By Mac McLeod,

OCN Sports

Change is all around in any endeavor and the Outlaws football program in Overton County is no exception. In just about every year there are coaching changes and there is a never ending changing in layers from Pee Wee to Junior to Senior Outlaws, and this coming season is no exception.

This time around there will be old and new leadership in that Michael Hayes is moving from football director to executive director and Joe Smith will add director to his already coaching position. Jackie Presley will take over as cheerleader director.

So why the changes?

“It’s time for some change,” Hayes pointed out. “I’ve been the football director for three years now and I just felt it was time to get some new blood in here. Joe (Smith) said he would take the position if I would stay and help him get his feet wet, and I said I would.

“I’m happy to help out simply because I love this program and I also know a lot of things that it will take Joe a few seasons to get a handle on. This way, I can relieve him of some of the outside things that have to be addressed and he can simply take direction of the football program and make it move along smoothly.”

For Smith’s point, Hayes staying and helping is nothing but good news.

“That’s one of the conditions I agreed on,” Smith explained, “ that Michael would stay and help. He’s been in the program in the top position and knows all the pitfalls and unnoticed traps, and his help will certainly make this a much smoother operation.”

With the pair working together, there’s already been some positive changes made, before practicing even started back in July.

“For the past several years, we’ve been getting fewer and fewer players coming out, and we addressed this,” Hayes admitted. “Kids have a lot to do these days and mothers also had a lot of health concerns. As a result, the numbers started backing down. Ten years ago, this program had 120-plus players come out, and last year, it was a little over 60.”

With that staggering statistic staring them in the face, Smith and Hayes decided the program needed a rebuild, and they went to work. First thing they did was to personally go to every school in Overton County and also Pickett County to recruit new players. They got new uniforms and decided to bring the cheerleaders into the program as part of it, not a piece hanging on the outside.

“We’re excited where the program is going,” Hayes continued. “Joe took the program and I agreed to stay and help. We’ve got some outstanding coaches on all three levels, and we’re still looking for more.

“It’s our hope that we can get some coaches that will dedicate themselves to working with kids that won’t be starters. When they know they won’t play a lot, kids lose interest, but with additional coaches willing to work with part of a team, teaching basic fundamentals like blocking and tackling or things as simple as teaching how to hold a football. Those skills come natural to some youngsters, but to those others, we feel like it’s our job to teach those skills so the kids will continue to show interest.”

“The bottom line is,” Smith concluded, “we want to keep the program going and growing and making it kinda like it used to be with a lot of youngsters wanting to come out and play football and learn.”

Thus far, there are 35 youngsters lined up in the Pee Wee program, with coaches Josh Cravens, Dustin Garrett, Cody Deck, and Brent Carr. Cooper Cravens, along with Jackson Boles, Gunner Carr, and Drake Garrett are players expected to highlight this part of the program.

Currently, there are 24 players working for positions in the Junior Outlaws program. Joe Smith will head the coaching in this division, assisted by Brandon Cooper, Rusty Hammock, and Josh Suttle. Players to keep an eye on include Auden Ray, Bentley Cooper, and Jayden Smith. Cooper is a returning player from last year’s squad.

Twenty-two showed up for the senior Outlaws program and will be coached by Andrew Goolsby, Josh Deck, Josh Mansell, and Mark Ogletree. Quarterback Adrian Jenkins will lead a squad that will include Drew Goolsby, Dalton Flowers, and Kaden Weitzel.

Outlaws teams will have a bye on opening week, August 3, then will play eight regular season games, with five being at home and three on the road. Teams in the league include DeKalb County, Fentress County, Cumberland County, Monterey, Stone Memorial, Smith County, and Upperman.

The district is part of the Middle Tennessee Youth Football program.