Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Tommy Tharp takes the reins at Mangham

By Keith Prince • • September 2, 2009

To say Mangham will have a new look when it opens the 2009 season Friday night while hosting Ouachita Christian is quite an understatement.

The Dragons, who had an exciting run to the class A quarterfinals last fall, will not only be reloading after graduating a big senior class, they will also be unveiling a totally new system under a new head coach.

With Bo Meeks’ move to Calvary Baptist, the Dragons have brought "home" a veteran coach with an outstanding pedigree and a lot of fresh ideas.

Tommy Tharp, a 1982 graduate of St. Frederick who has been coaching in Tennessee and Alabama the past 16 years, is the new leader at Mangham and he said, "We are going to count on a lot of young players this year but we have some talent and I’ve never been around a group more ready to work and learn."

While on one hand there can’t be a lot of big-time expectations as Mangham moves up to AA and into a tough district with Farmerville, Ferriday, Jonesboro-Hodge, Lake Providence and Sterlington, Tharp said, "There’s one very positive ingredient that these kids have and can’t be minimized. They expect to win. They have that mentality, the whole community has and it goes all the way back to coach Moose Munyan and was really re-energized with Bo’s success last year."

Tharp expects to win, too, because that’s what he has been doing during the past 11 years as a head coach, first at two schools in Tennessee and most recently at Albertsville, Ala., where he took an 0-10 team the previous season to the state regional runner-up slot.

He coached in the Tennessee all-star game twice and reached the state quarterfinals twice there, and has been in the state playoffs three years in Alabama.

"I enjoyed all of those years but I wanted to come back home. I can help my mother here and it’s just great to get back into football here," he remarked.

While he can’t predict what is in store this year, Tharp can promise "that our football team will be aggressive and that we will bring a lot of new looks to the program."

Tharp termed his offensive scheme "somewhere between the single wing and the spread. We might use 5-wide outs our we may have a single wing look. We use a blocking back just behind the guard and sometimes we aren’t far from what Florida runs.

"There is a lot of deception involved. Really, we can make it fit whatever our kids can do best," he said.

The new coach said his offense will revolve around a pair of talented athletes who are very versatile.

"We want to get the ball to Montel Hardman any way we can. He will line up in a lot of different spots and he is a great high school athlete and will be our senior leader.

"Our tailback is Shaquelle Ausberry and he ranks up with Alabama linebacker Dante Hightower as the most talented sophomore I’ve ever coached. He has good speed and great strength," said Tharp.

Sophomore Seth Parker, "who had very few snaps last year," takes over at quarterback. "He has a great arm and a real feel for the game. He also has speed, can take a hit, and we will use him as a runner, too."

While the Dragons return just four starters on offense, there are nine returnees on defense "and that’s where we will hang our hat as our offense grows up."

Middle linebacker Edward Blount (5-10, 210-pounds) should be the leader while outside backer Arthur Miley (6-5, 220) and free safety Richard Haynes (6-1, 180) should also have exceptional seasons.

As for Mangham’s opener against OCS, Tharp said, "All you need to say is that it is OCS. They do such a great job of coaching and that’s why they never beat themselves. They have some great young talent. Both (Braden) Bristo and (Mark) Laird are exceptional and you have to slow them down to have a chance.

"We are excited about the opener and about the season. It’s great to be home and it’s an added bonus to be at a place like Mangham," said Tharp.

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