Tasked with hiring someone to follow up the most successful football coach in school history, Herrin opted for someone who helped make it happen.
Rod Sherrill, who served as one of Jason Karnes’ assistant coaches the last five years, is the Tigers’ new sideline stalker. Sherrill also brings past experience to the job, going 10-18 from 1999-2001 at Herrin with one playoff appearance.
Since that time, Sherrill has served as an assistant under Dennis Drust at Carterville for six years and Mike Rude at Morthland for a season before joining Karnes’ staff in 2015.
“All three guys did things differently but were successful, and that experience is valuable,” Sherrill said Saturday. “The upside to the whole thing is I coached these kids in junior high, so I’ve seen them since sixth grade. This is going to be an enjoyable time.”
There’s no question that Sherrill could have picked smaller shoes to fill. Karnes, who stepped down after Herrin’s season-ending loss at Breese Central Oct. 25, went 104-45 in 14 years with 12 playoff appearances. Prior to Karnes’ arrival, the Tigers made just eight postseason appearances in 30 years, including a state semifinal berth in Class 4A in 2004 under John Helmick.
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Karnes went 11-12 in the postseason, winning at least one playoff game from 2013-17. Herrin reached the 4A semifinals in 2014 with a win at Carterville in what some called the Williamson County Super Bowl before falling to perennial power Rochester in the semis.
At least initially, Sherrill doesn’t plan to change too much from what Karnes did. The Tigers relied on a power running game for most of Karnes’ time. The likes of Drew Merrill, Brent Milner, Gavin Gosha and Jackson Yates enjoyed huge seasons as featured backs.
But when he had a quarterback capable of throwing it, such as Jacob Downen in 2016, Karnes would spread the field with four receivers and let it fly 30 times a game or more. Even then, Sherrill said Karnes would always look for ways to create a better ground game.
“You start with what Jason did because it’s what the kids know and evolve from there if we have to,” Sherrill said. “Even when we had the big Downen boy, Jason would come into the meetings on Monday and he’d say, ‘How can we run our fullhouse stuff?’
“Two tight ends, fullhouse … I have to admit I enjoy that stuff.”
Sherrill will have to replace some solid players from last year’s 4-5 team, including quarterback Chance Karnes – the coach’s son – as well as Jake Baumgarte. No matter who suits up in orange and black, though, Sherrill is sure of one thing.
“The best thing about Herrin is that year-in, year-out, we’re going to have tough kids,” he said. “It doesn’t always equate to wins, but we’re usually going to get after people.”
618-351-5086 / On Twitter: @writingump
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