Crockett Co. catch is Camden’s Ward

Crockett Co. catch is Camden’s Ward
P.A. Pratt and Kevin Ward were high school teammates at Milan.
They’ll be on the same side again in Alamo.
Pratt, assistant superintendent of Crockett County Schools and outgoing Cavalier head football coach, has lured Ward away from Camden as his hand-picked successor after a similar attempt last year failed.
The two — who played together for legendary Milan coach John Tucker in the 1980s — confirmed the long-rumored move this morning after Ward had assembled his team at CHS to deliver the news of his job change.
Pratt was then scheduled to introduce the new Crockett County skipper to his staff and players this afternoon.
Pratt essentially built CC to its current status of being a widely-respected program statewide from the ground up after a short tenure as an assistant  coach at Obion Central.
And when he elected to take on upper-level administration responsibilities and relinquish his coaching duties, Pratt immediately targeted the 42-year-old Ward — three years his junior — who has oversaw a similar rags-to-riches story at Camden in a likewise first head coaching gig.
Ward turned down his friend and the Crockett County position last spring and Pratt ultimately decided to stay on in a dual administration/coaching role for another year after a quick, yet messy hiring and firing of Mac McCurry in May.
This time around, Pratt got his chosen guy.
“I’ve known him forever, and there’s no question that Kevin is the right man for this job. He was our No. 1 choice right off the bat, both last year and this year,” Pratt told The Messenger. “Kevin has a great work ethic, and I’ve witnessed from afar when we’ve been together at camps that kids relate well to him and respect him.
“He’s a player’s coach, but that doesn’t mean he’s friends or buddy-buddy with them. It means he’s a mentor and a leader. I will help him all I can as an administrator, but I’ll stay 50 yards away from the field and let him do his job like I know he will.”
Ward, who served on Don Coady’s staff at Westview for 11 seasons and was the Chargers’ defensive coordinator in the program’s best-ever state runnerup (2A) season in 2001, made an immediate impact at Camden when hired for his first head coaching job in ’03.
He led the Lions to the postseason in each of his eight campaigns at the school and compiled a sterling 76-22 (.775) overall record.
Prior to Ward’s arrival, Camden had made the postseason just six times during the program’s history.
The Lions, who were 2-8 the season before he took over, won at least eight games in seven of Ward’s campaigns at the Black and Gold helm and four times advanced to the state quarterfinals.
Among Ward’s brightest coaching highlights was the Lions’ unbeaten regular season this past year — just the second in the school’s football-playing annals — and a program-best 12 wins last fall.
Ward also acknowledged that he’d turned down the Crockett County position last May but said “the timing was right” now for him to make the move to Alamo.
“Camden has been a good place for me and my family and I am very happy to have been able to coach there for the past eight years,” said Ward, who was an All-American defensive back at then-Lambuth College before entering the prep coaching ranks.
“I look forward to continuing the tradition that the Crockett County program has enjoyed for so long.”
Pratt’s thumbprint is all over the Cavalier program after he essentially built it from the ground up during his tenure.
Taking over a doormat program that had gone 0-10 the year before, Pratt endured another winless campaign in his first season and then went 2-8 in his second season as the CC mentor.
The Cavaliers then made the playoffs in 10 straight seasons from 1997-2006, the pinnacle being an appearance in the Class 3A state title game in ’01 where they dropped a narrow decision to Knoxville’s  Austin-East.
In all, Crockett County made the postseason in 13 of Pratt’s 16 years on the sideline with a semifinal berth and three trips to the quarters.
Pratt’s all-time mark as the Cavalier mentor was 131-58 (.693).
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by e-mail at mhutch@ucmessenger.com.

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