GOLDTHWAITE — Keith Virdell, who guided the Sudan Hornets to a 9-2 record last year, was hired this past Wednesday as the new head football coach of the Goldthwaite Eagles.
“We had 58 applicants, and Coach Virdell was the cream of the crop,” said Rusty Hollingsworth, principal at Goldthwaite High School. “He’s exactly what we need as a head coach during a time with a lot of drama going on. He will guide our athletic program out of that situation.”
The drama includes the departures of six of the eight Goldthwaite High School and Middle School boys’ coaches — at last count. The departures include:
• head football coach and boys’ athletic coordinator Greg Proffitt to the same position at Wellington,
• defensive coordinator and head track coach Andy Howard to Brownwood as receivers coach and track coach,
• assistant coach Colton Brewer to an assistant’s position at Junction,
• assistant coach and middle school coordinator Kia McCarty to Hermleigh as head boys’ basketball coach,
• assistant coach Blaine Dyess to an oilfield job in West Texas, and
• head baseball coach Jess Seward, who plans to remain at Goldthwaite as a teacher only.
As of last week, head basketball coach Jeffrey Head was the only Goldthwaite boys’ coach that seemed for sure to be staying with the school. Tyson Swanner, an assistant football and baseball coach, was still deciding if he wanted to stay in coaching or just be a teacher at Goldthwaite.
None of the departing Goldthwaite coaches would comment on the mass exodus, although it is widely known around town that the school board and administration had been at odds. Multiple faculty members said that negativity had trickled down and left them feeling unsupported. That situation may be in the past since the school board voted last week to extend superintendent Ronny Wright’s contract.
Virdell, who grew up from junior high through high school at Marble Falls, won his first nine games in his first season as a head coach at Sudan in 2018. His Class 2A Division II football team finished 9-2 after losing its starting quarterback and running back to injuries in the Hornets’ final regular-season game. The nine wins were Sudan’s most since 2012.
Previously, Virdell was offensive coordinator at Class 3A Florence from 2014-2017, running backs coach at 6A Midland Lee in 2013 and offensive line coach at 4A Lampasas from 2007-2012.
“He’s a Central Texas guy, being from Marble Falls and having coached at Lampasas and Florence,” Hollingsworth said. “He’s a man of faith and that’s super important.
“He’s about carrying on our tradition in football (four state championships in 1985, 1993, 1994 and 2009) and holding kids accountable. He wants to raise great fathers, husbands and citizens. We’re excited.”
Virdell’s 2018 Sudan team leaned on a defense that allowed 10.3 points during its nine wins. Offensively, Virdell bases out of the run-oriented Slot-T.
Prior to coaching, Virdell walked on at the University of Texas and lettered as an offensive lineman in 2002, when he also made the All-Big 12 Academic Team.
Proffitt and Head were Goldthwaite’s co-head football coaches during the 2012 and 2013 football seasons, which produced records of 7-6 and 8-5, respectively, along with back-to-back state quarterfinal appearances. Proffitt was promoted to head football coach in 2014 and posted a 27-29 record through the 2018 season. His best season was 10-3 in 2015, but since a 6-1 start in 2016, the Eagles have lost 19 of their last 25 games. They finished 4-7 in 2017 and 1-9 last year.
In 2018, the Eagles suffered from low numbers and players leaving the program. The JV schedule had to be scrapped during the season because of low numbers, and as many as eight freshmen started at one time or another on the varsity. Multiple injuries also handcuffed the 2018 Eagles, who allowed a school-record 466 points in 10 games.
At Wellington, Proffitt will take over a program that is 38-5 over the last three years, with back-to-back state semifinal appearances in 2016 and 2017, plus a regional-round appearance during last year’s 12-1 finish. The Skyrockets also won the Class 1A (present-day 2A) Division II state championship in 2013, and have won 122 of their last 144 games overall.
The Wellington vacancy occurred when Wade Williams retired as head coach in March.
Greg Proffitt followed his dad, Gary Proffitt, who won 252 games and three state championships at Goldthwaite as head coach from 1986-2011. That means this fall the Eagles will be coached by someone other than a Proffitt family member for the first time in 34 years.