Instead of returning to defend his District 20-2A championship, Kerens Bobcats coach Mike Loveless will join his mentor and friend in trying to defend a Class 5A Division I state title.

Loveless returns to the coaching staff of newly-appointed Southlake Carroll Dragons coach Hal Wasson as an assistant on board one of the most prolific programs in the state. Loveless — who leaves Kerens with a 48-24 record in his six seasons as head coach — started his coaching career under Wasson as an assistant at Pittsburg High School and followed him for many seasons until taking over his first head coaching job with the Bobcats.

“It’s an opportunity that I wasn’t about to turn down,” Loveless said. “When (Hal) got the job, I got a hold of him and told him I was interested. As it turned out, he had a spot for me.”

Wasson said he was looking for someone who fit and the Bobcats coach was a “no-brainer.” Once Loveless contacted the Kerens native about spots on the Dragons’ coaching staff, Wasson said he was flattered that his former assistant wanted to share the same sideline once again.

“I think Mike brings a lot to the table for me personally and to our Dragon family,” Wasson said. “Not only is he a good football coach, he’s a good math teacher, a good family man and the (administration) was very impressed.”

Wasson — a former Kerens coach and Keller Fossil Ridge coach — was announced as the Dragons’ new coach on Jan. 29, replacing Todd Dodge who took the head coaching position at North Texas. In the last five seasons, Dodge led Carroll to four 5A state titles with a 79-1 record.

With Wasson retaining seven assistants from Dodge’s staff, Loveless will be the first of three positions Wasson hopes to fill by the end of the week. Wasson said he hopes Loveless can help out in the trenches as a possible defensive tackles coach.

“We’ve got a target on our chests over here,” Wasson said. “When I get in the trenches, I want to be with a guy that I know’s got my back. I know he’s got my back.”

Loveless said he tendered his resignation, Tuesday, but will remain at Kerens until March 1, the starting date of his new position.

The Kerens coach gathered his players, Tuesday, and informed them of his career change. Loveless — who spent nine of his 16 coaching seasons with the Bobcats — said it wasn’t fun telling the players.

“I told them that, ‘I want you to be a little sad because that means that you didn’t want me to go,” Loveless said, “but I don’t want you to be real sad because you’ll be O.K.’

“I told them that I hope that you don’t hate me and I hope that you understand it’s a position where we have got to do what’s best for our families.”

Kerens superintendent Kevin Stanford said Loveless will be missed.

“He’s the real deal. He’s very authentic,” Stanford said. “He’s a great mentor and role model for our kids and our other coaches, as well.”

Stanford doesn’t expect to have the head coaching position filled by Loveless’ departure date. Along with Loveless, Stanford posted the job, Tuesday, on multiple coaching and administrative sites around Texas hoping to receive plenty of applicants by mid-March and to fill the position with a suitable candidate by April 2.

“We will be checking references and all, and the question will be if they’ve not yet had an (athletic director) position or a head coaching position, are they ready?” Stanford said. “Does their current supervisor feel like they’re ready to step into that role and lead an athletic program?”

The Texas high school football rumor mill was blowing quickly because within hours of posting the job, Stanford said he was already receiving calls about the position.

Often seen as a teacher over a coach, Loveless leaves Kerens hoping that Carroll can teach him a few things as his coaching career begins to take off. Loveless never specified whether he will use the position as a stepping stone to a larger role. The Kerens coach was more excited about connecting with his mentor and continuing to be a student of the game he loves.

“The thing I’m looking for is going in and doing my best that I can do for a program that’s already established themselves —highly successful program,” Loveless said. “I’m learning from them. I may be there 10 to 15 years. That would be fine with me.”

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Phillip Barnhard may be contacted via e-mail at pbarnhard@corsicanadailysun.com.

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