Coach as long as Centreville Academy’s Bill Hurst has, and you’re bound to alter your mentality.
“They say when he had heart surgery (in 2012),” senior athlete Colby Shaw joked, “they actually put a heart in him.”
Hurst’s success on the field hasn’t wavered, even though his approach to coaching has slowly evolved through the years.
Hurst, whose 356 wins are the most ever by a Mississippi coach, tries for his ninth state title when Centreville Academy (12-1) battles Simpson Academy in the MAIS Academy AA championship game today at Mississippi College’s Robinson-Hale Stadium at 1 p.m..
“I’m hard on the kids because I want them to be successful in life,” said Hurst, who guided Centreville to back-to-back titles in 2007 and ’08. “Things don’t always go your way. When you mess up, you’re going to pay the price for it.”
Shaw knew that as much as anyone when he arrived at the school during his freshman year.
He had heard stories about Hurst’s hard-nosed style from his dad, Slade Shaw, who played for Hurst in the late ’80s.
“I was actually scared of him when I came to Centreville,” Colby Shaw said. “I didn’t want to play there.”
Shaw’s fear of Hurst quickly diminished.
“When I first met him, I thought, “This can’t be the same guy,'” Shaw said. “You do something well, he’s so excited for you. He acts like a parent whose kid just learned how to walk.”
Added assistant coach Robbie Isonhood: “I’ve seen (Hurst) slack off a little bit,” he joked. “You can’t break a clipboard over a kid’s head and not get sued over it these days.”
Shaw is one of three seniors for the Tigers this year, along with Mark Curry and Brandon Arnett.
It’s the smallest senior class of Hurst’s career as a head coach, dating back to 1975.
The Tigers will start freshman Britt Netterville at quarterback against the Cougars (12-1), who are seeking their seventh championship and first since 2011 (they fell to Brookhaven Academy in last year’s South finals).
Netterville replaced Casey Haygood last week after the junior broke his ankle during two weeks ago.
“If you can imagine being a ninth grader and coming into a semifinal game,” Isonhood said. “He threw the ball well. He had ice in his veins. He wasn’t nervous at all.”
Doing it against Simpson might be tougher.
The Cougars are giving up fewer than eight points per game this season.
“We’ve got to be mentally ready to play Simpson,” Hurst said. “They will be physical. Whether we will too, I don’t know.”