HomeNewsOPINION: New TCA coach aiming for wins on and off the field

OPINION: New TCA coach aiming for wins on and off the field

Trinity Christian Academy says they’re focused on training young champions for Jesus Christ, which should be their main mission if they’re going to be a private Christian school.

But they’ve shown in recent years they also want those young champions for Christ to compete to be champions in TSSAA.

And that’s not a bad thing.

But look at some of the coaches they have in their athletic department.

Four of TCA’s head coaches have won at least one state championship in their careers.

Two of them won their championships at TCA.

Robert Craft built a dynasty about a decade-and-a-half ago in the softball program, winning four championships in five years from 2006-10. He left the program for a few years to help coach his sons as they were coming up through the Lions’ baseball program before returning to the campus’ softball field in 2018.

Matt Coble was an assistant coach for both basketball programs before being named the head coach for the girls’ program in 2013. Seven years later, he led the Lady Lions to the Division II-A state championship less than two weeks before the world shut down for the COVID-19 pandemic.

It was two years ago when TCA brought Dexter Williams back to the high school basketball sidelines. After he led Liberty’s boys’ program to a pair of state championships in the 2000s, he had to step down from coaching when he got into administration in Jackson-Madison County Schools, got back into coaching again when he went to Milan then had to leave coaching again when he became the Director of Schools for the West Carroll Special Schools District.

Then last week, the hiring of Darren Bowling as the head football coach brings a level of credibility to the program at a statewide level that will cause teams in Memphis, Nashville, Knoxville and other parts of the state in Division II-A to take notice.

TCA has had two of the best coaches in rural West Tennessee leading the football program for the last 20 years with Michael Hodum and Blake Butler, but it’s admittedly different when a coach with a resume like Bowling’s enters the fieldhouse.

Hodum and Butler led the Lions to the precipice of a state championship on multiple occasions.

Bowling has made it to the promised land where the trophies are gold and the last win comes in December. Not only has he made it there, but he remained there for multiple years, building not just a good team but a memorable dynasty.

Union City’s bread and butter was smash mouth football with a large offensive line that wore the other team’s defense down with big plays or clock-eating drives.

Can he replicate that brand of football at TCA? It doesn’t look likely on paper, but it’s not impossible.

Can Bowling adapt his style of coaching – particularly on offense – to the skillset of TCA’s athletes?

“Not a lot of people around here know this, but in the 1990s when I was coaching in Louisiana, my teams were throwing the ball when everybody else was running it,” Bowling said. “And this may be hard to believe, but I’ve spent my career trying to figure out how to really balance having a smash mouth brand of football with throwing it around and getting more players involved.

“I don’t plan on re-inventing the wheel when it comes to the strategies here because [Butler] did a good job of building his strategies based on the players he had in the fieldhouse. Now we might tweak things here and there to add some wrinkles to throw our opponents off some and integrate the option into what’s already established here.”

Bowling’s knowledge of Division II-A teams leans more toward Middle Tennessee since Union City played Nashville Christian and Columbia Academy during some of their state championship runs. So he’ll spend time this offseason learning more about the teams in Shelby, Fayette and Tipton counties that will be in TCA’s region.

Bowling made no predictions regarding winning or competing for championships. But he does plan on making sure to push the players on the roster to become all they can be and learn how to maximize their own potential so they can learn to do that in life after high school football.

“If we’re doing that with the players with the intentions of making them better husbands, fathers, employees, leaders and citizens after they’re done here, then we could compete for championships while they’re with us in this program,” Bowling said. “But I’m just ready to give back because my own Christian education has really been good for me throughout my career and adult life.

“I hope to have a similar impact on these young men.”

Brandon Shields is the managing editor of The Jackson Post. Contact him at brandon@jacksonpost.news. Follow him on Twitter @JSEditorBrandon or Instagram @Editorbrandon.

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