December 22, 2009 2:49:00 PM
Chris Duncan had to endure a full schedule Fridays during football season.
Splitting time as a coach and minister, Duncan would leave home in Calhoun County as early as 4:30 or 5 a.m. to deliver a tape of his radio show to the station, before going to Aberdeen High School.
His day didn''t end when school was out because he had to coach the Bulldogs in a football game that night.
If that didn''t already make for a long weekend, Duncan, the pastor at Reedy''s Chapel Baptist Church in Derma near Calhoun City, had to prepare for Sunday services.
Duncan showed he could balance all of those responsibilities and put a good product on the field this season as Aberdeen High finished 13-3 and won the Class 3A North State championship.
For the Bulldogs'' accomplishments this season, Duncan is The Commercial Dispatch Small School Coach of Year.
Duncan said handling his "to-do list" was a matter of "prioritizing the things that are the most important, try to do those, then try to squeeze other things in if you have time."
There were many late hours for Duncan. He often would come home after a long day of football practice and study for his radio show or Sunday service.
Duncan calls managing it all "a good experience." He relies on his faith to keep him going.
"The Lord will give you strength to do what you need to do," Duncan said.
Time spent with coaching and ministry has taken away from his family. He values family, but stresses it doesn''t always mean blood relatives.
"I do think over the past several years I''ve been doing so much that I''ve missed some family time, which is important to me, but the football players and everything connected with it is part of my family also," Duncan said. "This is a group of seniors (at Aberdeen) that have grown real close over the past three years and been through a lot together. I''d like to think they''ve helped me and I''ve also helped them."
Duncan has been at Aberdeen High four years and has coached football the past three.
Before Duncan became coach, the Bulldogs had only won once in two years (1-9 in 2005, 0-10 in 2006). In Duncan''s first season in 2007, Aberdeen finished 9-4, improved to 11-3 the next season and 13-3 this season to reach the Class 3A state championship game.
"Each year, we''ve been able to take one more step," Duncan said. "It''s very hard to get to Jackson in football. It''s not like basketball where you have eight to 10 teams down there (for the state tournament).
"I think the bar has been raised in Aberdeen from being the laughing stock in football to being a contender every year. Usually, we''ve been setting goals the last several years, but I don''t think I''ll have to set them anymore because I think anything less than getting to Jackson now would be a disappointment to the players. It shows how far this program has come in three years."
Coaching means more to Duncan than just winning games. He likes seeing his players, like Jamerson Love, rewarded for hard work.
That''s the main reason Duncan hated to see Aberdeen fall in the state title game to Tylertown 34-20.
"I can handle losing games pretty good, but to see my kids hurt was the worst part about it," Duncan said.
Love could sense how much Duncan cared for him and said he wouldn''t have been able to stay on the right path if it hadn''t been for his guidance.
"Coach Duncan really helped me stay out of trouble in some ways," Love said. "When he first came, I know he meant business. If you didn''t abide by his rules, you wouldn''t be playing football."
Despite losing the final game, Duncan was proud of the players'' effort.
He called being able to endure 22 weeks of football and make it all of the way to the state championship game "a testament" to the players.
"The season is very long and very grueling," Duncan said. "We had about nine weeks of rain and mud this year, so we had to practice in rain and mud. For all the coaches and players, it was a very trying year with the conditions outside. I think I ruined about three or four pairs of shoes. It was overall a good year and one they should remember the rest of their life. I played 10 years of football and four years of college ball and never got to play in the championship game. I feel very fortunate to make it there."
Duncan still can''t help to feel there''s some unfinished business and, as any minister would, used a passage of scripture to keep things in perspective.
"We don''t feel like we completed our task, but you can find in Romans 8:28 where it says everything happens for a reason," Duncan said. "You just have to take that, go on, and try it another year."