Herrin’s football program has now entered the retooling phase under first year head coach Rod Sherrill. Sherrill is replacing former Tigers coach Jason Karnes after 14 seasons of calling plays from the sideline.
Coach Karnes’ exit came after Herrin finished with an overall record of 4-5 in the 2019 season. The Tigers ended last season winning three of their final five regular season games to finish with a 3-2 record in the SIRR-Ohio conference.
Sherrill can mark off 17 graduated seniors from a 2019 team that included former Tigers quarterback and coaches son Chance Karnes. With a lot of moving pieces for fall sports in general, Sherrill continues to work around the COVID-19 pandemic and build relationships with some of his new players in order to implement a plan for the coming season.
“This is just the new way of doing things,” Sherrill said in regards to new safety guidelines when working with players. “Coach Karnes only lives about three blocks away from me, so I know I can call him for advice at any time, but we’ll start with Karnes’ old system and eventually evolve into a game plan that better suits this year’s group of athletes.”
Sherrill has been with HHS for 25 years and during that time has evolved from the former athletic director position into coaching junior high girls track and acting as the assistant wrestling coach for the high school. Coaching athletes is already in Sherrill’s arsenal, which is great news for a football program that features multi-sport athletes up and down the roster.
Herrin’s football team is set to return 18 players from last year’s team with 13 being seniors. A big group of those kids also play for the Tigers basketball team, which has helped form a sense of brotherhood in the locker room according to incoming junior Landon Bolen.
Bolen blossomed as a key role player for the Tigers basketball team in his sophomore season under head coach Sayler Shurtz. Bolen and Shurtz have since teamed up to begin agility training in order to prepare Bolen for a quarterback competition during fall tryouts. Also, set to compete under center is senior Maddox Yates and junior Keagan St. Peter.
Standing at 6-feet tall and 190 pounds, Bolen shared why he decided now is the best time for him to join Herrin’s football team.
“I used to always be on the fence about playing football because I care about basketball so much and I never wanted to risk any sort of injury,” said Bolen. “I’m very confident in my abilities and look forward to seeing how the competition unfolds because obviously the other two guys are going to give it their best shot.”
Bolen is also ready to step into a defensive role if that’s what Sherrill asks of him. The defensive position Bolen felt he’d best fit was linebacker, which has also been referred to as the “quarterback” position on defense.
Sherrill became familiar with Bolen’s raw athletic talent after watching the Tigers basketball practices from the rafters. Bolen’s athletic build and competitive edge fits a really young team that needs a leader ready to call shots from the pocket according to Sherrill.
Sherrill has already laid out the blueprint and discussed with his players what his expectations are for the upcoming season.
“Coach Sherrill just wants all of his players to be on the same page,” said Bolen. “He’s made that clear throughout the phone calls we’ve had during quarantine. He highlighted that we’re not going to be the biggest, strongest, or most athletic team on the field, but we have steps that we’re going to follow in order to start the season off right at 3-0.”
The offseason training for players like Bolen has already shifted from weight training into focusing more on the body, and improving players balance.
There will continue to be different things to work at and implement for each player, according to Bolen, and he knows that more guidance will come from Sherrill as the season progresses. Entering the year as underdogs is the only type of motivation that Bolen and his teammates seem to need in order to accomplish one thing.
“We’re just going to have to go out there and win ugly,” said Bolen.
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