By Ashley Scoby, Summer Intern
It’s a hot summer night and the sun is blazing down, but the football field at LaRue County High School is alive with action. Guys streak across the field, as they play a game of 7-on-7 two-hand-touch football. The game easily could be in someone’s backyard at a summer barbeque – laughter is reverberating across the field and there are roars of delight when someone makes a particularly impressive catch.
But this is practice for the LaRue County Hawks, and one of the last informal workouts before the summer’s dead period begins. It’s also the sign of a new era of LaRue County football. Coach Josh Jaggers is the new man at the helm after Rodney Armes left the position after 16 years. Jaggers is already making his own mark on the program.
Jaggers, who has been an assistant on the LaRue staff for the previous four seasons, had two other head coaching opportunities before he took the Hawks’ job – one at Taylor County and one at Shelby Valley. Neither one was the right “fit,” according to Jaggers – not to mention he wanted the LaRue job. Now, he has that position, and it’s a dream come true for the man who has been around football his whole life.
Jaggers is the grandson of legendary Kentucky high school football coach Joe Jaggers, and is the son of Marty Jaggers, who has also seen his fair share of success as a coach. His family history is why many know his name, but Josh Jaggers is starting to make a name for himself. And it will begin with his work at LaRue County. Without that family tree, however, the learning curve for the youngest Jaggers would have been much steeper.
“I’m sure people are tired of me bringing my dad and my granddad up but I’ve been so blessed to grow up around this game and around people who not only know the game but who have been successful,” Jaggers said. “They’re my rock.”
Jaggers had a football in his hand since he was 7 years old, but was also talented enough to continue with the sport in college. After his days playing at Danville High School, Jaggers earned a scholarship to play football at the University of Kentucky. He transferred to Campbellsville University to finish out his playing days, however, after UK was hit with probation in 2002. Being involved with so much football in his life gave Jaggers not only the experience he needs as a coach, but also the “X’s and O’s” kind of knowledge necessary for any coach.
“I’ve been able to be around a lot of different systems and a lot of success,” Jaggers said. “I added it up the other day, and with Coach (Sam) Harp (Danville High School), Coach (Mark) Peach (Campbellsville University), Mike Lewis (previous offensive coordinator for LCHS), my dad and my granddad, I have played for or coached with coaches that have 21 state championship appearances and 14 state championships.”
All of those different coaching styles have given Jaggers plenty of experiences to draw from to create his own coaching style. He wants to incorporate more of a hybrid-style offense, where the quarterback would be more of a dual-threat athlete rather than just a pure passer. Plays from a “Wildcat” system will also be possible.
All the scheming and the designing of different plays will be important, but not crucial, according to Jaggers. His priority is to stick with the tried-and-true fundamentals of football.
“Football is kind of like fashion,” he said. “You have a lot of trends but it always comes back to the same stuff.”
What football always comes back to, according to LaRue’s coach, are three main components: avoiding turnovers, running the football and playing great defense.
“You can be great if you do all three of those,” Jaggers said. “If you’re good at only two of them, you’ll win about two-thirds of your games. If you can’t do any of them, well, you’re probably not going to win at all.”
A combination of football fundamentals and a new hybrid offense is the mixture Jaggers hopes will create a winning football program at LaRue County this year. Another goal of his: to make Friday night football in the county truly an event, rather than just a game.
“No other time, outside of Lincoln Days, do people in this area get together more than out here on Friday nights,” he said. “I want to make it an event this season – bring your kids, bring your grills out. We’re going to have music playing two or three hours before the game. Then we’re going to try to win a few games to make it even better.”
Winning starts with practice, as the old sports adage goes, and Jaggers is determined to make those long summer nights of the first football practices enjoyable and something the players don’t want to avoid. That was the purpose of the 7-on-7 game– to give the players a chance to let loose and have a little fun before they have to put their noses to the grindstone as the season draws nearer.
“Stalking the sideline” is what most sports lovers say coaches do, but Jaggers isn’t your stereotypical coach. He’s right in the middle of the players during the informal session – encouraging, laughing, throwing his arms in the air when one of the touch football captains passes for a touchdown.
The winning team jumps around, yelling and celebrating as football players do. Then one of the players runs toward Jaggers for a chest bump and a congratulatory pat on the back.
Jaggers walks back over to the sideline with a chuckle, shaking his head. Almost to himself, he says, “Man, this is what it’s all about.”