Tahlequah Daily Press

High School Sports

June 20, 2014

Former Muskogee assistant named Hulbert football coach

Coaching and administration, two paths that split for Rusty Harris four years ago, have converged at Hulbert.

Harris, who in May was hired for the high school principal’s job, takes over as the head football coach of the Riders, pending board approval.

The recommendation comes after some discussion involving superintendent Marilyn Dewoody, Harris and athletic director Rick Ott about coaching shortages relative to teaching openings..

“With budget cuts at the state level, everyone is trying to figure out how to absorb them and it has created some hardship, especially where every district has to look at what you’re able to hire financially from a teaching standpoint,” Harris said. “Whether people understand this or not, superintendents in our state are very creative in trying to stretch a dollar and still get the best scenario for the kids in that district.”

Hence, Harris, who was a principal at Alice Robertson following two seasons at Muskogee as an offensive coordinator under Matt Hennesy, will pull double-duty.

“It will be a handful,” Harris said. “But I’ll be more than happy to do this for a period of time until we can get some right folks in the right place sometime in the future.”

Harris replaces Gary Riley, who will take on fastpitch softball in the fall and remain as the school’s baseball coach.

“I have a daughter playing softball and with the scenarios we were looking at it just felt like the right move,” Riley said.

Part of the structuring will also mean that Ott will continue to double as boys and girls basketball coach. Slowpitch softball will be dropped.

Harris acknowledged that the authority inherent in being the chief disciplinarian which the job of principal carries has a fit in the double duty on the field.

“We have 40 kids playing football and 203 kids in high school,” Harris said. “The reality of that is we have 30 percent roughly who we’re dealing with during the summer so the rules are established well before the first day of school.

“But these are good kids who want to do right. Most kids do. But yeah, there’s some advantage of having both roles and we’ll try to play on that.”

It’s been tough times at Hulbert. The Riders were 1-9 in District 2A-8 last year and haven’t had a winning season since the 1999 team went 7-3. The 2011 team made the postseason as a fourth-place team going 4-6. Outside of that, the most wins in any season since 1999 was three.

“I know they’ve had six coaches in eight years and that tells you a lot,” Harris said. “There’s no consistency in offense or defense, no consistency really in anything. I think we’ve had a pretty good product we’ll bring here and I think we’ll develop some of that success.”

That product includes a basic one-back, four wide-out gun with a mix of veer and Wildcat under a no-huddle scheme he ran at Muskogee, and a 3-4 defense.

Along with Mickey McGowan, a longtime coach at Hulbert, Harris is bringing in Curtis Waltman, who has coached in Muskogee and Aaron Fowler, a former Rougher while Harris was coaching at MHS, who will help out.

Harris’ son, Kyler, is a starter in the secondary at Northeastern State.

The Riders will compete in 2A-7 this fall with Adair, Colcord, Chouteau, Haskell, Kansas and Salina.

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