By STEVE CORNELIUS, CJ Sports Editor
Within a span of 24 hours, Larry French had resigned as the Boyle County High School head football coach and was then later announced as the new football coach for the Southwestern High School Warriors.
The sudden coaching move was somewhat shocking news to many since, after all, French had just recently completed two undefeated state championship seasons at Boyle County High School and had an impressive 72-11 record during his six seasons coaching the Rebels.
But when asked why he decided to leave Boyle County and come to Southwestern High School and the Lake Cumberland area, French said jokingly, “I like to fish.”
“I like challenges,” French then said in a more earnest tone. “I think Southwestern has a good group of kids who have a chance to win a state title. I love building programs.”
On Monday evening, the Southwestern High School cafeteria was at near capacity with parents, supporters and players, who were all waiting in eager anticipation to meet their new Warrior coach.
And this coach had the high credentials to garner such fervent anticipation.
French, who has been coaching high school football for 42 years, has made a career of taking struggling football programs to statewide notoriety in a short period of time.
French has had head coaching jobs at Mercer County, Meade County, Lincoln County and Boyle County. And at all four of those schools, French had winning records upon his departure to his next position.
French’s highest accolades came most recently when he took Boyle to back-to-back undefeated championship seasons in 2010 and 2009. Both years, the Rebels won the KHSAA Class 4A State Championship title and finished both seasons with identical perfect records of 15-0. This past fall, French and the Rebels were on track for another perfect season but were upset in the region semifinals and ended the year with a 11-1 mark.
In 1991, French led Meade County to the Class 4A state finals before losing to Bell County. French has amassed six regional championships and has amassed numerous individual post-season coaching honors, including several Kentucky state high school Coach of the Year honors.
French spent very little time rehashing his past honors, but was more focused on the future.
“Everything we do in the past is history,” French told the packed Southwestern cafeteria. “What we do tomorrow is the most important thing.”
“I have never won a football game,” French stated. “My players have always won the football games. My players are going to win games here at Southwestern.”
French made some bold and lofty statements about the future of the Southwestern High School football program, but looking back at his past accomplishments – which were printed on a two-page handout and were scattered about the cafeteria lunch tables – no one doubted his ability to make good on those statements.
“We are going to win a state championship title here at Southwestern,” French stated as he slipped on a ‘Warriors Football’ sweatshirt. “I am officially a Warrior and our goal is to now win a state championship.”
During his introduction speech, French took that time to talk to his new players and their parents of what was expected of them to be successful as a team. French asked of three main things from his players and their parents – commitment, hard work and have fun.
French also explained about his style of play and what the fans could expect from Southwestern football in the years to come.
“I love to play a lot of people, because at anytime one player might not be able to play and we need the next player to be able to step up and take his place,” French said.” I am going to do what I have to do to make each of my players winners on the football field and in life. My players will be successful on the field and in the classroom.”
French even talked a little ‘X’s and O’s’ in his presentation to the Warrior onlookers.
“I’m a defensive coach,” French exclaimed. “I coach fundamentally sound defensive teams and everyone works together as a unit on my defensive teams. If (the other team) doesn’t score, then they can’t beat us,”
“Hopefully my son will be the offensive coach, and all I ask of the offense is to not turn th ball over and score,” French said in a joking manner. “You will see me get mad when the other team gets a first down.”
French concluded his presentation by warning his new players of what was in store for them in the future.
“The hard work starts tomorrow,” French said as he looked to the team members who were seated together in a group. “ I hope all of you are in shape, because if you’re not there are going to be some trash cans placed around the field and it isn’t going to be pretty.”
French is only the third football coach in the history of Southwestern High School. French replaced Andy Stephens, who resined after 2 1/2 years as the Warriors coach. After leading the Warriors to the program’s first regional title in 2011, the Warriors went 4-16 during the past two seasons under Stephens’ leadership. Stephens was named head coach mid-season in 2011 after Dale Anderson resigned after 18-plus years as the Southwestern head football coach.