The Kentucky and Tennessee All-Stars coaching staffs met in Corbin Wednesday afternoon ahead of beginning preparations for this year’s Border Bowl football game. The News Journal took this opportunity to interview several of the coaches, including Corbin Redhounds Head Coach Justin Haddix, and Williamsburg Yellow Jackets Head Coach Jerry Herron.
Here is what they had to say about Border Bowl IX, taking place this Saturday, January 16, at James H Taylor II Stadium in Williamsburg…
Interview with Grant Reynolds, head coach of the Tennessee All-Stars:
NJ: Tell us about this year’s Tennessee All-Stars team, and what fans can expect out of them on Saturday.
We have a wide selection of players this year. We have kids from Memphis all the way up to Morristown, so it’s a good representation of the state. I think we have a pretty athletic team, and we also have some big, strong kids up front as well.
NJ: Are you new to the Border Bowl?
This is my second time being involved with this game. The first time was in 2008 as an assistant. I’m just really honored to be back and have a chance to be a head coach.
NJ: Talk about your background as a football coach.
I am from Boyd Buchanan High School in Chattanooga. We are a 2A private school, and I have been coaching there for 20 years now, the last ten as head coach. We have been blessed with some very good players over the years. We have won a state championship, and played for three other state championships. Just this past year our team went undefeated in the regular season and got beat in the second round of the playoffs, so we’ve had some good success down there.
NJ: Talk about your Border Bowl coaching staff.
I am surrounded by guys who are very talented at what they do. I have guys from Memphis, a few from around Knoxville, and each one does a very good job at their schools. I know our kids on the team this week will be blessed, because those guys will bring with them an energy and excitement to their position and what they’re teaching.
NJ: After looking over your roster, do you anticipate being able to do any one thing better than the other in terms of your offensive game plan?
My philosophy as a head coach has always been to establish a run game, and then you have a chance to play solid defense and win. We’re going to try to go into the game not putting too much on the kids, but just let them play. We want to see their athletic ability and let them have some fun, but I think establishing the run and playing well on defense are both very important.
NJ: Has there been a lot of excitement down in Tennessee leading up to this year’s game?
I think the kids are very excited to be nominated, and we’re grateful to the high school coaches who nominated them. Everyone is just excited to see these kids play and see how they will do in this game.
NJ: Anything else to say about this opportunity and what you’re looking forward to on Saturday?
I would like to thank Andy Croley and the Border Bowl committee for allowing me to be the head coach of this Tennessee team, and I am also very appreciative of the guys on our staff taking the time away from their families in order to be here this week. I’m also thankful for the administrators at my school for allowing me to come and be a part of this great game.
Interview with Ty Scroggins, head coach of the Kentucky All-Stars:
NJ: You are coming from Louisville Central. Is this your first time being involved with the Border Bowl?
This is my third straight year. The past two years I have served as an assistant.
NJ: How excited are you to be coming in this year as the head coach of the Kentucky All-Stars?
It’s real exciting. There are some big shoes to fill. I hope that I can live up to the standards set by the coaches who came before me, but I think that we’ve put a great staff together, and I’m very excited about it. I have made a lot of great friends here over the last three years.
NJ: After having a chance to look over the roster, what do you anticipate some of the team’s main strengths to be on both sides of the ball?
We have some kids that should be real fast and explosive on the defensive side. Offensively, we’re going to put the ball up in the air, fly around, and just see what we can do.
NJ: You have a limited amount of time to coach these kids before they play in Saturday’s game. What is that like as the head coach of an All-Star team?
You don’t have to do a whole lot. You have to introduce some new schemes, but the biggest thing for them is just learning the terminology. We all just have to get on the same page and learn how to play Coach Scroggins’ way, and we’ll be okay.
NJ: Talk about the coaching staff on the Kentucky sideline.
It’s an honor to work with these coaches. A lot of them will call me and say that they would love to coach for me, but I always tell them that they’re not coaching for me, they’re coaching with me. We’re all going to do this together, and we’re going to have a lot of fun this week. We’ll make sure these boys are ready to play against Tennessee, and then we’ll flip a coin and see if we can go out and win this game.
Interview with coach Jerry Herron:
NJ: From your experience, what are some of the benefits that the Whitley County community has been able to reap from this all-star game being played in Williamsburg each year?
It’s a remarkable thing, and we’re lucky to have such an event here in Whitley County. You see coaches and players from all over the state coming here for this game, and the competition has just been unreal the last few years. It brings a lot of people into this area. The hotels are sold out, the restaurants are full, so it really helps the local community.
NJ: How cool is it for you to personally be involved in something like this that not only affects our local community, but stretches out across two entire states as well?
As a football fan myself, I just love it. You watch these kids play in this game, and then all of a sudden you recognize them when you’re watching a game on a Saturday sometime in the future. It’s great to have something like this going on here because it brings a lot of people into our community and shows them what all we have to offer. We all live here, we’re proud of where we’re from, and this bowl gives us another thing to be proud of. It’s phenomenal, and we’re just lucky to have such a thing here.
NJ: Talk about the Williamsburg Yellow Jackets involved in this year’s game, and your excitement about getting to spend a little bit more time with them.
I’m really excited. Austin Huskey and Dakotah Dunn are two of the kids that I’ve really enjoyed coaching over the years. They have been a huge part of the success that we’ve had over the last few years. They’re great leaders, and they’ve really dedicated themselves to training and getting ready to play. They’ve played at a high, competitive level for us, and I’m extremely excited to get to see them play again.
Interview with coach Justin Haddix:
NJ: Could you speak to how this game has grown over the years, and how you think it helps the young men who are lucky enough to play in it?
I played in the Kentucky-Tennessee All-Star game, and I still tell kids about my roommate being Michael Bush. I later got to see him play on Sundays, just like Jacob Tamme, who is still playing now for the Atlanta Falcons. You get to meet some people that usually you wouldn’t meet.
For us coaches, it’s all about the kids. We want to help them become better football players and better men. It’s a great learning experience for both the kids and the coaches.
NJ: Speak to how this game can help a player move on to the next level and get a college education while continuing to play football.
It’s funny that you say that, because I’ve already had 2-3 colleges that have asked for our roster. We get a lot of texts from people interested in seeing what the deal is, and then they’ll come and watch them play. Any time these players can get looks like that, and then have the opportunity to further their education while playing football, it’s great.
NJ: You have two Corbin Redhounds on the roster this year. Talk about their involvement in this game, and your personal feelings on getting to coach them again.
Both (Harley Lambert and Caleb Parker) are really excited. When I asked them if they would be interested in playing in the Border Bowl they were both super-excited, and now they are getting a chance to go out and prove themselves against some of the best players in the state. Hopefully they will both go on to college. They’re both not only great football players, but they’re great people as well. They’re going to do well.
NJ: Anything else to add with the game coming up Saturday?
It’s a great atmosphere. With college football over we only have a couple more NFL games going on, so this is the last live action that we’ll have around here for a while. Come out and support these kids. They’re going to play hard, and we plan on putting a good product out on the field.
For a full preview of Border Bowl IX, pick up the January 13 edition of The News Journal. The game is scheduled to get underway Saturday at 2:00 p.m. Full coverage, including photos, a game recap, and player interviews will be available in the January 20 edition.
For more information on the Kentucky-Tennessee Border Bowl, visit them online at kytnborderbowl.com.