First, the bad news for Great Crossing High School football: The Warhawks have lost their first football coach before the first coin flip, open-field tackle or touchdown of their inaugural season.
That unforeseen fall is braced, however, by the school district’s ability to quickly fill the void with a leader who’s been everywhere and seen it all on the Bluegrass gridiron.
Jason Chappell has resigned the head coaching position for family reasons, namely the challenges involved with selling his home in Corbin.
“To say I’m very sorry certainly isn’t adequate,” Chappell said. “I loved the players, the parents and the staff we had put together. Everyone in the community has been awesome. I was very excited about the direction of the program. To say I’ll be their biggest fan going forward is an understatement.”
Stepping into those shoes is Paul Rains, who is a big name to anyone who has followed the sport locally over the past three decades.
“It is kind of exciting to start a program from scratch, and we are definitely starting from scratch,” Rains said.
Rains, a native of Williamsburg, retired after the 2015 season, presumably ending a career in which he won a total of 208 games for seven different schools: Hazard, Montgomery County, Madison Central, Lexington Christian, Mercer County, Letcher Central and Paul Laurence Dunbar.
His resume is a veritable trophy case of championships, including one state, two semi-state, five region and 10 district.
“As I told Coach Rains, they’ve upgraded,” Chappell said with a laugh. “He has a state championship ring on his finger. If he’d applied for the job in the first place, I’m sure he would have gotten it.”
Retirement is often a loose term for people with coaching in their blood, and Rains was no exception.
“I’m retiring from teaching this Friday, got my papers all submitted,” said Rains, who concluded that career in the mathematics department at Scott County High School. “I was up at 4 o’clock this morning, and guess what I was already thinking about?”
Rains coached the Scott County High School freshman team and served as a varsity assistant since leaving Dunbar.
Great Crossing’s first game will be against Scott County in the “Battle of the Birds,” Friday, Aug. 23 at the still unfinished stadium the two schools will share.
“Our biggest opponent right now is time,” Rains said. “We’re obviously young, but we have some good senior leaders, and we’ll be fundamentally sound. I’m looking forward to seeing them put down some green [turf] on that field right quick.”
Chappell worked under Rains for two years at Madison Central and made his mentor one of the first appointments to his inaugural staff.
Chappell was hired in January. He and his staff conducted weekly skills camps at Georgetown Middle School throughout the spring, with between 45 and 65 players in attendance.
“Jason was kind of the reason I wanted to get involved in the first place,” Rains said. “I’ve been working with him since February. I was really excited about the progress we’d made, and I hated to see the program possibly go in a different direction.”
Great Crossing was Chappell’s fifth stop as a head coach after previous stints at Perry County Central, South Laurel, Campbellsville and Whitley County.
Whitley County had won only three total games in two years before Chappell took over and guided them to a 29-28 record in his five seasons.
Chappell, 42, is married with three young children.
“When I took the job in January, there was no doubt in my mind we would sell our house,” Chappell said. “The Corbin market isn’t the Georgetown market by any means, but it’s still a good market.”
He estimated that his family has shown the house 20 times without an offer.
“It got to the point where we talked about me driving up there and maybe staying over a couple nights a week,” Chappell said. “The closer we came to the start of the season and that being a reality, I just didn’t have any peace. I love coaching the game of football, but not ahead of my family.”
By resigning both his coaching and classroom positions, Chappell said he isn’t even sure where he will be employed in the fall.
He praised superintendent Dr. Kevin Hub, GCHS principal Joy Lusby and district athletic director Daniel-Taylor Wells for their support during his brief tenure.
Rains said he enters the new role energized after three seasons behind the scenes.
“It isn’t something I’d thought about lately,” Rains said. “I thought I’d gotten off that horse, but I guess I’m back in the saddle.”
The veteran coach said it is fair to say he will consider his status one year at a time, but he also doesn’t see himself being one-and-done.
“Where I’m retiring from teaching, I’m in a pretty good situation being able to watch film and prepare all day,” Rains said. “I probably have a lot more free time to devote to it. And when you think about what we’re doing, the first year is going to be the hardest.”