West Lincoln picks Johnny Ball to lead football program

Published 10:30 am Saturday, February 24, 2024

The Lincoln County School Board selected the next man to lead the West Lincoln football team on Tuesday when it approved the hiring of Johnny Ball for the position of head coach.

Ball is a native of Pike County who’s most recently been on the staff at 5A North Pike High School.

West Lincoln will be Ball’s first head coaching position, a job title that he’s badly wanted to hold since he began his coaching journey.

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“Hindsight is a good thing and looking back, I’m happy that things have worked out the way they have in my career to get to this point,” said Ball. “I’ve got a deep faith and I feel like God has been leading me to a point where I was ready to take on a position like this. I’ve learned a lot about what goes into running your own program over the years and I’m excited to implement those ideas and to lead the young men at West Lincoln.”

This is the second time for Ball to coach in Lincoln County, as he was hired as an assistant coach at Brookhaven Academy in 2011 under then head coach Tripp McCarty.

The Cougars went 10-3 in 2011 and then 11-4 with a MAIS state championship in 2012. When McCarty left for Pillow Academy after the 2013 season, BA hired Blake Purvis, a recent college graduate who went 3-17 in two seasons.

Ball also thought he might get the chance to lead his own program at Amite County after being an assistant there in 2022, but the Trojans chose to hire someone else for that spot too.

Those chances to interview for head coaching jobs that he missed out on have only made Ball hungrier to lead his own program.

“I’m going to lead from the front because I have an awesome wife and two girls at home who support me, but my true passion is service,” said Ball. “For me, being a football coach and teacher is how I get to serve others. I feel like I’ve learned in my career when there were times that I fell short of the mark and that’s what I want our young men to learn, that how you respond to adversity is what will guide you through life.”

In West Lincoln, he will inherit a team that went a combined 12-39 over the last five seasons for former coach Brad Bland. In 2023, the Bears went 2-9.

Bland had previously been an assistant under former WL coach BJ Smithhart and took over when Smithhart left for the head job at Franklin County. The 2017 West Lincoln team, with Smithhart as head coach and Bland as one of his assistants, finished 5-6 and made school history by finishing second in Region 7-2A and hosting the first playoff game since the program began in 1998.

Ball will the 11th different man to lead the West Lincoln football program in its history.

In addition to North Pike, Amite County and Brookhaven Academy, Ball has also spent time coaching at Parklane Academy and Amite School Center during his career.

“I got out of coaching for a couple years to follow another career path, but I figured out it wasn’t something I truly loved,” said Ball. “Other than my family and my Lord, what I truly love the most is getting to help mold and shape kids through sports and I can’t wait to get started at West Lincoln.”