New Madison County softball coach Ken Morgan says he has some big shoes to fill — especially considering his good friend, coaching partner and predecessor, Doug Kesler, is 6’7” and sports some pretty big shoes.
“Well, it’s always hard to follow a legend,” said Morgan. “I’m not 6’7” and it will be hard to fill those shoes in that way also, but to fill the shoes of somebody who’s always done it right. He’s built the program to what it is. And I’m just excited about the opportunity to continue that.”
Morgan said Kesler is still a mentor to him.
“He’s been so much help when I call him to talk about things, and teaching me to do it the right way,” said Morgan. “He’s one that you would want to follow, because he’s shown you the right way to do it. It’s overwhelming, but it’s exciting.”
Madison County has a new coach at the helm, but the Red Raiders will also have plenty of new players on the diamond. Six seniors graduated last year as the most successful class in Raider softball history, capping off their time at school with a state runner-up finish.
Now four seniors — Haley Gordon, Alexis Damron, Dani Lukas and Casie Wade — will try to lead their squad back to Columbus this fall for the state finals.
“Since we lost six seniors last year and they were starters, we’ve had a lot of people step up that didn’t have any varsity experience,” said Morgan. “Some freshmen have stepped up and are going to help us out. And sophomores and juniors have also taken their roles and done well. A lot of girls have stepped up. Moving up from the middle school and JV level, the learning curve is really steep and they’ve worked hard.”
Morgan plans to continue Kesler’s traditions, including “Effort Day,” which his team recently held.
“We want our girls to play the ‘Raider Way,’ which is with the attitude and effort always at 100 percent,” said Morgan. “We teach them to dive. We teach them to slide and we teach that it’s all out, that they play the game at 100 percent. On ‘Effort Day,’ they come up dirty and sometimes bruised up a little bit, but at the end of the day, they enjoy it. They took pictures of each other with all their stains on their shirts. It’s a good day. They just learn to go all out and not hold anything back.”
Morgan said the new region alignment will bring in some new challengers. While recent rival, Walnut Grove, is out of the region, perennial powerhouse Buford, which sports multiple state titles in recent years, is now in Region 8-AAAA.
“They’re a dominant force in any classification,” said the coach. “They’ll be very competitive and we’ll try to go get them when we see them.”
Morgan said he’s glad to have a lot of support around him.
“I have a good coaching staff around me and helping me,” he said. “Coach (Matt) Boggs and Coach (LeeAnne) Austin will be back with us. Coach Kesler’s daughter, Megan, is coming back again. And we added Michelle Archer, who’s played in our program. And they’re all doing a good job to make us better. Our senior managers (Ansley Damron and Heaven Clark) have been with us for four years and they really help us out, too. There’s a lot that goes into the softball program and we appreciate everything that the parents and boosters do for us. It’s a community effort.”