When Jay Powell took the Woodville High School head football coaching position, the program was at its lowest moment.
Six years later, Powell is leaving it in much better shape.
Powell has resigned as the Panthers head coach after going 24-39 with four playoff appearances over six seasons, leaving as by far the winningest coach the program’s 14-year history. Woodville won just five games, two of which were forfeits, prior to Powell’s hiring in 2014. The Panthers had lost 37-straight games on the field before winning Powell’s head-coaching debut 52-12 at Waterloo.
“I got that water-bucket bath for my first game,” Powell said. “That was pretty special.”
Powell led the Panthers to another playoff appearance in his final season. While he spent the spring semester debating whether or not to return as head coach, Powell’s home in the East Brainerd community near Chattanooga, Tennessee was destroyed in the 2020 Easter tornadoes.
“With the storm and us going through rebuilding our house, I just felt like it was best to give it up,” Powell said.
Powell, who was an assistant coach at Crossville and then the offensive coordinator at North Sand Mountain prior to coming to Woodville, said he expects to coach again someday either in a head- or assistant-coaching position.
“Football is a passion for me,” Powell said. “I see myself getting back in it in some form. I won’t be gone too long.”
Powell’s replacement at Woodville is Tyler Vann, a former quarterback at NSM who played during Powell’s tenure at offensive coordinator.
Vann ran NSM’s spread offense at a high level, and Powell installed the spread at Woodville when he was took over the program in 2014. It was drastic change from Woodville’s run-oriented Wing-T offense, but the Panthers set the school scoring record three times during Powell’s tenure and continued to use the offensive system through 2018. Woodville shifted to a Shotgun version of the Wing-T in 2019 “based on personnel.”
Powell said installing the spread had its challenges at a young program that was still learning the game, but that the Panthers’ players took to it.
“It just kind of clicked because we had a lot more skill guys than linemen, and we could spread the ball around and get more people involved in the offense where a defense couldn’t just key on one guy,” Powell said.
“We just kept improving in it, and we had some guys that became really, really good in it and understood it.”
Powell plans to continue teaching at Woodville this coming school year. He said he will always be invested in the success of the program.
“I’m always going to cherish (my time) here and I’m always going to keep up with the program,” Powell said. “I’m always going to be a Woodville fan. We proved that (football) could work here, that it could be successful. I’m proud of that. Now I want to see it continue to get better.”