Note: This sports story appears in the Wednesday, Aug. 14 newspaper on Page B1.
WELLSTON — Over the course of this decade, Wellston football has endured countless coaching changes and has adapted to new systems.
It’s going through another coaching change, this time with Mike Smith coming from South Gallia to take over as a first-year head coach, and this change feels different.
“Going from being in a state championship to South Gallia was a huge adjustment,” Smith said. “South Gallia was a great place to work, it’s just really small. Wellston was more appealing since it’s much bigger. There’s about 40 kids on the team compared to 67 boys in South Gallia’s graduating class. Overall, this was a better move for me.”
Although he’s entering new territory as head coach, Smith brings a vast knowledge of football with him, having been an offensive and defensive coordinator for many years at Tulsa High School, where it made a state championship and a state semifinal.
But football wasn’t the only coaching aspect he excelled at. Smith was also the head basketball coach at Tulsa and led his team to a state championship.
He also had a stint as Tug Valley High School in West Virginia as well as Pike County High School in Kentucky before going to South Gallia.
“Coaching translates no matter what the sport is,” Smith said. “The basics are the same, it’s just the sport and knowledge that’s different. Coaching is what I do, and these kids have made the transition easy even when it wasn’t at times.”
Wellston hopes that Smith’s level of experience translates to quality football on Friday nights.
It’s been 13 years since Wellston has had a winning record and made the playoffs, and while there’s no expectations to win immediately, don’t tell that to Smith or the Golden Rockets.
“We’re going to be a physical and very aggressive team on defense,” Smith said. “Offensively, we’re going to spread teams out and use our speed. One thing that sort of surprised me was the level of speed and athleticism on this team. These guys have been playing in a shoebox the last couple of years in a Wing-T offense, now it’s time to open things up.
“I’ve been in multiple different systems and I try to mold what I do to match the kids’ strengths. It’s been an interesting change, but one I’m happy with. The sky is the limit for this team. Yes we have some tough games against Jackson and Athens, but we have a winnable schedule and I believe we can play with anyone.”