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Former South Laurel standout quarterback Ricky Bowling addresses the Cardinals after a recent practice. Bowling, along with former teammate Stephen Quillen, are in their first year as assistant coaches for Hunter Jackson at South Laurel.

Ricky Bowling and Stephen Quillen know a little something about the tradition of South Laurel football.

The two graduated in 2009 and during their years on the varsity team the Cardinals went 22-22 and made the playoffs three out of the four years, once advancing to the second round. During their senior season, Bowling threw for 2,623 yards and 37 touchdowns. He still is the co-holder of the state record for touchdowns in a career with 133, tied with the legendary Tim Couch.

Quillen was just as dangerous his senior season, rushing for 667 yards and seven touchdowns while also catching 46 passes for 494 yards and seven touchdowns.

Now those two bring their knowledge of the game and what it means to play at South Laurel back to their Alma mater as assistant coaches under new coach Hunter Jackson.

“Both of them have great futures in coaching,” Jackson said. Even though neither had coached before, Jackson said he had no trepidation in hiring them.

“They have been able to pick things up really quickly,” Jackson. “They have a great rapport with the players and the players respect them. They can tell those two are knowledgeable about football. Sometimes you can have someone who has coached for years and are very hard-headed and not open to change. These two are willing to learn.”

For Bowling, coaching has always been something he has wanted to do.

“It’s always been a dream of mine to coach,” Bowling said. “And I wanted to bring what I know about the game back to where I played. A lot of our alumni don’t come back to help keep the tradition going. This year it worked out that I was able to.”

Quillen never thought about coaching until he got a call from his old teammate asking him if he would be interested in helping out at South Laurel.

“I thought about it and decided to do it,” Quillen said. “I want to teach these players the same sense of pride I had here at South Laurel and I want to see the program succeed.”

Jackson said that Bowling has been working with the quarterbacks, and that starter Jon Jenkins “is responding well to Ricky.”

“He has really taken to Bowling and the hybrid offense we are running,” Jackson said. Bowling has been impressed with Jenkins ability.

“He’s really excited about the passing offense we are running,” Bowling said. “He’s a senior and has taken the leadership role very seriously. He wants this season to be successful, and he has a lot stronger arm than I did.”

Both Bowling and Quillen noted that it has been quite a challenge being on the sidelines coaching as opposed to playing.

“It’s been quite the transition,” Bowling said. “Taking what I know and trying to teach it to these players as best as I can. But it hasn’t been as hard as I thought it would be.”

“Coaching has actually helped me learn more about the game of football,” Quillen said. “The biggest difference is having to learn a whole lot more of the offense. I miss playing but this is a great way to get me back into the sport that I love. But it has been tough; it makes me want to suit up and play.”

The two also spoke of wanting to instill a sense of pride in playing football at South Laurel.

“I want these kids to know what they have here is special,” Quillen said. “Me and Ricky played here and I want them to know what it’s like to play at South Laurel. This school has been great to me.”

“I played here and grew up here,” Bowling said. “These kids can relate to me and Stephen. This was a great place to play football at.”

Jackson said it helps that the two are closer in age to the players who are now on the team. He believes they can relate better because many on the team watched these two play when they were in high school.

“I just hope that I can keep them on my staff for the long haul,” Jackson said.

sports@sentinel-echo.com

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