Keene ISD board of trustees convened to discuss and approve the addition of a football program this week, which is set to begin in the 2021 season. The school board voted unanimously in approval of the program. The official announcement of the addition came Tuesday night following Keene's varsity basketball games.
"We're all about providing opportunities for our kids," said Keene ISD Superintendent Ricky Stephens. Stephens, currently serving his eighth year as superintendent, said community members, as well as students, have asked him about beginning a football program since day one.
"The first week I was on the job, a school board member's son walked up to me and said, 'So, are we starting football?' Almost every time somebody moves in, their first question is, 'When are you going to start football?'" Stephens went on to note that many community members who no longer have school-aged children have expressed their interest in a football program; believing it would be a great source of pride for the town.
Keene has gone so long without football is presumably due to Friday night competition conflicting with the community members' religious beliefs as there is a large Seventh Day Adventist population in Keene. Seventh-day Adventists observe the sabbath from Friday evening to Saturday evening, so Friday night football would conflict with their holy day.
However, the community continues to grow and the demands of football grow with it. "As growth starts coming toward Keene, we wanted to be able to meet that growth and be prepared," Stephens said while also mentioning that developers ask first about the school district and second about football when they begin to build new communities and neighborhoods in Keene. "We've always said when more housetops come, we'll be forced into football by our constituents. So we wanted to be prepared for that before it arrives."
Keene Athletic Director and Lady Chargers' head basketball coach, John McFarlin, will lead the charge in getting the program running. With prior football coaching experience as Blum's head coach from 2012-15, McFarlin will assume the same role in Keene.
"Having a background in [six-man football] myself, coaching at Blum and having a couple of coaches who know the six-man game a little bit, we feel like that's the best way to ease into the transition of adding football," McFarlin said noting that almost all of the students have zero experience playing football. McFarlin's plan is to spend the first three years playing six-man football in order to build a squad as well as improve playing facilities.
Coaches have already been picked to get the ball rolling for the Chargers football program. The coaches include- Defensive Coordinator Caleb Johnson, Offensive Coordinator Brady Chamberlain, who was an all-state player under McFarlin at Blum, Special Teams Coordinator Rico Bailey, and Assistant Coach Billy Coffin.