November 19, 2010 8:37:00 AM
MABEN -- When Jimmy Carden arrived at East Webster High School, he had to transform an underdeveloped football program.
His first order was building a new weight room.
Next, Carden had to instill confidence in the Wolverines that they could not only be competitive and challenge for state titles.
Twelve years later, Carden has his team one step away from another North State title game.
Tonight''s third-round Class 2A playoff matchup against Calhoun City could see East Webster clinch its third North State final since 2006, when it advanced to the Class 1A title game.
While Carden has built East Webster into a 1A and 2A heavyweight, former Charleston coach and current Calhoun City coach Perry Liles has followed his track record.
"We also competed when I was at Coffeeville," Liles said. "He had some success against the teams I coached. We''ve had a hard time beating East Webster there. He''s turned that program into what it is today, and I have a lot of respect for him."
East Webster''s strength program was the first step in its ascent to 13-0 record this season. Carden said that through the help of community funding and Pepsi contract money the Wolverines had the facility they needed.
He likened East Webster''s approach to weight training and power lifting to that of Liles, who built a reputation for having strong players at Coffeeville and Calhoun City.
Defensive coordinator Doug Wilson, who arrived at the same time as Carden but handled equipment for two years before coaching, has helped establish the foundation. Wilson has worked closely with Carden and has helped lead a defense that has five shutouts this season.
"He''s studied a lot of film," Carden said. "He works extremely hard and really sells out to something once he makes his mind up to do it. He''s also the guy you''ll sit down and talk to about stuff that''s really, really important. Not that I can''t do that with any of our coaches, but there''s always someone you can talk to real well and are comfortable with.
"We''ve been like that for a long time, and that''s real special."
East Webster''s staff also boasts veteran Kenny Williamson, who handles special teams. Williamson was head coach at West Oktibbeha before leaving in 2006. Williamson coached current Green Bay Packers tight end Donald Lee.
East Webster has two para-professional coaches: offensive assistant Phillip Jordan and defensive assistant/linebackers coach Jason Smith.
Smith was a starting linebacker for East Webster''s North State title squad in ''06. Smith and Jordan are students at MSU.
Jordan is credited with installing the Wolverines'' I-based option offense in the spring.
"He''s been with us for three years," Carden said. "He''s a 22-year-old guy that wouldn''t have a girlfriend this time of the year for anything. He studies football and that''s all he wants to study. He and I take care of the offense and work really well together."
Carden said he has complete confidence in his staff and is thankful for the continuity he has with the other coaches.
"It''s special everybody here works together," Carden said. "But it''s not just in coaching. It''s everyone at the school in the community. We''re just a reflection of that."