Football team will be set for the gridiron come fall
BOWLING GREEN—After taking over as head football coach for the Bowling Green Bobcats at the end of January 2020, Joe Chinn said he was ready for the team’s top coaching spot.
And even though the team started practicing later and under social distancing restrictions because of the pandemic, it had a strong showing during his first season as head coach.
“I was pretty excited (about the first season),” Chinn said. “The kids really bought into what we were doing.” He noted that it was a short summer because they couldn’t start training until June 1 last year because of COVID-19.
Even with all the restrictions, Chinn said, attendance at their training sessions and practices was really good.
“You could tell (the players) were excited to get out of the house,” he said. With schools closed, as well as non-essential businesses being shut down, there was little for the students to do. Practice gave them an outlet that they had not had in months.
“They worked really hard,” Chinn said. “I think that played into how well we did this year.” He noted that the Bobcats won conference for the first time since 2011. The four losses the team had were all to state-ranked teams.
Right at the beginning of last season, when Bowling Green was to face Van-Far High School, a player for the Indians tested positive for COVID-19, forcing a cancellation. With barely a shift in strategy, the coaches sought another team to play that week. The Bobcats traveled to Oak Grove to face an extremely tough opponent.
“You never want to lose a game,” Chinn said. But going toe-to-toe with such tough opponents honed the skills they needed for the rest of the season.
“The same thing happened with Centralia,” he added. “We picked them up. And I think those games were really beneficial for our kids. It showed our kids that we could play with anybody.
The last game of the season for the Bobcats was the game against Monroe City, during the semifinals.
“It came down to the last play, and our kids battled all the way through to the end,” he said. The Bobcats lost, but only by 2 points. “I could not have been more happy with them,” he added.
Training for the team has not slowed. Chinn said the boys have been doing weights and have done 7-on-7 practices at Palmyra a few times.
The varsity camp starts the last week of July. At the end of camp week the team travels to Troy to scrimmage the Troy and Hannibal teams.
“That will be a good chance for us to see where we’re at,” he said. “It’s really good competition.” They have been working on plays during the 7 on 7 practices, he added. That way, they can make adjustments before the season starts.
The football youth camps—kindergarten through sixth grade—are July 15 and 16.
“The high school kids actually lead the camp,” Chinn said. It gives them a chance at leadership skills by helping the younger kids learn about football.
Making the switch from assistant to head coach, he noted, was an easy step for Chinn. Even though he said he was nervous, he wasn’t any more nervous than when he was before the promotion.
Chinn played football for Monroe City when he was in high school, and his first job out of college was with the Bowling Green R-I School District in 2015.
Helping out this year is Jarred Runyon, Chinn said, as well as others on the coaching staff. He was first brought on at the school to coach the girls basketball program.
“It was pretty easy to convince him to (coach) football again,” he added. “We got lucky with Mark St. Claire. He was retired and in the Missouri Coaches Hall of Fame for football in Hannibal. When I first got hired as head coach, he messaged me because he knew me from when I played football.” St. Claire offered to help Chinn, if he wanted it. Just a few weeks later, Chinn and Athletic Director Matt Chance were talking about the need to fill one of the assistant coaches slots. Chinn said he asked St. Claire to step in to the job. “He’s a great asset,” Chinn added. “The kids really like him.
“This year, he’s going to be calling the offense,” Chinn said. He was glad to have someone with so much success coaching on his team of assistant coaches. Last season St. Claire said it was good to be coaching again, and that he liked just having to coach one part of the game and not be worried about all aspects, as a head coach needs to be.
Chinn said he believes the team will be about the same size as last year, maybe a little bigger. “We have 55 kids on the roster. Plus we are retuning a lot of players (from last season). We have a pretty good nucleus coming back.
“I would say the expectations (for the season) are pretty high,” he said.
But Chinn is not the only coach in the family. His wife, Paige, is the assistant coach for the girls basketball team. Both of them are busy, he noted: “I’m finishing up football and she’s starting basketball, and when she’s ending basketball, I’m starting track. So, there’s really no break. But we really like it; being involved in the community. It keeps us on our toes for sure.”
The whole family is at just about every sporting event the two parents coach. Sitting with Joe during the interview was his son, Jaxx, age 7. His daughter, Palmer, age 2, he noted, is a little young, but he’s sure that at some point soon she will be cheering on the Bobcats with the rest of the family. When he’s not sitting with one of his parents during the games, Jaxx can be seen hanging with the Bowling Green students in the stands. They watch out for him, as well.