Jokes stop now for Northeast football

BOONEVILLE - Let's face it. For years, Northeast football has been a joke.

This season's 2-8 record marked the 13th consecutive losing season at the community college. Need a pushover homecoming opponent? Sign up the Tigers or Coahoma.

When the Tigers played at home, the fans packed the stands at Keenum Stadium to see the school's award-winning marching band. When the halftime show ended, the crowd made its way to the exits.

Now that's bad.

The Tigers haven't fielded a winner since former coach Johnny Plummer forged a 6-4-1 record and a North Division runner-up finish in 1987.

Good coaches have tried to build a winner here and failed since the days of Plummer and Bill Ward.

Laurin Collins was the most recent victim, posting a 6-44 mark in five seasons. He had one 0-10 year and two 1-9 seasons.

The late Hubert Tucker, who made his mark in high school football at Baldwyn and Corinth, came close to getting the program over the hump, but a tragic auto accident ended his quest.

His successor, Gunter Brewer, lasted one winless season and hit the road.

"You can't win at Northeast," an area coach once told me. "There are no football players in their district. When you don't have players, you can't win."

Instead, you remain the JUCO league's lovable loser.

A new direction

Northeast president Charles Chance, a veteran of two losing Northeast football seasons, finally said enough is enough. He wanted more than a competitive band on the football field.

Chance's solution: He hired a coach who believes there are players in the district who can win. He hired a coach he thinks can recruit top-flight out-of-state players. He hired a proven winner.

He hired Bobby Hall.

"We hope to be a competitor, not just a player," Chance said at Tuesday's news conference to announce Hall's hiring. "It was the total package. The fact that Bobby's cocky, his word, that he's confident, was a factor. His winning record was an important factor."

Hall has a 211-52 career record, all as a high school head coach, and four state championships on his resume. He has a reputation for being a hard worker who gets the most out his players.

"Like any coach, he knows the game, but what makes him different is that nobody will outwork him," said Amory coach Pat Byrd, a former Hall assistant.

In just one season, Hall turned Wayne County from a loser into a winner, directing the team to a 10-3 record and a berth in the Class 5A state playoffs.

Hall said he likes a challenge. He has one at Northeast.

"I'm an eternal optimist," he said, looking around the room at the Northeast players and supporters gathered for the news conference. "We're not going to be the whipping boy at Northeast anymore."

Byrd is confident Hall is the perfect pick for the job.

"I think he's the man," Byrd said. "He's got the mentality, the attitude, the salesmanship, the work ethic. If anybody can do it, Bobby Hall can do it."

Charles Chance is also confident he made the right choice.

"When I'd go around and talk to the various clubs about Northeast football, I'd always get a bit of a giggle," he said, shaking Hall's hand. "Coach Hall, the joke stops here."

Gene Phelps is sports editor for the Daily Journal. E-mail him a gene.phelps@djournal.com

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