Less than a week after the season came to a disappointing end, Marion County High School administrators made Troy Boeck the area's first prep football coaching casualty of the fall.
Boeck had been the Warriors' coach for four seasons, guiding them to the semifinals and quarterfinals in his first two seasons before a drop in talent led to a 5-6 record in 2010 and a program-worst 1-9 finish this year, getting outscored by an average of 45-18 and missing the playoffs for only the second time in 28 years.
"We started eight freshmen and had only two senior starters, so we made a lot of mistakes that you make when you play so many young kids. Heck, we averaged six fumbles per game," said Boeck, who compiled a 24-23 overall record at Marion and made the playoffs in three of his four seasons. "When we had great athletes we accomplished great things. Ultimately I take responsibility for the demise of the program, but I did everything I could short of recruiting kids from Alabama or Chattanooga like other programs.
"I would like to see the program get back on its feet, and I believe we have a lot of positive things in place to get things turned around."
Marion County was the winningest program in the area during the 1990s, claiming four state titles from 1990 to '95. But when Boeck was promoted from his assistant's role in February 2008, he became the program's sixth coach in 11 years. His four-year tenure is the longest of any coach since Ken Colquette resigned in 1996.
"Troy started with a great first year, but he took a small step back each year after that and then took a huge step back this year," Marion County athletic director and assistant principal Larry Ziegler said. "It wasn't all Troy's fault, but as the head coach he's ultimately responsible for the state of the program.
"We appreciate the hard work that Coach Boeck put forth and truly wish this would have worked out as a long-term coaching solution. It's nothing personal, we just felt it was the right time to make a change."
An Augusta, Ga., native, Boeck played at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (1986-91), earning All-America honors his final two seasons, and was the last UTC football player to be a Southern Conference player of the year. After coaching at Rhodes College for four years, and coached in the Arena Football League for one year. He was an assistant at Baylor School for two and South Pittsburg for eight before coming to Marion in 2007.
Boeck guided the team to an 11-3 record in his first season, reaching the semifinals, where they lost at eventual state champion Alcoa. That was the first time the Warriors had advanced past the second round in 13 years and they followed that by reaching the quarterfinals the next season before losing at eventual state runner-up Boyd-Buchanan.
The Warriors had 65 players at summer workouts, but that number fell to 49 to start the season and when they lined up against Chattanooga Christian for the season-finale last Friday, they dressed-out only 29 players. Marion had eight freshmen start this season and finished the year with just two senior starters.
Boeck alluded to a lack of support from the administration as a reason for the program's decline.
"I went to [principal] Sherry Prince before the season and explained how good football programs have weightlifting during the afternoon to work out before practice," Boeck said. "When she said no, I asked what the difference was between having football players in an afternoon weightlifting class and band members going to a music class and she told me that wouldn't work the same because the kids in band were smart and the football kids needed to be in class.
"That's the kind of support we needed to get things turned around. What I'm most disappointed with isn't just the fact that they decided to make a move, but nobody sat down and talked with me about what the issues were. I saw Mrs. Prince four times today and she never said a word to me. I didn't know until Coach Ziegler approached me in the afternoon."
Stephen has covered local sports in the tri-state area for more than 20 years, starting at the News-Free Press as a 19-year-old reporter. He has been with the Times Free Press since its inception and has been an assistant sports editor since 2005. Stephen is among the most decorated writers in the TFP’s newsroom, winning numerous state, regional and national writing awards. He was named one of the top 10 sports writers in the nation ...