MATHISTON – No one knows better than Doug Wilson what East Webster High School football means to the community of Cumberland.
Wilson is a graduate and former player for what, at the time, was Cumberland High. He's spent the last decade on the East Webster coaching staff, helping the Wolverines pile up the victories.
So as East Webster adjusts to life without Jimmy Carden, who recently gave up his head coaching post after a dozen years at the helm to focus on a run for Webster County Superintendent, it's only fitting that Wilson be the man to try and continue the gridiron success with the Wolverines.
Pending board approval, Wilson will get that chance this season as he takes his first-ever head coaching position.
"I'm very excited," said Wilson. "It's an honor to be able to do this job. This community is a blue-collar-type community with a lot of hard workers and it's an honor to be a leader of group of guys who represent our school and represents our county well."
East Webster principal Bill Brand says that Wilson seemed to be the right guy at the right time for an East Webster squad that will only be returning a couple of starters on each side of the ball in 2011.
"It was a decision where you just have to go with your gut and my gut told me (Wilson) was the right choice just based on how he runs his classroom and how he runs everything else," said Brand. "He's a first-class guy. He's done everything the right way as long as I've known him. I think he'll be a great role model for the kids and he'll get the program going. I know we may have a couple of down years, not like we're used to, but I think he'll get us back going pretty quick."
Wilson inherits a team that was a consistent winner under Carden. In his 12 seasons, Carden tallied 105 total victories.
Yet there are plenty of obstacles standing in Wilson's way for such success to roll over immediately.
First, there is the inexperience factor. Following the graduation of 16 seniors and departures of other players who helped the Wolverines to a 13-1 overall record and the third round of the Class 2A playoffs last season, Wilson will be short of veteran leadership.
"We've got more guys that don't have experience this year than maybe we've ever had," said Wilson. "We're replacing nine starters on defense and probably nine on offense."
In addition to the problems than can arise amongst a youthful team, Wilson and the Wolverines are still dealing with the aftermath of the late-April tornado that destroyed East Webster's campus and moved the school's operations to Wood College in Mathiston.
In some ways though, Wilson sees his team's current situation as fitting.
"We're going right along with our school," said Wilson. "We're rebuilding our school, our community is rebuilding and we're rebuilding from the ground up. We're all rebuilding, from storm damage to the football team."
Wilson won't be alone, however, in pulling East Webster together. Wilson says assistants Kenny Williamson, Phillip Jordan and Jason Smith are all expected to be back with the Wolverines again in the upcoming year, helping to mold East Webster's young talent.
Just how far that talent takes East Webster in Wilson's first season remains to be seen, but Wilson does have promising words for Wolverines fans, saying that East Webster will be giving maximum effort each Friday night come the fall.
"We're going to play hard-nosed and just work hard," said Wilson. "A compliment would be that we're the most physical team that anybody plays.
"We're going to play with passion and all the talent that the Good Lord has given us. That's what we're going to hang our hat on here."