By Brian Bloom
For new Barlett Junior High Director of Football Dale Wells, the decision was simple. After more than eight years coaching football, baseball and basketball to area youth, this was a choice to see his work impact future Panther performances.
“In the past, the youth football program wasn’t drawing kids into the high school program,” Wells said. “Too many of the players got siphoned off to private schools – there wasn’t that close association to the high school program. Coach (Jeff) McFerrin is going to change all that. He wants us to incorporate his plans into ours. He wants to uild a feeder program that will help build Bartlett Panther football.”
Bartlett’s Junior High football program incorporates students from Appling Middle, Bon Lin Middle, Elmore Park Middle and Dexter Middle schools.
The problem, Wells explained, was that too many of the best players got involved in Shelby Youth Sports, a county-wide competitive sports organization.
Wells admits he has first hand knowledge of the local middle school’s students’ choice. For years he was a coach and assistant director for the Shelby Youth Sports’ Ellendale team.
“There may be some hard feelings,” Wells shrugged as he goes from a director to a competitor. “But I’m excited about what we can do here in Bartlett. Coach McFerrin has totally revamped the program to focus on player development heading into high school. He (McFerrin) has agreed to have lots of involvement making this more of an educational experience than any recreational league.”
The junior high students that get involved in Bartlett Junior High Football will practice and play at Bartlett High School’s field. They will be schooled in Panther offensive and defensive schemes, preparing them for when they hit the high school gridiron.
“This is just a great fit,” the energetic Wells said. “We have great coaches in place including longtime coach Jonnhie Shepard for the eighth grade team and Alan McFerrin for the seventh grade. Wells will assist with the eighth graders as well as acting as director of the program.
The Houston native and father of three sons sees the revamped junior high program as an important building block to future Panther success.
Players interested in participating in the football program may sign up in early April or call Coach Dale Wells at 901-848-7715.