By Les Dixon / Sports Editor
SOUTH LAUREL — Harlan native Matt Rhymer was introduced as the sixth head coach of the South Laurel football program Tuesday.
South Laurel principal David Cummins was very excited to have Rhymer become the Cardinal football coach.
“We had seven excellent candidates, all with unique talents that could benefit any football team,” he said. “In the end, it was decided that Coach Rhymer had the enthusiasm, the skill and the character we were looking for in the head football coach for South Laurel High School.”
Rhymer takes over a program that posted a 1-10 record this past season while totaling a 6-25 Matt during the last three years.
South Laurel hasn’t posted a winning Matt since former coach Jason Chappell guided the Cardinals to a 6-5 record in 2007. They haven’t won a postseason game dating back to the Nov. 4, 2005 40-28 first round win over Lafayette in the Class 5A playoffs .
Rhymer has hopes of turning the program around, but admitted it’s going to take dedication and hard work from everyone involved with the program.
“Exciting days are ahead for the South Laurel football program and the process begins immediately,” Rhymer said. “Our theme will be ‘Process to Success’, which will highlight three coach areas. First we want to work on our image as individuals and as a team. Our goal will be to promote a positive image for our selves, family, team, school and community. Next we want to see great success in academics. It is very important that our student athletes know the importance of education and preparing for the future.
“Last, but not least, our focus will be on winning, and doing all that it takes to win,” he added. “Our expectation will be to win every time we compete. Losing will not be acceptable, we will only be satisfied with winning. The mindset of winning will have to be established. Our team will have to become mentally tough as soon as possible to see a quicker turn around.”
Rhymer said a “relentless work ethic” will be key to his team’s success.
“The philosophy of South Laurel football is going to be simple — ‘Do what’s right’,” he said. “We will pride ourselves on being better prepared than our opponents mentally and physically. Our approach to all phases of the game will be fundamental and sound. The only way to be successful is to play with a lot of pride, class and character.
“All we can do is outwork our opponents in the weight room, practice field, film room and on Friday nights,” Rhymer added. “I believe if we can buy into the process and do the right things the right way over and over again, we will have success. We must adopt a relentless work ethic, be passionate and face every bit of adversity with a never surrender attitude.”
Rhymer hasn’t named a coaching staff, but admitted it’s one of many things he’s got to do in the near future.
“My job as head football coach will be to generate energy and passion and to gain momentum and sustain it,” he said. “I have to organize the situation, create structure and enforce discipline. As quickly as possible, I have to organize a coaching staff, support staff and assemble the team. From that point it will be a process of evaluation and putting every person in the best position for them and the team to be successful.”
Rhymer, 28, is a 2001 graduate from Harlan High School and played four years at the University of the Cumberlands. He also coached Cumberlands defensive line (2007-2011) and was part of four Mid-South Conference championship teams.
He coached offensive line and defensive secondary this past year at Oneida High School in Tennessee. Oneida posted a 9-2 Matt in 2012 and was ranked as high as No. 2 in the state during the season.
“I am excited for the opportunity to meet the team and begin the ‘Process to Success’,” Rhymer said. “These kids, like all other kids, are special. They deserve the best I have to offer as a teacher, coach and mentor leader. I am committed to South Laurel High School and plan to invest myself completely to them, this team, the families and this community.”