|PIERCE CITY -- Gregory McVay Whitehead is the new Pierce City Eagles football coach, and he's not wasting a minute. Making the daily commute from Miami, Okla. to oversee the off-season power-lifting program, Whitehead is full throttle in shaping his varsity program.|
"I'm a product of who coached me and all that I took in since," said Whitehead, referring to all the years he's been an assistant coach since he ran up and down the field as a two-time All-State running back at Seneca High School in the early 1990s.
Long-time local football fans might recall the name he goes by - "Mac" Whitehead, for it was against Monett, as a high school junior, that he ran his first 200-yard game, which is what he averaged for two seasons. Rushing a pair of 2,000-yard seasons will get a player noticed and that he was when USA Today recognized him with a national honorable mention.
Had his mentor, former Seneca coach Tom Hodge, not sat the starters during the blowout games, Whitehead might have tallied 5,000 yards in his prep career. His senior season team finished 11-1, losing to Bolivar in the 1993 state quarterfinals.
"The only bad half of football we had all year," said Whitehead, whose memory of those halcyon playing days is still vivid.
After playing college football at Southwest Baptist University and Missouri Southern State University, Whitehead embarked on learning the game from the sidelines. He was a graduate assistant at MSSU, then spent eight years assisting at Branson High School before returning to Seneca for a year.
His soft-spoken manner is also his approach to teaching the game.
"In my four years playing for Coach Hodge, never did he raise his voice," said Whitehead. "But if you played for him, you'd run through a brick wall for him."
These days, he's winding up his position at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College in Miami while preparing for his wedding next month. A busy time to be working in a long commute to Pierce City, but shaping a program is an energy all its own for the first time head-coach.
The offense he will install is of little surprise, given his prep stardom in the backfield.
"We're going to run the ball 90 percent of the time," Whitehead said.
It will come from an offensive set that's classic running game, the I-formation.
On the competitive front, there was news before Whitehead arrived. Next season, Pierce City will drop down to Class 1, playing among district schools Marionville, Miller and Skyline.
Whitehead's classroom duties will be teaching middle school math.
Last season, Brad Hocker led Pierce City to the second round of the playoffs and finished with a 7-5 record. Hocker remains at the school as head track coach.