Ashley Harden and a talented class are gone, but Butler doesn’t think its relevance will go away.
The Bulldogs football team went from a 41-game losing streak to 15-6 the past two years under Harden, who left to become the coach at Jenkins County. Along with Harden’s departure, one of the team’s best overall players, Christan Garnett, graduated.
New head coach Myron Newton inherits a young team and leads a staff that is essentially the same as the one that walked the sidelines for these recent successful years. Though it’s his first season, Newton has no worries about taking over a program with recently heightened expectations.
“There’s no pressure at all,” Newton said. “Anybody that backs away from a challenge is backing away from success. The challenge is on the table and I’m loving that.”
Newton, who was previously a coach at Coffee High, brings high energy as he tries to keep Butler from falling back to its days before going 15-6.
He admits it’s going to be difficult with the inexperience, but doesn’t see this as a complete rebuilding job. Instead, Newton focused his efforts on increasing the numbers. This season, there are 52 players on the roster.
The season hasn’t started, but senior Ronald Jones already appreciates Newton’s enthusiasm.
“We’ve got a real good bond,” Jones said. “I like him. The energy in him is different – there’s more of it.”
Junior Xavier Lightfoot agrees, adding that Newton demands excellence in the classroom, in the weight room and on the field.
Lightfoot also sees this team the same way Newton does: the Bulldogs will miss the class that sparked the turnaround, but the team won’t dramatically lower expectations.
“I feel like we’re going to have a good season this year,” Lightfoot said. “We can go to the next level; we can go to the playoffs. We’ll be a good team. If we work hard, we’ll go somewhere this year.”