Chris Manning was hired to take over the job at a school where many of its football faithful had either lost hope or were well on the way. Many around western Kentucky believed “The Storm” had underwhelmed performance-wise.
Manning was a logical choice. He had a very successful stint at South Hopkins Middle School.
Manning replaced Stephen Wood who preceded Manning as the varsity program’s head football coach. Wood resigned as Central’s head man after the Storm polished off an 0-10 season in 2019.
Manning’s last season at South Hopkins culminated in his Wildcats playing in the KYMSFA (Kentucky Middle School Football Association) finals in 2019.
The 2020 season was Manning’s first as a head coach at the high school level. He previously served as an assistant coach at Madisonville North Hopkins, Murray High School, and as an assistant freshman coach at Fort Campbell.
Well, in his first year, one shortened by the pandemic, Manning took a team which was both listless and winless the year before to one win. In year two, he finished 6-5.
It would be the first winning record for The Storm since 2008.
It was as if Manning had peeled away the storm clouds. Beams of sunlight finally pierced the darkness.
Not many on his staff were surprised Coach Manning had met with such quick success. “He is able to get the maximum effort out of his players and his players trust him,” Associated Head Coach Mike Evans told KPGFootball. “He’s a certified winner. Just look at his track record.”
Before anyone attempts to discredit the worksheet for having come from the middle school ranks, we should tell you the migration from middle school to a successful high school career, in football coaching circles, is both voluminous and amply chronicled. Examples comes easily and readily to mind.
Clarksville High School’s (Tennessee, 5A) greatest head coach, Johnny Miller, followed his players from Greenwood Junior High to the Senior High program. With Miller at the helm, the Clarksville Wildcats easily enjoyed the program’s greatest amount of success in its 120-years of history.
If you don’t want to go back as far as the “Miller days,” look at what Todd Adler accomplished at Logan County. Adler resuscitated life into a program far more dysfunctional than Central could have ever before claimed.
Adler coached Logan’s Middle School program for years. In 2017, he was elevated to coach the varsity program. Logan County’s varsity football fortunes have never been the same since.
Remember Darell Keith, the former head football coach at Christian County Middle? His own career path illustrates our point just as well.
Keith went from head man at CCMS to head football coach at Todd County in a two year period with a one-year stint as OL coach at Christian County High sandwiched between. Keith led the Rebels to a 5-6 record in his only season in Elkton. Keith collected some hardware as the KFCA (Kentucky Football Coaches Association) District Two “Coach of the Year” in 2019.
Keith next landed right outside of Knoxville, Tennessee as the head football coach at Clinton High School. The Clinton Dragons, playing in one of Tennessee’s tougher districts in only Keith’s second year, just put a “6-4” mark into its record book.
“Everyone thinks being a great coach is solely about the X’s and O’s. The reality is that it’s about the relationships formed with the young men. It’s about the discipline instilled and the dedication they see coming from you daily,” Coach Albert Jackson told KPGFootball.
Central’s defensive coordinator continued, “Coach Manning is unmatched when it comes to building and maintaining relationships. This is why he’s been able to steadily rebuild a once dying program.”
Jackson continued, “Manning’s a man of his word. The kids can believe him because he shows up for them when no one else will. He’s truly one of kind. There is no coach around as committed to the well-being of his kids, on and off the field, as Coach Manning.”
This season, as satisfying as it was for fans, parents, players, and coaches; it wasn’t the destination which was most satisfying but rather the journey. The Manning regime has had its commencement. Coach Manning will be the first to say there is way more path to travel, way more new ground to break.
As Coach Jackson put it, “This year is only the beginning of the journey. Coach Manning’s already planted the seeds to ensure we will continue to improve and that our improvement will last for many years to come.”
An effort like Coach Manning’s is at least worth a mention; even if one doesn’t believe it’s worth its own article. Obviously, we found it merited a feature. Since we do the writing, our vote counts for something.
This is Coach HB Lyon, reporting for KPGFootball, and we’re JUST CALLING IT LIKE WE SEE IT!
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