With a roster chock full of underclassmen, Victory Life Academy head football coach Joey Bishop has loaded up his coaching staff with knowledgeable assistants.

New additions to the Warriors staff include former VLA standout Frankie Valencia, a 2010 graduate who helped guide Victory Life to its initial postseason successes. Also new is Sean Lewis, a former Brookesmith native who has coached at Longview Trinity, as well as with the North Texas Longhorns semi-pro team. The final addition to the staff is a three-time state champion and the holder of countless six-man offensive records, former Richland Springs Coyote Tyler Ethridge.

“What we really want to do is build this program from the bottom up, junior high through,” Bishop said. “We want to teach them what we want as sixth graders and build that up through high school. We want to make it a program, not just where we have a couple of years of success and a couple of good players. We want to teach them the game and bring in some things they haven’t done before.”

Ethridge, who is also gearing up to play in a six-man alumni football game May 19, took the job at VLA after his passion for the game returning, following its lengthy absence.

“I got bitter toward football for a lot of reasons and sort of ran away from it for probably three years,” Ethridge said. “My mother, who lives here in Brownwood, mentioned helping out at Victory Life. I didn’t want anything to do with football or coaching at the time, I was just searching. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. But my mother kept pressing me to go to VLA and see what happens. 

“I trusted my mother, trusted my faith and last August I checked it out. One thing led to another and I was offered a maintenance job and physical education and ended up coaching junior high football and basketball and high school basketball. I didn’t do much high school football.”

Ethridge’s duties have changed significantly heading into the 2013 campaign as he will serve as the Warriors offensive coordinator. And Ethridge is picking up tips from Throckmorton head coach Mike Reed, who is serving as Ethridge’s coach in the alumni game.

“I’ve learned so much from him the last two weeks on how to shape a program,” Ethridge side. “He’s probably one of the top three six-man coaches right now. I’m taking a lot of ideas from him. His offense works for all types of kids because there’s a lot of play-action, two-route options, everything’s scripted.”

Lewis, who will be stepping into the defensive coordinator’s role, wants to help the Warriors prepare to play at a higher level.

“I’ve coached at Longview Trinity, which is another TAPPS school and we made it to the state quarterfinals twice,” Lewis said. “I coach running backs for the North Texas Longhorns, which is a semi-pro team in Plano, and I worked at the University of Texas summer camps.

“That’s helped bring organization and a mindset of a higher performance, which they haven’t been able to get yet.”

The Warriors are still extremely inexperienced, which can also make them more impressionable to philosophy changes.

“The past few years they’ve played a lot of young kids, and they’re still really young, but they’re finally to a point where they are ready to play,” Lewis said. “They understand it, they’re not just thrown into the mix. I looking forward to them stepping into their roles. The kids just have to buy into the program.”

Valencia, meanwhile, hopes to help the program return to the status it enjoyed just a few seasons ago — ranked in the Top 10 and making a run toward a state championship.

“I want to see the program move forward,” Valencia said. “They need to forget about what happened last season. They still have a lot of potential and room to grow. There’s nowhere to go but up.”

Valencia also feels being a former Warrior himself, he’ll be better able to relate with the 2013 members of the roster.

“Coaching wise, I think I’ll bring some excitement and motivation to the table,” Valencia said. “I can help them see things from a player’s perspective. They don’t need to worry so much about winning and losing but keeping their eyes on the ultimate prize, which is getting better.”