Great Crossing High School dubbed its season-by-season unveiling of next year’s athletic staff as Meet the Coaches Night.
To a proud community’s credit, however, many times no introduction was necessary. The new school capitalized on Scott County High School’s ongoing golden age of success by promoting a majority of the upstart Warhawks’ leaders from within the district.
Chief among those familiar faces: Three-time KHSAA championship softball coach Jeff Portwood, who highlighted the group of six introduced in Tuesday’s spring sports reveal at Elkhorn Crossing School.
That didn’t put the former Scott County skipper above a little lighthearted ribbing from GCHS principal Joy Lusby, who noted that prompting Portwood to provide the autobiography for his official introduction “was like pulling teeth.”
Lusby then excused Portwood by acknowledging his recent list of professional and family commitments, including a playoff run with SC softball and the birth of twin grandsons. She also recounted a conversation with district athletic director Daniel-Taylor Wells, who reminded Lusby that the coach’s resume sufficiently writes itself.
“He said, ‘Good Lord, Joy, he’s won state championships in 2014, 2016 and 2018. What more do you need to know?’” Lusby recalled.
Then she turned to Portwood. “Brother, I’m not a math teacher, nor am I a statistician, but you won in 2014, 2016 and 2018, so I’m pretty sure that puts your next one as next year.”
With the collective introduction of Portwood, Greg Stratton (baseball), Nick Slucher (boys’ track and field), Glenn Wilson (girls’ track and field), Jessica Catron (tennis) and Dewayne Hancock (bass fishing), now begins the real process of building that tradition.
Portwood put the starting-over element in perspective when he met with the first wave of players and parents for his new team, many of whom played at least a peripheral role in Scott County’s 2018 championship run.
“We’re beginning fresh. We have no money. We’re starting at the ground level, so we have to start a boosters’ club as quickly as possible,” Portwood said. “Boosters are going to take us off. We’ve got a lot of money to raise. We want everything to be top-level for these young ladies over here. Whatever they want, I feel like they should get, so it’s going to take some hard work on our end.”
Part of building the new brand, Portwood added, is developing team togetherness.
“Coming together here today is a beginning. Staying together is progress, and then working together is the success. If all of us keep that in mind, it will be an easy venture, and that’s my motto going in,” Portwood said. “Chemistry makes it work. I’ve been on teams that had good chemistry that won championships. Not-so-good chemistry makes your season short sometimes.”
Stratton stressed the same philosophy while meeting with more than 60 baseball prospects.
“One of the things I want to do with the development of the young men is that freshman to varsity, it’s the same program,” Stratton said. “I don’t isolate them and say, ‘This is freshman, JV and varsity.’ All my coaching, everything will be done the same. We’re going to do it all together. One of the big things when I interview (potential assistant) coaches is they have to buy into that. That’s just a big piece with me.”
Stratton announced that baseball will host a series of “mini camps” after the KHSAA dead period ends July 10, with fall workouts starting after everyone gets acclimated to the new school.
When a player asked if Great Crossing would follow Scott County’s tradition of taking a southern trip during spring vacation, Stratton said he is pursuing a couple of possibilities and hopes to finalize the details soon.
Wilson will pull double duty as Great Crossing’s first coach for both girls’ basletball and girls’ track and field.
He has been a coach for all seasons since graduating from Georgetown College 24 years ago.
“It’s nothing new,” Wilson said. “A little more paperwork.”
He and Slucher will have more time to work out their plan for the program. Track and field is a numbers game which tends to be won by word-of-mouth in the hallways of the school.
“Coach Wilson and I can kind of gather our thoughts, put our heads together, and then come into next season having everything ready to roll,” Slucher, who will teach biology at GCHS, said. “All the equipment at the new school, it’s exciting.”
Will the new teams be poised to win right away? The principal sounded as if that is her plan.
“When we come back (in July), we’re going to hit the ground running, and I hope we’re going to load the trophy case with trophies next year,” Lusby said. “That’s exactly what I hope we’re going to start doing.”
Kal Oakes can be reached via email at email@example.com.