By Jordan Burton (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
It’s the start of a new era for Forsyth with seasoned SPS coach Andy McFarland taking over the reins of the area’s newest football program.
McFarland has previously been the associate head coach and offensive coordinator at Parkview. He spent a decade at Hillcrest as the offensive coordinator as well, which includes coaching standouts like Dorial Green-Beckham and Matt Rush.
For McFarland, Year One will be about establishing a new culture and building the foundation for his program. He’ll lean on his previous stops to do that.
“As coaches are always learning about program building no matter our role, or our assignment (at least we should be). I will draw heavily on my past experiences while trying to build up the program and get headed in a positive direction at Forsyth. I have worked under four head coaches during my time as an assistant coach and each had a different approach to the job. At Hillcrest: Gary Turner first hired me as a freshman/JV coach. Something I will always respect about coach Turner is that he showed up every single day and brought an infectious energy along with him. He made every single student at Hillcrest feel important, athlete or not. I hope to emulate that attitude as a coach and a teacher every day. Shawn Flannigan was only at Hillcrest as HC for 1 season, but he had a huge impact on me personally. I learned more about X’s and O’s that season than I ever had before. It was an eye opening year for me, and I would not be where I am now as a coach without Coach Flannigan’s help.
“I spent the largest amount of time working with John Beckham at Hillcrest. I consider John a close friend and there is no doubt that Hillcrest would not have had the level of success that we did during that decade without John as Head Coach. John’s greatest strength as a coach was his ability to evaluate the way we did everything. Where as a lot of people will continue to do things the way they are currently being done because “that’s the way we have always done it,” John always had the ability to look at every detail and ask “can we do this better?” Usually the answer was yes, and because of that philosophy we improved our facilities, equipment, practice habits, and almost everything else. Because of those changes, we went from a team that had two or less wins for multiple seasons in a row to a consistent contender in a very tough Ozark Conference. We won the conference twice in the 10 years John was the head coach and I was the OC.”
Forsyth is entering just its third season of varsity football, but McFarland has some returning experience.
Jon Deroo started at quarterback last season. Junior Dalton Hankins and sophomore Corgan Strong have shared running back duties throughout the summer. The offensive line returns nearly intact with Josh Strahan, Jaden Carfield, Parker Gillman, Easton Nida and Colton Barrows all starting at least one game last season.
Baseball and basketball standout Buck Sanders is just a junior, but didn’t play football last season. He’ll add athleticism to Forsyth’s perimeter attack. Colton Long, Kellen Hendrix, Brice Collins, and will also see reps at receiver.
Junior Jordan Boe will lead the defensive line, while juniors also dominate the linebacking corps in the form of Easton Nida, Dalton Hankins and Hunter Creson.
The Panthers will certainly have a different look on both sides of the ball this year. “McFarland Ball” is a brand that’ll be bigger than simply Xs and Os and results. It’ll be more process driven.
“I believe what the fans will see is a group of young men who will have obviously put a lot of work into the product on the field,” said McFarland. “They will see a team who plays to the whistle every play, who understands their individual roles and how they are a part of the bigger picture on every play, and because of that understanding plays as a total unit on offense and on defense.”
The one thing that McFarland believes he must do immediately is combat the idea of immediate satisfaction.
With the program being so young, building it will be a daily process that could take time. In an age where patience can be rare, specifically with young people, McFarland knows reshaping how his kids see things will be paramount.
The big picture is what Forsyth will try to focus on and right now that starts with fixing themselves.
“As a team the most important thing to learn, and to take with us after graduation is that while we live in a world of instant gratification, where we can have whatever we want at the click of a button (Netflix, Uber Eats, Amazon, Siri/Alexa) the things that are the most important will never come easy,” said McFarland. “Things like job satisfaction, and successful relationships don’t (and never will) happen overnight. A huge connection that can (and should) be made to life after football is to remember how much work goes into a football season. Year round lifting, summer workouts and camps, and the daily grind of a long season are all completely necessary if you want to have successful season, and must be replicated year after year if you want to have a successful program. There are no shortcuts to success in football, in business, or in the life of a family.
“Forsyth will be entering its third season of varsity football in 2019, and its second season as a member of the Mid-Lakes Conference. Last year we were finished last in the conference with zero wins in the conference. Our focus is more on Forsyth right now than any other team. We must make fundamental improvements in every aspect of the game if we want to be competitive in a very tough conference. That is where our focus is right now during the summer.”
Forsyth will open the 2019 season on the road against Skyline. The Panthers will play their home opener the following Friday against Jasper.