Middlesboro has turned to one of the players from its glory days to lead the football program. Zach Massengill was formally introduced as the new Yellow Jacket head coach on Friday.
Massengill played four years at MHS as a running back and linebacker and started on the 1998 state championship team as well as the 1997 and 1999 teams that finished as state semifinalists. He went on to play at Campbellsville University and after graduating began his coaching career at Boyle County High School in 2005.
He coached the defensive backs at Boyle County and in his last four years there the team went a combined 52-5 with Class 4A state championships in 2009 and 2010. Massengill went on to become the defensive coordinator at Bourbon County and the last two season his Colonels went 26-2 with both losses coming to Belfry in the state Class 3A semifinals.
“I’ve been away for several years and have been part of some good programs, but I couldn’t pass up the chance to come back home where I grew up. There’s a lot of tradition and pride in Middlesboro football, we’d been one of the 10 winningest programs in the state for a long time ,and I’m looking forward to the challenge of getting back to that level,” Massengill said.
Superintendent Steve Martin said he was excited to have Massengill back and coaching at MHS.
“He’s a Middlesboro alum and a former Yellow Jacket football player. He was part of the only state championship we’ve won, he was an assistant on state championship teams at Boyle County, and I think he was instrumental as defensive coordinator at Bourbon County when they 26-2 these last two years,” Martin said. “I’m thrilled he was interested in coming home and coming here. He’s already been working with the kids.”
Massengill said he plans to keep several of the current assistants on his staff, including Neal Pucciarelli, who was the offensive coordinator on that 1998 state championship team.
“I don’t think anybody is ready to have their names put out yet, but I’m working on bringing in two or three new faces along with coach Pucciarelli and other guys that have been here,” he said.
Massengill says he plans to stay in a base defense and that the exact offense be will determined after spring practice, which starts in two weeks.
“We’re not going to do anything real complicated. I want them to stay in one defense, get good at it, and attack. We’re going to play responsibility football,” Massengill said. “We’ll tailor the offense to what the kids feel good about, but with all the linemen and running backs we’ve got coming back we’ll have to be able to run the football to be successful.”
Massengill inherits a strong roster with about 21 seniors, most returning as starters. The Jackets went 9-3 last season and won their first regular season district title since 2006. They lost to Somerset in overtime in the second round of the playoffs.
It’s no secret that there were some hurt feelings on the team when Randy Frazier and Martin came to a “mutual agreement” that he would no longer be the coach in January. Massengill said it would take the leadership of the seniors to help bring the team together and move forward.
“We’re going to be dependent on good senior leadership. We’ve got a strong class of 21 or 22 seniors, they all have talent and they’re physical specimens. The sky is the limit for this group,” Massengill said. “It’s about how they adapt to hard work and discipline and to our way of doing things, how they attack it. If they don’t (respond well), it can bring the whole team down and it will be a battle. But this is an extremely talented group and I’m excited to see what we can accomplish this year.”