June 4, 2013 10:49:08 AM
Adam Lowrey isn't sure where his next step will take him.
Lowrey also isn't certain if his next job will be as a head coach, a coordinator, or as an assistant coach.
Wherever the next opportunity takes him, though, Lowrey will approach that challenge with the faith and confidence he helped instill in the West Oktibbeha County High School football program.
In five seasons, Lowrey guided the Timberwolves to a 27-28 record, including an appearance in the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 1A playoffs in 2011. West Oktibbeha would have qualified for the playoffs in 2012 if the Oktibbeha County School District hadn't lost its accreditation. As a result, the Mississippi Department of Education placed a postseason ban on extra-curricular activities for schools in the district.
On Monday, Lowrey said that decision played a role in his decision to resign as football coach and as a teacher at West Oktibbeha.
"It was a difficult decision to make, but when I realized my senior class was gone I felt like I was released to go," Lowrey said. "I felt like my mission was those boys. Everybody has a purpose in life, and I felt like that was my mission. Even though I hate to leave the ones that are still there, I just felt more than anything a responsibility to this class."
Von Smith and Tiberias Lampkin were two members of the 2012 senior class. Lowrey brought both players up to the varsity football team in 2008, his first season at the school, when they were both in the eighth grade. Lowrey said he was in the process of establishing a foundation for the program and that he knew both players would play significant roles in the future of the program. Following a 1-9 season in 2008, the Timberwolves won five, six, and seven games in the next three seasons. Last season, West Oktibbeha finished 8-3 and would have earned one of the top four spots in Class 1A, Region 3 and advanced to the playoffs. But news of the state's decision came in the days before the team's regular-season finale to Pelahatchie, which it lost 54-26.
"I believe I left the program in a better state than I received it," Lowrey said.
Lowrey also feels he helped a restore the confidence of players in the program and helped them believe they could compete with anybody. He fostered that belief by stressing faith, a strong relationship with God, and family. While unsure about the direction West Oktibbeha will go in hiring a new coach or how the school district's loss of accreditation will affect the school's athletic teams in the 2013-14 school year, Lowrey took pride in the fact Lampkin and Smith will get chances to continue their football careers. Lampkin will attend Coahoma Community College, while Smith will go to Northeast Mississippi C.C.
Lowrey also hopes Michael Graise and Johnny Chambers, who joined Lampkin and Smith last month in the inaugural Robertson's Sportswear Northeast Mississippi Football Coaches Association All-Star Game in Saltillo, also will get a chance to play football in college. He said Graise, who was named the defensive player of the game for his squad at the All-Star game, has attracted interest from several schools that saw him play. Smith was named the offensive player of the game.
Jonathan Love and Donovan Henderson also represented West Oktibbeha at the All-Star game.
Lampkin, who rushed for 1,982 yards and had 32 touchdowns as a senior, credited Lowrey for building a program and getting West Oktibbeha back on track.
"He built his coaching philosophy on faith," Lampkin said. "The main thing he wanted us to believe in was Christ. That's what really took our program to the next level."
Lampkin said Lowrey helped establish order by getting rid of the "knuckleheads" who were in the program. He said Lowrey also instituted a weightlifting program that helped the Timberwolves build strength and confidence. Coupled with Lowrey's positive approach, Lampkin said the football team reached heights it had never seen.
"Coach Lowrey brought me and Von in as eighth-graders and told us if we have faith that we were going to come in the next summer and we're going to do something," Lampkin said. "In the ninth-grade year, he proved to be a good coach, and we won more games in 10th grade than we won in ninth grade, and our 11th-grade year was even better. The progress we made was tremendous."
Lampkin said he likely would have transferred to Starkville High if not for Lowrey, and that he credited him for giving him a taste of a college system so he knew what to expect at the next level.
Lowrey hopes to bring those same principles and qualities to his next step. He said he would like to stay in coaching, but that he was open to anything that would help him provide for his family.
"It was just amazing to see the hard work pay off," Lowrey said. "I feel like something is going to open up and that it will be a big step up for me."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.