By Les Dixon for the Times-Tribune
It hasn't been easy, but Williamsburg coach Jerry Herron now has his Yellow Jacket football program considered as one of the best in the state in Class A.
The Yellow Jackets are winners of six district championships since Herron took over as head coach seven years ago. The team has reached the Class A, Region 3 championship game three straight years, while winning the program's first-ever region crown this past Friday by defeating Hazard, 21-7.
But that's not all.
The Yellow Jackets have now won at least 10 games during the past two seasons, while accomplishing the feat four times during Herron's tenure.
“It's not been easy,” Herron said. “We have battled and battled to get where we are today. (Former) coach Jim Black built a good foundation here, and we have now taken another step. It's been a long process, but we did it.”
Herron credits his feeder programs as to being one of the main reasons Williamsburg has turned into a consistent contender each season.
“That was key,” he said. “The big thing is our feeder programs at various levels. That has really made us what we are today. When I took the job as the head coach here, I wanted to make sure our feeder programs continued to improve.
“The coaches and players worked hard at the younger levels, and they continued the process once they reached the varsity level,” Herron added. “Like I said, it's been hard work, and has taken a while, but everything we have done has paid off.”
Herron said when he took over as head coach, his team's main goal was to capture the district championship each season. Once the Yellow Jackets began to accomplish the feat at a consistent rate, he admitted his team goals expanded.
“We wanted to win the district, that was our main goal when I first started here as head coach,” he said. “But once we began to reach the region championship game, we knew this program could make a run at the region, and that was another goal we wanted to achieve.”
Williamsburg had back-to-back heartbreaks during the 2011 and 2012 region title games — losing to Hazard both times. In 2011, the Yellow Jackets were their own worst enemy by turning the ball over and failing to score during a 28-0 loss at home to the Bulldogs.
In 2012, many thought Williamsburg would upend Hazard, but once again, offensive woes hurt the Yellow Jackets' chances of winning a region title.
The Yellow Jackets turned the ball over three times, and misfired on many opportunities in the red zone, which turned out to hurt them in the end.
Hazard scored the game's lone touchdown with less than three minutes remaining in regulation and eliminated Williamsburg, 7-0.
“That was a tough loss,” Herron admitted. “We really thought we had a good chance of winning, and to lose in the final minutes like we did was rough. I told our guys after the loss, we would work hard for a year, so we could get a chance to play Hazard again.”
The Yellow Jackets did that by starting the season 2-2 before finishing regular season play with a five-game win streak. Williamsburg cruised past its first two opponents in the Class 'A' playoffs before upending Hazard, 21-7, in the region title game this past Friday.
“It's been a pretty wild ride,” Herron said. “It hasn't been easy and we've been trying our best to improve each year to get to the point we're at out.”
With Hazard out of the way, the only thing that stands between the Yellow Jackets and an appearance in the Class A state championship game is battle-tested Raceland.
“It's going to be a big test for us,” Herron said. “We've got to come in focused and take care of business.”