RGR | As head coach hire looms, Newton opening proves to be strong landing spot
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Following a 14-40 six-year stint as the head football coach at Newton High School, reports on Nov. 5 revealed that Chris Jaax would no longer lead the Railers after he and the school parted ways.
Once again, Newton is left looking for an answer to produce on-field success for a program that hasn’t recorded more than ten 10-win seasons in its history. That figure — among others — is what has made coaching searches difficult on the Railers’ top brass. Many coaches and pundits across Kansas view the Newton job as a place where careers go to perish.
And whether it’s the community’s talent pool, the school’s administrative support, or some other miscellaneous culprit, rumors have swirled that this cycle has already seen one offeree turn the Railers down.
But while most see a program in disarray, I see a program ready to win now. The reasons for this are simple. Here are a few of them:
Administrative support at an all-time high
Based on conversations I’ve had with numerous people involved with the Newton football program, administrative support for the team and its pursuit of success has been far better than its previous track record. As one person told me, “[I] fought the previous administration over how our district is perceived and what a ‘tough’ sell Newton is.”
It’s more evident now than ever that the school’s decision-makers want its athletic program to be successful and want to give its coaches the necessary tools to achieve that success. As the same person said, “The current administration is making good changes…”
In a survey conducted by Dave Campbell’s Texas Football in 2019, 52-percent of high school football coaches listed administrative support as their top deciding factor when considering a new job. If this figure is accurate, Newton should have no problem checking the most important box.
Community support consistent
There isn’t a survey or figure to back this point. But after spending one season on the Newton High School football beat, it’s clear that the town rallies behind the Railers and wants to build that ‘one town one team’ pipeline and sense of community — things essential to this program’s success that haven’t been cultivated by past regimes.
In a 2021 season that saw Newton finish with an overall record of 2-7, many (including myself) expected waning attendance at home games, increasingly less excitement for Friday night from week to week, and a sizable dip in regard for the team. Instead, nothing changed from week one to week nine — and I can confidently say that isn’t the case for all programs across the state.
Building coach-to-player relationships are huge for a team’s chemistry. Building coach-to-parent, coach-to-school, and coach-to-community relationships, though, is how success is sustained. Placing an emphasis on this will, in my judgment, spark an immediate turnaround within the program.
Young (but experienced) roster
From an on-field perspective, Newton features something that any new coach would love to inherit: A young, potential-filled roster that has a year (or more) of varsity experience under its belt.
Quarterback Colby Gomez — a rising junior — started every game for the Railers a year ago
Wide receivers Camden Carr, Isaac Klug, and Keon Edwards are all returning as varsity lettermen
Running back James Hulse returns for his junior season after serving all but two of last year’s games as the lead back
A surging defensive front seven and offensive line return over 75-percent of its starters
To summarize, Newton isn’t struggling for talent. Klug, offensive lineman Max Masem, and kicker/punter Collin Hershberger were named second-team all-AVCTL I as juniors. Gomez was named honorable mention all-AVCTL I as a sophomore, among many other Railer honorees.
The struggles for Newton football have — in my opinion — never been about talent. It’s consistently been a struggle to find the leader that can put these players in positions to be successful. It’ll take being creative and doing more than ‘getting athletes out in space’ … but that’s what it means to be a coach.
While I’m certain I didn’t mention every last thought I’ve had since Nov. 5, these three points certainly make a strong case for Newton as a destination job — not one that should mark an unfortunate end of a coaching career.
Additionally, there are certainly many other factors in play, such as the next head coach’s ability and freedom to hire his own assistant coaches. Those concerns, however, exist with all openings. The bottom line is that Newton is on the verge of being a perennially strong program. It just needs the right fit.
NOTE: This story will be updated as new information and ideas are presented.