(Editor’s note: This is Part 2 of a two-part story on Bearden High School’s new head football coach, Josh Jones)
By Steve Williams
Josh Jones’ longtime success in youth football led to his opportunity to coach at the high school level.
His knowledge on the offensive side of the ball played a big part in Powell winning this season’s TSSAA Class 5A state championship and getting him the offer to be Bearden High’s new head coach.
“It’s like a dream come true,” said an excited Jones after attending his first faculty meeting at Bearden on Dec. 13. “I’ve been around ball my whole life. Obviously, I cut my teeth on youth football. I broke into high school football four years ago and when I did that, I wanted to be a head coach.”
He was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Christian Academy of Knoxville in 2018 before serving in that same capacity the last three seasons at Powell.
The last time he was a head coach it was with the Fulton 8th grade program in 2017, a post he held for 15 seasons, beginning in 2003.
Fulton High School does not officially have an 8th grade team, so those teams were part of the Knox Metro Youth Football League or City of Knoxville’s recreation youth league.
“Those last several years we had a really strong program and we were able to compete statewide with some of the top 8th grade programs in the state,” recalled Jones.
“I dream big, so our goal at Bearden is going to be to build a championship level program where we can be competing for championships year in and year out.”
Jones, however, realizes the difference between youth football and high school football in regard to roster and eligibility guidelines.
“We have to obviously fall within the Knox County Schools / TSSAA guidelines for our kids,” he said. “They have to basically live in the Bearden zone or be accepted via transfer through Knox County Schools. That’s basically the only two ways a kid can play for us.”
In youth football in Knox County, players are not restricted to a zone.
One thing that separates Jones from other current head coaches in Knox County is that he will be a non-faculty staff member at BHS, which he looks at as a “very positive” advantage for his role at the school.
“I’m going to be around the building all the time,” he said. “I’m going to be walking the halls. I’m going to be in the lunch rooms. I’ve got the flexibility to move around anywhere and be visible.”
If a prospective player wants to meet the coach or a teacher needs to discuss one of his player’s grades, he’ll be easily accessible.
What will Bearden fans see from Jones’ teams?
“Hopefully we’re a team that will represent the school and community on and off the field with high standards,” he said. “Effort is going to be the foundation of our program. We’re going to give maximum effort in everything we do.”
As for style of play, Jones wants to put “an exciting offense” on the field and “an aggressive and attacking defense.”
Josh may or may not still have the OC title next season, but “my fingerprints will be all over the offense definitely, without a doubt,” he said.“Football is such a copycat sport, we want to always copy everything from the professional and college ranks and tailor it to our personnel.”
Bearden’s playoff success in football has been so-so over the years. The Bulldogs are 10-22 overall in playoff games and their most successful season was 2007 when they lost to eventual Class 5A state champion Smyrna 17-14 in the semifinal round.
This past season, Morgan Shinlever resigned after Bearden (4-6) missed making the playoffs after losing at rival Farragut 17-14.
Jones was asked how long from a realistic standpoint did he figure it would take him to get Bearden, a Class 6A school, in a position to contend for a state title.
“I’m not going to come in and say give us three years or give us five years or anything like that,” he said. “I’m just going to come in and say we are going to be on the fast track to success.
“We’re going to coach to win them all. We’re going to be realistic. And we’re just going to work really hard day in and day out. Build better people and then we’ll see where that takes us in the long run.”
Last week, Jones was in the process of interviewing the current staff of assistants and reaching out to other coaches that he would love to have come and coach with him.
“We’re really excited to get started,” he said. “Bearden is a great place with outstanding resources, great facilities, a phenomenal community. I’m looking forward to building on what they’ve had. Our main goal is going to be to build better people. If we build better people, everything else will take care of itself.
“Football teaches life skills and so many things. We really want to make sure our student-athletes are taking care of business in the classroom and on the football field of course.”
When reminded that he was going to get to experience that longtime Bearden-Farragut rivalry, Jones replied: “Yeah, that’s going to be a good one.”