New Essex coach faces uphill battle

Published 1:54 pm Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Jerome Antone shows off a portion of the spread offense he hopes to implement at John Essex this season. -- Photo by Jeremy D. Smith

New John Essex head coach Jerome Antone has a mountain to climb. He is the third Hornet football coach in as many years and inherits what is left of a program that has won six games in the last three seasons.

Three of those wins came in 2009 under former head coach Lenoise Richey, who was ousted after one season with the program.

Antone hopes to inject hope into the Hornets. But that task first requires him to figure out exactly who the Hornets are. Thus far in his short tenure on Hwy 80, Antone has seen no more than four players show up for workouts.

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“The only way we’re going to get better and make this program good is to outwork our opponent,” Antone said. “(The John Essex players) need to be here for weight training in order to get anything going.”

Aside from not being able to implement any sort of weight training or conditioning program, Antone has yet to figure out if the spread offense he would like to run is even a remote possibility.

“I don’t even know what the offense is going to be yet because I haven’t even seen the talent we have,” Antone said. “I have a plan, but I need the kids here in order to execute that plan.”

The empty state of the program’s roster stems from a number of factors. The Hornets lost a handful of players to graduation and ineligibility after 2009. Still, more than 20 worked out in the spring.

However, the Richey dismissal came in May and the Antone hiring did not transpire until July. That meant nearly two months of no football-related activity. Moreover, no communication has been extended to the players during that time. Some have decided to transfer to nearby schools like Demopolis. Others have chosen to give up football. Still, Antone is saddled with the task of putting a team together.

“If there are some kids out there in the district that want a new start with a new coach, this is the place to be,” Antone, who won a state title as a defensive line coach at Greeneville in 1994, said. Antone, who played at Maryland-Eastern Shore, has also coached basketball and understands the rigors of playing two sports. Still, he believes that is a necessary burden for 1A athletes.

“I want to let the kids know that at a 1A program, everybody has to play everything in order to make the program go,” Antone said.

In addition to players, Antone is also seeking an assistant and a volunteer coach. Those individuals will need to undergo a background check. Interested individuals are urged to contact him at 334-545-4264.