Have you ever remodeled a house? Not a just room, the whole house. Inside and out. If you have, you know you start first by checking the foundation. If there’s cracks, settling, or damage to the foundation, then nothing else matters until that is fixed. When the Waldron Bulldogs head football coach, Doug Powell, accepted the job in Waldron a couple of months ago, he knew that he’d have to do a lot more than a mere remodel of the program. He’d have to tear it down to the foundation. Powell was walking into a program that hadn’t had a winning season in over a decade. But just as he prepared to demo the old foundation and start pouring a brand new structured one, the world was struck by something that superseded football.
Although COVID-19 has put a pause on Powell’s building plans, it has given him time to review his blueprints and gather up the proper “tools” for the job. Those tools happen to be the players he’s been in contact with via social media over the past couple of months. “We lost several good players to graduation this year. To some programs, that could be a nail in the coffin. But I don’t think we’re “some programs”. We’re overflowing with a great talent pool. We have a very talented sophomore bunch who seem to be very eager to step up. We’re also returning a lot of talent and experience with this upcoming year’s juniors and seniors. The bottom line is, our outlook for the 2020 football season looks to be very hopeful. We have a lot of players that have the ability to do well” Powell said.
Last season, the Bulldogs lost 13 seniors from their roster. But with up and coming sophomores such as Leo Lopez, Trenton and Trevor Hunt, Brice Isom, Lidge Stinson, Matt Brigance, and Trevor Bates, joining the senior high team, these newcomers are ready to take on any obstacle that might stand in their way. This sophomore group coupled with the returning junior and senior talents of Gabino Grano, Bryson Bailey, Caden Fuller, Matthew Tegtmeyer, Braden Williams, Isaac Villarreal, and Patrick Poor, are about to turn the world of 4A football upside down.
So with a full crew ready to pick up a hammer and help Powell start building, the Bulldogs are primed for success on paper. But what about on the field? The COVID-19 pandemic has all programs in the nation on pause. That means no workouts, practices, or even any in-person team meetings. When you’re a new coach in a new program, you have got to build a relationship with everyone in that program. Powell knows that. So he has been working hard to create and adapt to a new way of the process. “COVID-19 has been a whole new world for everyone everywhere. Right now we are trying to use social media to help build our team, but there is no replacement for being onsite and working together. We are presenting things to work on and trying to make the most of it by watching film and keeping in contact. At this point, our success is in the hands of our players more than ever. If they want a chance to win, they have to dig deep and find their self-discipline and a hardcore work ethic. They could even show some leadership by reaching out to teammates and pushing them to work hard. We have a lot of work to accomplish and we need our players to develop as a team.”
If having a new head coach, the epidemic, and trying to bring Waldron’s program back from the ashes isn’t hard enough for the Bulldogs, they will also be squaring off against a schedule full of 4A heavyweights. The powerhouses of Mena, Dardanelle, Elkins, Ozark, and others will look to push Waldron around like they have in the past. But Powell believes the Bulldogs can push back this year and in years to come. “We are looking to lay a foundation this season on which to build in the future. We feel good about it and are going to work hard to achieve our team goals. With all that being said, we know what we’re up against. If anything thas makes our coaching staff and players want to get after it. We don’t want our wins to be upsets anymore. We not only want to but are going to work our tails off to make winning just as common as seeing someone walking around wearing orange and black in Waldron.“