It is the bane of small school football in Louisiana. At larger schools (like those in Class 3A-5A) there is plethora of coaches. Naturally, at every football program there is a head coach and an offensive and defensive coordinator. At some of the larger schools like West Monroe or Ruston, there is also a receivers coach, tight ends coach, offensive line coach, defensive line coach, linebackers coach, secondary coach and a kicking coach.
That doesn’t include the strength coach and/or nutrition coach. Add to that the Junior Varsity and even the freshman team also often times have their own head coach and assistants. It is not uncommon for a large school program to have at least ten or more full time employed coaches. This is not true at schools in smaller classifications, far from it.
What makes a small school coach’s job even more difficult is that they don’t get to just coach the team. At any time and on any day, even game days, it is not unusual to see one of them mowing and/or painting the field, bringing items to the concession stands, repairing practice equipment, supplying water for the players and even driving a bus to the games.
This is exactly what Jonesboro-Hodge High School head coach, Terrance Blankenship and his staff does every day. Not only is Jonesboro-Hodge listed as one of the smallest Louisiana High School Athletic Association (LHSAA) schools in Class AA, the second to smallest class in the organization, they also have one of the smallest coaching staffs. The size of the paid coaching staff is three. That is not a misprint. There are only three paid coaches who are responsible for the varsity, junior varsity and freshman football teams.
“Besides myself, there are only two other coaches on the staff that are paid to be high school coaches,” said Blankenship. “On game days we also have our junior high coach and two volunteer coaches that give us a hand.”
Entering his ninth year at the helm, which is tied for the second longest tenure in Tiger history, the home-grown head coach doesn’t look at the number of coaches on his staff as a detriment though. As he knows, what the staff is lacking for in quantity is made up in quality.
“We may not have the number of coaches some schools have but Carlos Hicks (Defensive Coordinator) and Justin Durbin (Offensive Coordinator) both have tremendous experience and are great teachers of the game,” boasted Blankenship. “Our junior high coach, Kris Cash, would make a fine addition to any high school staff and our two volunteer coaches Anthony Anderson, who played in the NFL and Robert Hunter, who also helps at the Junior High, are very knowledgeable and tremendous assets. Sure it would be great to have more coaches but I feel our guys are receiving great instruction.”
This is evidenced by the fact that each year Jonesboro-Hodge, despite often times ending the season with a losing overall record, routinely has players earn scholarships and end up playing on the next level. In every season that the current staff has been together there has been at least two players move on to play college football from each class. Not bad for a program that usually dresses out only 20-25 upperclassmen each year and has had only two winning seasons over the last eight years.
That in itself is a deceiving stat. During Blankenship’s tenure the Tigers have a 35-46 overall record. By being a small school that plays in a small district (four teams) the Tigers often are required to “play up” in pre-district contests for several games each year in order to fill out a complete schedule. Playing larger schools, who sometimes have double the number of players and coaches doesn’t usually reflect well in the win-loss column. What should be recognized is that the Tigers have finished second in district play for five straight seasons and have reached the quarterfinals twice.
“Scheduling is a challenge year in and year out,” reflected Blankenship. “Whereas most schools have six to eight district games out of ten possible dates, we have only three which means we always end up playing larger schools or have to make long road trips, which is hard on a team that has a lot of players going both ways.”
This year is no exception. The second game of the season finds JHHS playing Class 5A, West Ouachita. A trip to Class 3A North Webster (Springhill) is also on tap as well as long road trips to Bunkie and Vidalia. Regardless the Tiger staff is eager to get the 2021 season started and is looking forward to breaking the “second place string” and bringing home the district 1-2A championship trophy.
“We are going to strap it up and give it our best shot,” said Blankenship. “Hopefully the strong pre-district schedule will work in our favor to help us bring home a district title.”
Meet the staff:
Head Coach Terrance Blankenship: Coaching Career – 22 years. JHHS head coach – 9 years. Overall record – 35-46, no district titles, two quarterfinal playoff appearances. Was a member of the Tigers “three-peat” state championship teams before graduating in 1990. “Blank” as he is known to his friends received his degree from Grambling State University in 1996. He began his coaching career as an assistant coach at JHHS in 1999 before moving to Grambling High in 2002 and Arcadia High in 2005 before coming back to JHHS in 2011. Became the Tigers head coach and Athletic Director in 2013.
Defensive Coordinator Carlos Hicks: Coaching Career – 11 years. The 1998 JHHS graduate played defensive back at Grambling State (1998-99) and the University of Southwestern Louisiana (2000-03), now known as the University of Louisiana before playing three years of professional Arena League football. Began his coaching career in 2010 where he has spent all 11 years at JHHS.
Offensive Coordinator Justin Durbin: Coaching Career – 17 years. The 1998 Winnfield High School graduate played football for four years and earned his degree at Louisiana Tech in 2003. Made coaching stops at Tioga, Winnfield, Leesville and Natchitoches Parish before coming to Jonesboro-Hodge in 2018.
Assistant Varsity and head Junior High coach Kris Cash: Coaching Career – 8 years. Graduated from Grambling High in 2007 and Grambling State University in 2011. Has been head coach at Jonesboro-Hodge Middle School and assistant on varsity staff for last six years.
Volunteer Assistant Coach Anthony Anderson: The 1982 JHHS graduate who also starred at Grambling State University before graduating in 1986 brings six years of professional football experience where he played in the defensive backfield for three years in the NFL and three year in the Arena League. Was a volunteer assistant in 2000-01 before coming back once again in 2018.
Volunteer Assistant Coach Robert Hunter: The 2012 JHHS graduate and youngest member of the staff, helps with both the Junior High and Varsity teams. Has been with the football program since 2016.
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