DRAFFENVILLE – Just starting his career as a head coach at age 31, Evan Merrick is looking far into the future with regard to his hopes and dreams for the Marshall County football program.
“This is a job that I see as a destination job,” said Merrick, who was named head coach on April 28. “I enjoy teaching at Marshall County, the community, the support for the school system, the whole situation. It’s good for my family.
“I’d love to make my whole career there, if I’m fortunate enough for that to happen.”
In the program’s 40-year history, the Marshals have had eight head coaches. In Merrick’s eight years, he has served on the staffs of three of them.
The greatest success in the program’s first 40 years came under the leadership of Jim Shelton, who was 78-50 in 11 seasons from 1990 to 2000, and Hiram “Doc” Sanders, who was 60-43 in the preceding 10 years from 1980 to ’89.
In the 13 years since Shelton retired, four coaches have directed the Marshals for stints of three, three, three and four years. Only one of them, Mike Lawson, had a winning record.
“I’d like to be a long-term solution to that,” Merrick said.
Merrick, two days after being announced as the new MCHS head man, talked about establishing continuity and consistency, about building interest in the program and growing the roster by getting more young people involved.
MCHS athletic director Jeff Stokes said Merrick was chosen from a group of “about 20” applicants for the job, which became vacant when Ron Barnard resigned Feb. 28.
Stokes praised Merrick’s character and his attributes as a coach.
“He’s an excellent teacher who does a fabulous job in the classroom for us,” Stokes said. “One of the most important questions about a candidate is, can they teach? Not only on the field, but in the classroom.”
stokes directed spring football practice until Merrick was named with one week left on the workout schedule.
“I had the privilege of working with Evan in spring ball. I saw the work ethic he had, the way he organized things, the way he was able to put together practice plans.”
Stokes also said Merrick provided a quick turnaround on an assignment to begin filling in the 2015 season schedule, when Marshall County will switch from Class 6A to Class 5A.
Merrick was defensive coordinator under Ron Barnard, who resigned March 28 after four seasons.
He served in the role of defensive coordinator or special teams coordinator the last several seasons after being hired his first year as linebackers coach by head coach Mike Lawson.
The new coach plans to keep the staff from last season intact.
“That will make the transition a lot smoother for me,” he said.
The staff will include Tyler Brockman as offensive coordinator, Jason Fite assistant head coach, Nathan Bazzell in charge of special teams, Jeff Sturm coaching the secondary, Daniel Murphy linebackers and Ed Deese offensive and defensive lines.
Merrick will continue to be in charge of the defense.
Brockman was enthusiastic about the new head coach.
“I am very excited for Coach Merrick and this opportunity for him to be the next head coach at Marshall County,” Brockman said.
The former Murray State player joined the MCHS staff in 2011 and said he has always looked to Merrick for guidance as he began his coaching career.
“He is a great instructor and knows the game of football as well as anyone I’ve worked with in coaching,” Brockman said. “I look forward to working with Coach Merrick and helping to get Marshall County football back to its winning tradition.”
Merrick has been a social studies teacher and assistant football coach at Marshall County the past eight years. He played for Graves County High School and Campbellsville University.
Merrick and his wife, Liz, have three children and are expecting a fourth child.
“We welcome coach Merrick into this new role and feel confident in our decision that he will convert his dedication and passion for the sport into success on the field here at MCHS,” Stokes said.
Merrick is the ninth coach in the history of the program, dating from 1974.