Hallsville athletic director Cody Farrell is set to bring new coaches in front of the board on July 19. The board will then vote on making Josh Strickland head football coach while promoting Chris Whatley to head baseball coach.
“We’ve talked about both these spots at great length to our administration and our board knows about them,” Farrell said. “Josh is here working as an employee but our superintendent said to make sure we put on there that it’s pending board approval on the 19th. That’s the direction that we as an administration are headed and we’re exciting about both spots. They both have strong ties here.”
“I graduated from here (Hallsville High School) in 2000,” Strickland said. “ I’ve always had goals set as a coach and I’ve reached most of those but always on that list was to be a head football coach and one of those was always to come back home eventually and the chance to get to get those both done at the same time is pretty awesome. I’m fired up.”
“He was a finalist for the job last year but he ended up with COVID and it just wasn’t good timing,” Farrell said of Strickland. “I wanted to make sure we were getting a guy who knows the quarterback position, who coaches the quarterback position. I thought that was pretty important. I was also very selective on the type of offense. There’s not going to be a big change. He’s still going to be committed to the tempo offense, spread it out to run it. I really wanted someone who was connected to this place and was going to have some strong ties to it. Tommy’s (Allison) ties were going back to Waco to be with his kids. So his ties were pulling him out but Josh is a guy whose ties are pulling him here. That was this time around. Tommy did a good job and he left this place better than how he found it but now we need to get somebody who can pick up the torch and be here for longevity.”
Strickland spent the last six years at Eaton High School. Last season his Eagles went 5-1 in district play along with Southlake Carroll, Byron Nelson, Keller, Keller Central, Keller Fossil Ridge and Keller Timber Creek. Strickland’s offense averaged 32.1 points per game, scored at least 50 points twice and at least 40 points five times. Eaton defeated Weatherford 21-14 in the first round of the playoffs before defeating San Angelo Central 40-16 in the second round.
“One thing I told them is, ‘I come in here right away and have something similar, something in common with you guys because I wore that same jersey. I’m coming home and I don’t plan on leaving home. I plan on being here a while.’ I think that’s something these guys really need right now,” Strickland said. “I actually talked to the kids this morning. That’s what I was looking forward to the most. Everything else is what it is and there’s a lot still to be done but that’s the part I was looking forward to, to start building relationships with those guys. They’re going to have a little bit of a break but when they come back on July 12, we’re going to hit the ground running and take advantage of all the time we’re given with these guys before two-a-days get here on Aug. 2.”
“It was a brand new school so we went that first year with just freshmen and sophomores and just had a JV schedule,” Strickland said of Eaton when he first started there. “Year 2 we were 5A without a senior class and actually went into our last game with a chance to get into the playoffs. If we had won that last game, we could have gotten into the playoffs without seniors. Our next year was our first year with seniors. We won a playoff game that year and the very next year we moved up to 6A. We were .500 our first two years in 6A and last year we went 9-4. We got beat by Prosper in the third round.”
Strickland previously coached at Sulphur Springs, Springtown and Crandall before Eaton.
Promoting Whatley to head baseball as Scott Mitchell’s replacement seemed like an obvious choice to Farrell. As an assistant, Whatley helped lead the Bobcats to the state championship game this spring and was part of the 2014 team that went to the state tournament.
“He’s been in the system for 10 years and has matured over that time,” Farrell said. “I’ve seen a lot of growth in him as a coach. I’m really proud of Chris. That was an easy recommendation for me because I’ve seen his growth as a professional. Scott was a great head coach and he retired. This isn’t a negative thing. It’s actually really neat because it’s kind of how you want it to be. You want to have a strong coach groom people underneath him and let them take over. Chris learned a lot and added a lot to our program. He’s going to bring different strengths, not in a bad way but it’s his turn and we’re excited about him.”
Farrell said there were a number of applicants for both jobs.
“There were a lot for the baseball job, 50, 60-plus,” he said. “For the football job there were probably in the 20-25 range. I bet baseball would have been more if we hadn’t had a strong candidate internal because a lot of guys really know our baseball team and they all knew we were going to hire within. If the football job had opened up earlier, we probably would have had a little bit more but we were committed to moving pretty fast on the football deal. We’re excited about both these coaches. I know Chris is a transplant but I feel like he’s a Hallsville guy. He’s like me, I was a transplant here but I consider this my hometown and I consider Josh Strickland a hometown guy.”