July 23, 2009 9:14:00 AM
When the South Lamar football team released its schedule for the upcoming season, the only significance of its game against Marion County was it was a matchup of region rivals.
But in June, the encounter between South Lamar and Marion County took on a much more significant meaning.
That''s because Marion County, which is located in Guin, Ala., hired Rusty Funk to be its head football coach.
Funk was South Lamar''s coach last season before being relieved of his duties and replaced by his assistant, Josh Harper.
South Lamar will face its former coach when the Stallions play at Marion County on Oct. 23.
"They''ve got to come and see us, but that''s OK," Funk said. "My kids at South Lamar, I loved them. They were great kids to work with. It will be one of those games you wish you didn''t have to play."
Funk will replace Patrick Sutton, who resigned after six years as Marion County''s head coach and eight years at the school overall.
Funk was released at South Lamar despite coaching the Stallions to the third round of the AHSAA Class A state playoffs and a 9-4 record. Among the wins was a 55-6 thrashing of Marion County the ninth game of the regular season.
He inherits a team at Marion County that had a 2-8 record last season.
"I''m inheriting a good group of kids that are real young," Funk said. "They only won two ballgames last year and we''re trying to rebuild it.
"They''re going to get a new perspective on the game from a new coach. That makes it kind of fun."
It''s the second year in a row that Funk has been hired during the summer and had limited time to prepare a team for the season. Last year he was hired at South Lamar in the beginning of July.
It''s tough," Funk admitted. "You just try to go in and teach them and try to make believers out of them. You try to get more kids to come out and participate. I''ve done it before, but it''s not the easiest thing in the world."
Funk thought he might not coach this season after being fired at South Lamar so he feels fortunate to get the Marion County job.
"Without a doubt," Funk said. "The Good Lord takes care of us. That''s all I can say."
Funk and his family has found a house in Guin, only a half a mile from the high school.
Prior to become the coach at South Lamar, Funk was an assistant for two years at Tupelo High School. Prior to that he was the head coach at Columbus High School with his teams going 4-7 in 2004 and 6-7 in 2005.
Funk''s most successful coaching tenure was at Stringer, where he won Class A state championships in 1990, 1991 and 1992.