Such is life for a 44-year-old father of two young adult
sons who has his first head coaching position after paying his dues for the
past 13 years as an assistant, including last year across town as the defensive
coordinator for the East Ridge Pioneers.
Despite this being his first rodeo as the one in charge, he
knew what he was getting into and he’s just thankful that he has the chance to
make a difference in the lives of young men who desperately need his
“It’s been a whirlwind,” he said when asked about his first
week on the job.
“It’s been all I thought it would be, but I went into
coaching 14 years ago to one day be a head coach with a chance to put my stamp
on a program. This is my golden
opportunity,” he said with a proud smile on his face.
Teague has lofty expectations for a team that won only one
of 10 games a year ago. Howard is
averaging about 26 players a day, but he knows that others will appear when
school starts. He feels pretty good
because the numbers are better than they were in spring, but he has all the
confidence in the world that his guys can get the job done.
“We’ve installed a lot in these past four days. They’ve been a whole lot more receptive than
I thought they’d be. The athletes are
here, but kids these days have so many other choices, so you really have to do
a good job of recruiting them to play.
“I firmly believe that God gives His toughest battles to His
strongest soldiers. We just have to
change the mindset from the past. We
wanted a new look and that’s why we bought new jerseys and new helmets,” Teague
“All I’m looking for is a group of young men who are willing
to run through a wall for you. I’m
willing to play anybody if we have committed players like that,” he said,
knowing that his team will be on the road for its first four games, including Baylor,
Stratford, Loudon and Hixson.
“It’s been a good experience so far, but I knew what I was
walking into before I applied for the job.
These kids are no different from those at any other school. They just want to be loved. If we can show them that we care about them,
they’ll do anything in return.
“All of these young men want to be successful on the
football field, but there’s an awful lot of work to be done. I want to build this program from the ground
up. We have a lot of freshmen and
sophomores, but we have some big, strong kids.
My goal is to be .500 or better.
I’m realistic, but I don’t want a losing record,” he continued.
“I know that defense wins championships. I’ve made a name for myself by coaching
defense and I know what causes the most problems for opposing defenses. We’re planning to run a no-huddle offense,
but right now, we need more depth on the line and we have to speed things up a
bit more,” he said, visualizing in his head what the possibilities could be
when his kids reach that point.
“This is my dream job.
God has blessed me with an opportunity.
I just want to accomplish something many people told me I couldn’t
do. There’s a reason I was brought here
and I’m excited about it,” he concluded.
Mark Teague has a tremendous challenge in front of him, but
he knows that anything is possible with a strong faith and hard work.
He just hopes that the young men on his team will quickly
buy into that philosophy.
Wednesday: District 5-AAA Media Day.
(Email John Hunt at email@example.com)