One question leaps out at you when a football coach takes over a program that has posted back-to-back 0-10 seasons.
For new Dawson coach Larry Prince, the answer to that question is one you’d hear from almost every coach that’s called a play or put on a headset.
“It’s a challenge,” said Prince, who is 44 and takes on his second head coaching job. “It’s a challenge to take over a struggling program.”
There are other reasons Prince left Bandera after six seasons, where his teams went 24-35 and made the playoffs three times in six years.
He and his wife Jackie and their children Hunter and Caitlin are only a few hours away from family instead of seven.
Prince was on the same coaching staff in Garrison — his hometown — as Dawson ISD’s superintendent Stacy Henderson. Ask every coach, support from your administration matters, and it’s paid off already.
And Prince didn’t say it, but he probably wanted to get away from his quarterback curse in Bandera. His starter went down with a season-ending injury his last three years. Bandera missed the playoffs all three seasons.
“We decided we weren’t going to call the position quarterback anymore,” Prince said.
Know that Prince has seen winning, so he’s confident he can build it back in Dawson. He was as assistant coach for nine years in Garrrison, his last four as the defensive coordinator. Garrison made the state finals in 2001 and won a state championship in 2003.
Prince left for powerhouse Tatum in 2005 and took over as defensive coordinator there. Tatum won back-to-back state championships in 2005 and 2006.
“Larry is extremely highly qualified,” Henderson said. “We’re lucky we were able to get a coach of his caliber. We know it will take time to build a program. We’re not expecting any miracles. But we are expecting improvement over the time.”
So can Prince take what he’s learned during as an assistant and head coach and turn around a Dawson program that hasn’t won a game since 2010?
He’s starting from the ground up, and that begins for most coaches with the offseason program. He had to make aesthetic changes.
If there was one thing Prince said, ‘wow, I’ve got to fix this right now,’ when he took over in Dawson, it was the weight room. The equipment in the weight room.
“We had to upgrade it,” Prince said. “We had to bring it into the modern era.”
That’s where support from your administration comes in to play. Dawson has made the necessary changes. Henderson is quick to point out that 200 student-athletes at Dawson use a weight room that hadn’t been updated in 15 years.
“The school district was behind us all the way,” Prince said.
Now comes the on the field part. Dawson has a scrimmage Friday against Riesel. The Bulldogs open their season in eight days against Cross Roads.
Prince isn’t walking into this blind. He has 30 players out for varsity. Dawson won’t field a junior varsity squad.
That’s OK. Again, this is about building a foundation. The enthusiasm has been there from his players during two-a-days and the goal is to keep it there.
“Larry has a relentless work ethic,” Henderson said. “He has high expectations for his coaches that work under him and his players. He’s a high character person.”
If there’s been one thing that told Prince, ‘I can win here,” it’s the attitude of his 30-man squad.
“The kids are hungry now,” Prince said. “They want to win. This year is going to be a learning year for everybody. We’re going to make sure we’re putting a better product on the field.”
Prince, who ran the offense his last four seasons in Bandera, took over a Dawson program with an incumbent quarterback, Brandon Cehand, but it will be Lane Dotson who will be his starter against Cross Roads.
But also know that Prince learned something in Bandera. He’ll have two quarterbacks ready to play this season.
“I want to make sure we have the best starter we have and a very capable backup,” Prince said.
He’s up for most challenges, including stopping a 21-game losing streak, but he’d prefer not to be in another quarterback bind.
“That was tough,” Prince said. “There is competitiveness that drives every coach. They see a challenge out there and they want to know if they can do that challenge.”