Katz lure Gore from Osceola
Even though they've yet to play a varsity football game that actually counts, the fledgling Melbourne Bearkatz football program still knows how to make the rest of the state sit up and take notice.
And if Clinton Gore has anything to say about it, that won't be the last time the Katz make headlines in Arkansas high school football.
Gore, 70, was hired last week by the Melbourne School Board to direct the Bearkatz football program, replacing Marty Ninemire.
Ninemire had recently resigned the position after leading the school through its first two years of playing the sport.
More than just another coach, however, Gore is one of the true gridiron coaching legends in the state of Arkansas.
Racking up over 200 victories in a little over 38 years at Paragould, Helena-West Helena Central, Forest City and Osceola, it might seem like an odd fit for a veteran coach and a school not yet a half-decade into playing football.
But according to Gore, that's not the case.
"They (Melbourne) have done everything that it takes to have a program," he said. "Everybody I talk to says they are good people at Melbourne and they do what they tell you they are going to do. That means a lot to me."
The Bearkatz are still a couple of years away from fielding varsity football teams, and this year Melbourne will have a junior high football team along with a varsity team that will only compete in junior varsity or "B" games until 2012.
The Katz will play varsity football at the Class 3A level.
Quite a change from the scenario Gore is leaving at Osceola, where in 21 seasons he posted a 171-67-2 record, including an undefeated season and Class 4A state championship in 1997. He also led Osceola to the 4A state title in 1995.
The Seminoles also won 11 conference championships in the last 17 years under Gore's direction.
At Osceola, where the Seminoles finished 11-2-1 and advanced to the 4A state semi-finals last year, Gore coached standouts like quarterback Chico Fletcher, along with running backs Jonathan Adams and David Barrett. During the four-years that those three starred together (1995-1998), the Seminoles went 50-5 and played in four straight championship games, winning a pair (1995, 1997).
And although the talent level at Osceola might not be quite that high right now, the Seminoles roster is loaded with talent, including standout sophomore running back Korliss Marshall, making it not an easy thing for Gore to pull up stakes and head to Izard County.
"You have to say when you have been here as long as we have, you are going to miss a lot of things," he said. "I'm going to miss a lot of people and a lot of friends, but the hardest thing is these kids. I'm going to miss them. I'm going to tell you what, when you've been here as long as I've been here, it's tough to leave."
Gore's son Stacy will be a part of the football staff at Melbourne, while his wife Kathy will be a math teacher in the school district.
So to go along with the still brand-new weight room, track, football field and stadium at Melbourne High School, the Bearkatz now have a new football coach.
A new football coach that seems excited to roll up his sleeves and tackle a new challenge head-on.
"Well, the thing that you have got to do, is you have got to be fundamentally sound and that's what we'll work on," Gore said. "You've got to separate them out when the knocking heads starts. We're probably going to have to slow down the way we coach them, and work with them and build it up over time."