Craig Clayton looks forward to a fresh start at Hillsboro High.
The former Franklin coach is trying to put his own mark on a program that won a state championship in 2008 but slipped a bit the past two years.
“Restoring Tradition” is the headline on the Burros’ football web page.
“I wasn’t sure what the mindset of the players would be,” Clayton said Monday, just before he took his team through its first workout in pads. “When you go through losses and bad times, players tend to develop a mindset of finding excuses and other reasons why they can’t win.
“I expected that to be the situation here, but it was just the opposite. The guys have done everything we’ve asked them to do, worked hard in the weight room, everything a new coach could want.”
Due to a disagreement with administration Clayton, 61, was fired at Franklin in January after seven seasons. During that time, he guided the Rebels to the playoffs every season and had a 65-22 record.
He replaced Dennis Moreno, who was dismissed after three seasons during which the Burros went 9-21. They started 2-0 in 2011 but lost seven of their final eight.
“We have good numbers,” Clayton said. “We have 61 [players] out and about 25-27 are freshmen. And besides that, I’ve got a great principal to work with in Dr. Terry Shrader who believes in a good balance of academics and athletics, and I also have great parent support.”
Clayton will travel just 15 miles up Hillsboro Road daily to his new job. He is the Burros’ third coach in five years. Moreno took over for Scott Blade, who left following the 2008 state title.
Everywhere he’s gone previously in his coaching career, though, he has won. In 19 years in Hopkinsville, Ky. (his cell phone still has a Hopkinsville area code), he took his team to two state runner-up finishes. His Rebels had a state championship game appearance with Franklin in 2008 and two quarterfinal appearances (2007 and 2009).
He also has seen each of his starting quarterbacks over the past 19 seasons sign college scholarships. That makes the competition between sophomore Michael Hughes and junior Porter Streeter for the Hillsboro job particularly interesting.
“At this point, they’re virtually even,” Clayton said. “Perhaps one will move ahead as we go on in practice. … I’ve hired Patrick Murphy, who was our quarterbacks coach who was with me at Franklin, to work with the QBs.
“I think we will be more run-oriented, but I’m also a play-action guy. Our strength seems to be in our offensive line. For a change, I am going to be more of an offensive line coach this season. We also have two good running backs in Robert Kelly and Donnell Baugh. And I like the way our defense is flying around, making plays.”
The hitting starts 6 p.m. Thursday when Hillsboro hosts Overton in a scrimmage. The Burros visit CPA next Tuesday, and their Metro Jamboree segment is Aug. 11 at Overton.
Hillsboro opens the season Aug. 17 at home against old rival Hillwood. Its first region game is Week 3 vs. Ravenwood. Oh, yes, and in Week 5, Hillsboro travels to play Clayton’s former team, Franklin.
“It’s way too early for me to start talking about that game,” he said, laughing.
• The Metro Jamboree two-quarter segments are scheduled Aug. 9-10-11, the week before the opening of the regular season.
• Two-time Division II Miss Basketball winner Derica Wyatt of Franklin Road Academy has committed to Oklahoma. Wyatt, a three-time Miss Basketball finalist, averaged 20 points, five assists and three steals for the Panthers. Her brother Devin is a team manager with the Sooners.
• Cory Barrett, formerly the coach at Hickman County, recently was named girls basketball coach at Riverdale High in Murfreesboro. He replaced John Wild, who guided the Warriors to Class AAA state title in March. Wild resigned to become the assistant coach at David Lipscomb University.
• Meredith Roman became the second Christ Presbyterian Academy girls basketball player to commit to Belmont University. She joined post player Lauren Thompson, who made her decision in early June. Both are rising seniors who were a part of the Lions’ Class AA state championship last March.