The football coaching staff at Joplin will look a little bit different next season when the Eagles take the field for the first time in 2021.
Former offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Brandon Taute was announced as the new head coach for Neosho in December, with former Eagles offensive line coach Logan Shaw and wide receivers coach Dayton Whitehead joining Taute with the Wildcats. Shaw will take on the role of assistant head coach and offensive line coach, while Whitehead will be the offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach for Neosho.
“Coach Taute has been my OC all six years here,” Joplin coach Curtis Jasper said. “He was someone I identified early on in the process of getting moved down here. He has a crazy amount of work ethic and is a football junkie. He works extremely hard and he did a really good job here.
“Coach Shaw came with me here from Westran and he’s been with me before he even graduated college. I am really close with him and I’ve really enjoyed working that offensive line position with him and to see him grow as a coach and an educator. He is a fantastic person who really cares about the kids.
“Coach Whitehead graduated from (Joplin) and came on a couple years after I was here. He volunteered for a year and then worked his way up from a freshman position to a varsity receivers position. His growth professionally both as an educator and a coach has been great as well. All three coaches are tremendous men who care about the kids, and they leave big shoes to fill.”
Obviously, watching three coaches who have been a part of your staff for a long time leave for another opportunity at a different school can be tough, but the pride in seeing three people, who Jasper considers family, earn well-deserved promotions more than makes up for any sorrowfulness. Jasper has watched Taute, Shaw and Whitehead grow in their profession, and to see their hard work pay off is very gratifying.
“One thing I have always told my coaches, just like we tell the kids, I want what is best for them,” Jasper said. “I care about them as people before football coaches just like I care about the kids as people before football players. If it is what is best for them and their families, then I am all for supporting them and doing what I can to help.
“I think it is important to continue to strive for professional growth because it is only going to make you better in your position. Anytime you are not working for that growth, you’ll become stagnant and regress. I think that is a big part of our profession.”
Of course, with all three coaches heading to Neosho, that means the local and conference rivalry between the Eagles and Wildcats will have a little more attached to it. Jasper admitted it will be strange looking over to the other sideline when the game kicks off for the first time to see his former coaches, but said he feels it will be a fun rivalry to further develop.
“I think it will be a little awkward at first because we are so tight and (Neosho) is so close,” Jasper said with a laugh. “I’m happy for them, but I would have rather it not been a conference school because that is one week we won’t be rooting for them. But it will be fun. Hopefully, it will be more fun than awkward, but I am excited to see them go to work down there and improve that program.”
With the departure of Taute, Shaw and Whitehead, Joplin has found their replacements.
The Eagles hired former Staley offensive coordinator Jacob Hewitt to the same position at Joplin.
“I first met him when he was presenting at a Glazier Clinic, and I was really impressed,” Jasper said of Hewitt. “He is someone I got to know about through my contacts up in Kansas City. I knew (former Staley head coach Phil Lite) was retiring, so I asked (Coach Lite) if he thought Coach Hewitt would be interested. He got me in touch with him, and we started having conversations. The more we talked, the more we realized our philosophies were very similar.
“We are super excited to have someone of Coach Hewitt’s caliber leading our offense. He has been around a great head coach and a great program his entire career. He has a very successful track record as a coordinator as far as the wins and the offensive production being fantastic. I think it says a lot about our program when we can attract someone like Coach Hewitt to want to be a part of our program and help continue its success.”
Hewitt was with Class 5 Staley all nine years of his coaching career, including the last four seasons as the offensive coordinator. With Hewitt in charge of the offense, the Falcons averaged more than 30 points a game and 10 wins per season.
“He is still going to run a spread, and will like to do some more things with the tight end,” Jasper said of Hewitt’s offense. “We’ll still base out of our inside zone and run RPOs, but we’re also going to add some wrinkles in with the power and counter and things of that nature. It’s still a spread concept, starting with the zone and using the RPOs to our advantage.”
Joplin also added former Jasper head coach and Missouri Southern two-sport standout Joey Ballard as the wide receivers coach. Jasper first met Ballard when he coached his son in youth football and followed his career path to Jasper as an assistant and then head coach. Ballard, an all-MIAA selection in football and baseball from 1998-2002, was the MIAA Freshman of the Year in football in 1998 and earned the same honors in baseball in 1999—the only time a freshman has earned player of the year honors in two sports in conference history.
“He is someone that I knew at some point in time that it would be nice, if a spot was available, to bring into our football family,” Jasper said of Ballard.” I have seen first hand how good of a coach he is, and I thought he did a really good job at Jasper dealing with the challenges of switching to 8-man football. I am really excited for him to be a part of our family.
“We’ve been able to talk, and he doesn’t just bring that type of mentality it takes to work with kids. He also brings a lot of knowledge with him, too, and he was also a multi-sport guy, which is huge in our school. … It is awesome to have a coach on board who believes in the same philosophies as we do as far as how to treat student-athletes and help them become accountable young men.”
OTHER COACHING NOTES
Brad Cox, who has been on the Joplin staff for the last seven years at the high school and middle school levels, has been promoted to the offensive line coach for the Eagles. Tylan Harris will take over as the freshman head coach, while Aaron Ketcher and Don Archer have been named as assistants on the freshman staff.
One of the strengths to Joplin’s coaching staff is experience and familiarity. There are three coaches, including Jasper, who have been on the Joplin staff for seven years in addition to defensive coordinator Nick Reid’s 10-year tenure and special teams coordinator/defensive line coach Alan Linden’s 15 years on the staff. Jasper is excited for the additions of Hewitt and Ballard because of what they offer the players as not only coaches, but mentors.
“The fun thing is we all have different personalities,” Jasper said. “In a football program 9th through 12th, you’re going to have 120-plus kids. It takes a lot of different personalities because not every kid will gravitate toward one personality. So, if it’s not their position coach, which is the natural mesh, there is someone else on staff these kids can identify with. As we know, teenagers these days have a lot of different challenges than we had growing up. It is important for these kids to have as many people as possible in their lives to go the extra mile for them.”
JOPLIN COACHING STAFF (Years with program)
Head coach: Curtis Jasper (7)
Defensive coordinator/linebackers: Nick Reid (10)
Special teams coordinator/defensive line: Alan Linden (15)
Safeties: Parker Howard (4)
Cornerbacks: Michael Juergens (5)
Offensive coordinator/quarterbacks: Jacob Hewitt (1)
Offensive line: Brad Cox (7)
Running backs/tight ends: James Hartzfeld (7)
Receivers: Joey Ballard (1)
Freshmen head coach: Tylan Harris (2)
Freshmen assistant: Don Archer (2)
Freshmen assistant: Aaron Ketcher (2)