For the second time in two years, a longtime and highly-successful Nolan County high school football coach is resigning to pursue other ventures.
Highland’s Karry Owens, after building one of the top six-man programs in Texas in 18 years as head coach, confirmed this week he is stepping down at the end of the current school year.
According to Owens, he made the decision last week to resign for personal reasons. While he did not elaborate, he said it was not due to any problems with the school or the administration.
“There are no problems there,” he said. “It’s just that I’ve been coaching for 18 years at Highland and I’ve been a head coach for 24 years. It was time to get out of it.”
Owens is 147-56-3 since becoming coach at Highland prior to the 1993 season. His teams have made the playoffs 12 times, and twice got to the state finals — in 2000 and 2009, losing both times. Owens has an overall record is 172-92-3 and prior to this past season, he ranked 12th on the list of Texas’ winningest active six-man football coaches.
In addition to serving as head football coach, Owens has been the head boys track coach since coming to Highland and also served as the boys basketball coach for many years.
Before coming to Highland, where he was a star athlete in the early 1980s, Owens had brief stints at Iredell, Gustine, Loop and Sands and a record of 25-36. He then came back to a school that had fallen on hard times since he had helped them win the 1982 state title, the first in school history, and get to the state finals in 1980.
His first season back at Highland in 1993 could hardly have been better. He was an instant success, as the Hornets compiled a 7-2-1 record — a stunning achievement for a program that had lost 26 straight games prior to his arrival and hadn’t won a game in nearly three years.
Highland just missed going to the playoffs in 1993, but ended a long postseason drought the following year and was a regular from then on.
In addition to winning 10 or more games six times and reaching the state finals twice, the Hornets advanced to at least the quarterfinals in four other seasons — 1999, 2004, 2005 and 2008 — and was also a state semifinalist in 2004. Owens coached only two losing teams, and both of them were in years (2001 and 2010) when Highland was rebuilding after making it to the six-man state championship game the previous year.
Owens, who is also Highland’s athletic director, said he almost quit following the 2009 season. “But I had some kids I wanted to see through,” he said. “We’ve got a bunch of good kids and we need to get someone in here who can work with them.”
Even though Highland returned only one full-time starter this past season from the ‘09 squad, Owens said he thought the Hornets could be a playoff contender. However, injuries cut into the team’s remaining depth and Highland — which was also moved up to the tougher Division I classification after being in Division II the previous two seasons — finished just 2-7.
Owens, who plans to stay in the Nolan County area and hasn’t ruled out a return to coaching in the future, is leaving a year after another highly-successful coach just eight miles up the road from Highland made a similar decision.
Roscoe’s Wes Williams resigned in the spring of 2010 after spending his entire 23-year coaching career at the school. Williams, who still lives in Roscoe and is now a fulltime farmer, was 116-29 in 12 years as head coach and made the playoffs every season.
Owens’ principal for the past few years has been Duane Hyde, who played with Owens at Highland on the 1982 state title team and was later a successful coach at Blackwell himself for many years before getting into school administration.
“We go way back, and he’s been, I guess, my best friend,” Hyde said. “He was the best man at my wedding.
“We’ll find someone to take his place, but we’ll never replace him. He’s meant so much to this school. He was a big influence on the kids.
“You’ll never find anyone that is so organized and takes care of business and treats the kids right like Karry does,” he continued. “From my standpoint of being a principal, I never had to worry about athletics because he stayed on top of things so well.”
Hyde, who said Owens informed him he was resigning this past Thursday, said the two had talked in the past about other jobs, but he didn’t really see this change coming.
“It was kind of a surprise,” he said. “I didn’t think he’d go through with it.”
The Highland ISD school board is scheduled to meet tonight if weather permits, and Hyde said the first item of discussion would be getting a new head football coach and athletic director. If the meeting isn’t delayed, Hyde said the job would be posted on the school website either Friday or next Monday.
With Highland’s great record of success in football as well as its solid academic reputation, Hyde said, “we may have a lot of good applicants. But it will be hard to replace Karry.”