By: Jim Steele
Former McKenzie football and baseball standout Tyler Reeder was an assistant coach at Jackson South Side High School.
The high school football season had started and Reeder was probably content to continue at his job as defensive coordinator and strength/conditioning coach. Fewer than two weeks ago, Reeder was installed as interim head coach of the Hawks.
Brian Moore, who was South Side's head coach, was suspended Wednesday by the Jackson-Madison County School Board, pending investigation of allegations of inappropriate physical contact of a sexual nature towards a student. No charges have been filed.
Reeder, a former McKenzie football all-stater and offensive MVP on the baseball team his senior year and a four-year member of the South Side staff, did not address the situation with Moore, but did talk about how proud he was of the players he was put in charge of.
"It is an honor to get an opportunity to be responsible for 60 other kids. Every decision I make, it affects them, not just me," Reeder said. "I am thankful Anita (Tucker, South Side principal) trusted me and believed that I could handle it."
Reeder said the Hawks may be 0-4, but they've been competitive this year. Friday night, state-ranked Bolivar Central escaped South SIde's clutches with a 41-39 victory. The Hawks had the Tigers on a fourth-and-20 play and the Bolivar player squirted loose for the game-winning play.
"We've been in every game we've lost. Take away a few turnovers, we'd be 4-0 right now," Reeder said. "If we had made one play Friday, we'd have won."
Being a coordinator and being a head coach involve different sets of dynamics.
"I hadn't planned on being a head coach at this point in my career," Reeder said. "A coordinator can be a little more buddy-buddy with his players. As a head coach, you have to act a little differently."
The dynamics may have changed, but the job hasn't.
"Whether I'm a defensive coordinator or they name me head coach, it's not any different for me," he said. "My job is the prepare these 60 kids to be in the best possible position to win."
South Side's football program has had four different head coaches in as many years. Reeder said he challenged his kids given all the adversity they've faced.
"I told the kids that they have a decision to make. They can throw in the towel or come back Monday and get ready to change it," he said. "Told them if you come to work, give it everything you got, play as hard as you can, I can live with that. I came away very pleased with how we played."
Evidently, they did that last Friday.
"Those kids fought and played to the last second. I can't think any place I'd rather be. Those kids have faced a lot of adversity. Four coaches in four years," he said. "They've done a great job not letting the negatives become an excuse. I think they thrived on it."
Having played for teams that went deep into the playoffs and even made an appearance in the state championship game, Reeder has absorbed a lot from his mentors, McKenzie football coach Wade Comer and assistant coach Randy Thomas.
"We're off this week, so I went by the McKenzie fieldhouse to talk to Comer and Thomas. I've been fortunate to be around extremely good coaches. I got to play with a good staff and after my playing days, I came back and helped coach at McKenzie, so I got to see things from both sides," Reeder said. "Comer is one of the winningest coaches in West Tennessee and there isn't a better teacher and mentor out there than Thomas. He was my offensive line coach and he was the one who believed in me to tell Comer to put me in. I thank both of them."
There is much uncertainty swirling around the South Side program and for now, Reeder said he just wants to be a stabilizing factor and make the 60 players wearing black and red better football players and better people. He's not thinking about permanence or anything past the season at the moment.
"Right now, my main focus is to get these kids ready every week," Reeder said. "When the season is over, I'll think about that when we get there."