Barely more than a month after the position came open, Harris County has its next football coach.
Citing his experience as an assistant coach and his familiarity with the program, the Tigers promoted defensive coordinator Zach Howard to head coach on Friday, filling the post that was vacated by Dwight Jones when he took a similar position at Russell County in February.
Principal Todd Stanfill said on Friday that Howard was one of six finalists for the post, and was selected a few days ago and introduced to the team on Friday. He was chosen, Stanfill said, because of his record as an assistant — he has been with Harris County for 11 years, including the past nine as defensive coordinator — and because of the continuity he would provide for the program.
“He’s been around the program a long time,” Stanfill said. “He knows everybody. The program just went through a change two years ago, and we ultimately decided that he has been a good assistant coach and deserves a shot at leading this team.”
Stanfill said that upon learning of Howard’s promotion, the players expressed their excitement for the direction of the team.
“The kids were excited,” he said. “That was who they wanted. We didn’t make the decision solely on that, but it was certainly a factor.”
Despite having spent 11 years with the school, this will be Howard’s first chance as a head coach. Howard said on Friday that he felt like he had the support of the coaches and the players and that he expected the transition to run more smoothly than if the team had hired outside of the program.
“They already know the routine, what’s expected of them,” Howard said. “With someone else, there may have been a period of, you know, what do we do here, what can we get away with? Now, everyone knows the expectations.”
And they expectations are to compete right away. Despite struggling to a 2-8 record in Jones’ last year as a head coach, Howard believes this team has the talent to make immediate improvements. He will make slight changes to the offense, like spreading the ball out a little bit more, and the defense, like being more of an attack unit than a read unit, but it really comes down to the talent the team is returning, he said.
“We’ve got a lot of young guys coming up who got that year of experience last year,” he said. “That’s really going to help them going forward.”
Howard’s hire is pending board approval, but Stanfill said on Friday he expects no problems with getting the coach approved. Howard said he is hoping to begin spring practice at the end of April, but is waiting to get approval from the administration.