By DOUG EADS
In the history books, he will forever be associated with the number four when it comes to Southwestern football.
But when all is said and done, Jason Foley hopes to wind up and have the Warriors at number one.
On Tuesday night, the former Northern Middle School and Taylor County High School football coach was introduced as the new head football coach at Southwestern High School, replacing Larry French — who stepped down at the conclusion of the 2018 season — to take a similar post at Middlesboro High School late last year.
For Foley — a chance to return home and coach at a school such as Southwestern — was simply too good of an opportunity to pass up.
“It’s just exciting to be able to come back to my home area and coach at a place I grew to love,” Foley stated.
“I’m just excited about the potential of the Southwestern football program and what we can make happen here,” added the Warriors new head football coach.
In Foley, Southwestern hired its fourth head football coach in school history, and the Warrior faithful is hoping the new coach can replicate the success he had as both a middle school coach here in Pulaski County, as well as what he was able to do in two short years at Taylor County.
Foley coached at Northern Middle School for seven season — 2010 through 2016 — and won four state titles along the way.
In 2017 — his first year as a head varsity football coach at the high school level — Foley led Taylor County to a 7-3 mark, and the first home playoff game in 10 years.
Coming off that 7-4 season, last year the Cardinals went 12-2, losing to eventual Class 4 A state champion Franklin Simpson in the Semi State round of the playoffs.
That regional title won by Taylor County in 2018 was the first regional crown won by the school since the ’99 season, and Foley is hoping that he will be able to lead the Warriors to that same kind of success in the wars of Class 5 A.
“We lost some very talented football players off of last year’s team, but I really think there is a very good nucleus to work around moving forward,” pointed out the Southwestern football coach.
“The kids seem to be very hungry, and I am looking very forward to begin working with them in the off season,” he added. “We just want to be able to build around the nucleus we have, expand upon it, and put it all together.”
To put it all together, Foley is tasked with a challenge the Southwestern football program has had a hard time overcoming in recent years.
That challenge? The Warriors arch-rival — Pulaski County High School.
The two local teams share the same district, and have battled it out over the past few seasons for both district and regional titles, with PC gaining the upper hand in this rivalry.
In the past six seasons, Pulaski County has won five regional championships — three of those regional titles coming at the expense of Southwestern — in 2014, 2016, and 2018.
In 2014, the Maroons won the only state championship ever won by a high school football team from our community, and that began a run by PC of three straight regional championships in those even-numbered years with wins over the Warriors in those title games.
So, any title — district, regional, or state — figures to run through Pulaski County, and Foley says simply, so be it.
The new coach says he has a great deal of respect for Southwestern’s sister school in the county, but he is ready to roll up his sleeves to do battle, year in and year out with the Maroons, as well as all the other district and regional foes.
“It’s going to be fun that’s for sure,” pointed out Foley. “The schedule is going to be difficult, the district is difficult, and Pulaski County High School has had great success, and I have a lot of respect for their program.”
“I know the task at hand isn’t going to be an easy one, but I’m looking forward to the challenge,” Foley added.