By Denis House
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
“Exciting days are ahead for South Laurel football, and the process begins immediately.”
Those were the words of Matt Rhymer as he was introduced Tuesday afternoon as the new head football coach at South Laurel High School.
Rhymer comes to South Laurel from Oneida High School in Tennessee, where he coached the offensive line and defensive secondary for a team that went 9-2 in 2012, captured their district title and was ranked as high as No. 2 in the state during the season. Prior to that, he coached the defensive line for five years at the University of the Cumberlands and was part of four Mid-South Conference championship teams from 2007-2011. He played four years at Cumberlands and graduated in 2006. He is a 2001 graduate of Harlan Independent School.
“We had seven excellent candidates, all with unique talents that could benefit any football team,” South Laurel principal David Cummins said prior to introducing Rhymer. “In the end, it was decided that Coach Rhymer had the enthusiasm, the skill, and the character we were looking for in the head football coach at South Laurel High School. We are pleased to have Coach Rhymer joining us here at South Laurel High and eagerly anticipate seeing the aspirations he has for South Laurel football.”
This will be Rhymer’s first head coaching job and he is looking forward to the challenges it will present. The Cardinals finished with a 1-9 record last year under Larry Welch, who retired after four years at the helm of South Laurel.
“First off I want to thank God for this opportunity of being the head football coach at South Laurel High School,” Rhymer said. “Without God, I know I would not be in this position. I want to thank my wife and family for all the love and support along the way. My thanks go to the University of the Cumberlands where I began my coaching career, and Oneida High School where I most recently coached. At those two schools I worked with two of the greatest men and coaches of our day, John Bland (UC) and Tony Lambert (Oneida). Next I want to thank superintendent Doug Bennett, principal David Cummins, athletic director Keith Gilbert, along with the entire interviewing committee for selecting me as the next head football coach at South Laurel.”
Rhymer set the tone right away for what he wants South Laurel football to become.
“Our theme will be ‘Process to Success’,” Rhymer said. “This will highlight three core areas. First we want to work on our image as individuals and as a team. Our goal will be to promote a positive image for ourselves, family, team, school and community. Next we want to see great success in academics. It is very important that our student-athletes know the importance of education and preparing for the future. Last but not least our focus will be on winning, and doing all that it takes to win. Our expectation will be to win every time we compete. Losing will not be acceptable; we will only be satisfied with winning. The mindset of winning will have to be established. Our team will have to become mentally tough as soon as possible to see a quicker turnaround.”
The Cardinals have not had back-to-back winning seasons since a three-year stretch under Coach Jep Irwin from 2003-2005, where South went 6-5, 7-4 and 9-3. It was during the 9-3 season of 2005 that the Cardinals last advanced to the second round in the playoffs.
“The philosophy of South Laurel football is going to be simple, ‘Do what’s right’,” Rhymer said. “We will pride ourselves on being better prepared than our opponents mentally and physically. Our approach to all phases of the game will be fundamental and sound. The only way to be successful is to play with a lot of pride, class and character. All we can do is outwork our opponents in the weight room, practice field, film room and on Friday nights. I believe if we can buy into the process and do things the right way over and over again, we will have success. We must adopt a relentless work ethic, be passionate and face every bit of adversity with a never surrender attitude.”
Rhymer said that he welcomes the support of former alumni like Neil Warren.
“Neil seems to be very excited and committed to being an advocate for us, and for that I am very thankful,” Rhymer said. “I’m looking forward to building those relationships with guys who care about this program and have investment in the situation. It’s really exciting to see those guys step forward and say they are on board and want South Laurel football to be great. We need that type of support, and we want to see those guys come around and be part of what we are doing.” Warren was quarterback of the 1999 team that went 11-2 and reached the quarterfinals of the state playoffs.
“In addition I look forward to engaging the London community and building quality relationships. Our team needs a lot of support from students, families and the community to be successful. If we all get involved I believe it will be an exciting time and great memories will be made. I want our team to be connected to the community, and represent it well.”
Rhymer becomes the sixth coach in South Laurel history. Jack Eicher led the Cardinals for six years, followed by Randy Leger (4), Jep Irwin (4), Jason Chappell (3) and Welch (4).
“At South Laurel High School our football team will humbly try and keep our priorities in order, Faith, Family and Football,” Rhymer said. “At the end of everyday faith and family are the most important aspects of our lives and football is a game. Most of all I am excited for the opportunity to meet the team and begin the ‘Process to Success.’ These kids like all other kids are special; they deserve the best I have to offer as a teacher, coach and mentor leader. I am committed to South Laurel High School and plan to invent myself completely to them, this team, the families and this community.”