Mark Sartain spent his first official day as Spring Hill’s head football coach and athletic director on Monday. If he has his way, it just might be the last “first day” he spends on a job.
Sartain was hired last week to replace Bobby Chadwick, who spent one season at Spring Hill before moving to East Texas Charter School to become athletic director at the school. Chadwick replaced Bill Poe, who spent two seasons at Spring Hill before moving on to become an assistant coach at Marble Falls.
That makes Sartain the third head football coach and athletic director at Spring Hill since 2010, something he said he addressed with his coaches and athletes.
“Thursday and Friday I met casually with the coaches and athletes just to let them know some of the things they needed to know about me,” Sartain said. “It’s a tough time for assistant coaches when there is a transition, and I just wanted to put them at ease as much as possible with where I am. I just wanted to encourage them. I know they’ve heard too many of these speeches the last few years, but I wanted them to understand that my history has not been one of frequent moving. As far as I am concerned, this is where God placed me to end my career. The community is great, and the kids are teachable, coachable and hard-working. I know I’m in the fourth quarter of my career, and this is the type of place I want to settle.”
Sartain has experience at the college (ETBU and Trinity Valley) and high school level. He was an assistant at Athens, head coach at Cross Roads and Eustace and assistant coach at Trinity Valley before spending seven seasons as head coach and athletic director at White Oak.
He was head coach at Trinity Valley from 2003-2006 and head coach at ETBU from 2007-2012, and Sartain said his time at White Oak — located less than seven miles from the Spring Hill campus — is still fresh in his memory.
“I know this community,” Sartain said. “We had trouble beating them when I was at White Oak. I know what the youngsters are capable of. I know what I’m getting into, and I’m excited about the opportunity.”
Spring Hill has gone 9-21 in football the past three seasons, including a 3-7 mark under Chadwick a year ago. The Panthers compete in District 16-3A — known around the state as the “District of Doom” — along with Gilmer, Kilgore, Henderson, Gladewater, Chapel Hill and Bullard.
“I want us to focus on us,” Sartain said. “I think too much attention has been placed on opponents and their success. You can’t downplay that, but what is most important is what we decide to do. The Spring Hill teams I remember when I was at White Oak had a quiet confidence. The kids are hard-working, driven, intelligent, tough and they want to succeed. We’re going to maximize assets, minimize liabilities and outwork everyone we play. There is going to be a swagger here. Not a cocky, bragging thing, but a confidence that says it doesn’t matter who gets off their bus. All that matters is who gets off our bus.”
Sartain said the Panthers will run the Pistol offense and a 4-2-5 on defense.
“I’ve never been one to slam down a playbook and say ‘here’s what we’re going to do,’ ” Sartain said. “We’ll spend the rest of the school year evaluating to get a general idea of what we’ll do offensively and defensively and try to craft something to maximize assets. I’ve run the Pistol offense the last five years and hung up some good numbers, but what we do out of the Pistol will be determined by where our athletes are. On defense, I like the 4-2-5 and if it fits our personnel that’s what we’ll run. What I want to do meshes well with what they were planning to do, so if the coaching staff remains intact we’re in a very workable position with meshing of schemes and packages.”
Spring Hill last made the playoffs in football in 2007, finishing with a 7-4 record and losing to Pittsburg (38-12) in a Class 3A Division II bi-district game. The Panthers were also a playoff team in 2006, finishing 6-5 and losing 43-21 to Pleasant Grove in the 3A Division II bi-district playoffs.
Spring Hill’s last football playoff win came in 2004 when the Panthers defeated Van 58-28 in a 3A Division II bi-district game before losing the next week to Gilmer (28-11) in the area playoffs.
The Panthers will scrimmage at home on Aug. 16 against Troup and at Paris on Aug. 22 before opening the 2013 season at home on Aug. 30 against Pleasant Grove.
(Follow Jack Stallard on Twitter: @lnjsports).