VALDESE — Chris Powell is headed home to Burke County to become the new head coach of the Draughn football program, DHS administration announced Wednesday in a press release.
Powell, 32, is from the Oak Hill area and played the sport at Freedom under coach Tim McMahon, the winningest coach in FHS gridiron history. Powell graduated in 2003 and went on to become a walk-on linebacker at Western Carolina, from where he graduated in 2008.
In the near-decade since, Powell has been an assistant coach at two schools in South Carolina. First, he coached five seasons under Bruce Clark at Boiling Springs in an era when former University of South Carolina quarterback Dylan Thompson was a star for the Bulldogs. While there, he was varsity running backs coach and enjoyed five winning seasons as JV head coach.
Powell has spent the last four-plus years at Chester. He was most recently co-offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach at Chester but also has experience coaching on the defensive side of the ball. He also served as JV head coach for several seasons at Chester and served as strength and conditioning coach there.
Powell served as head baseball coach with the Cyclones in addition and has experience coaching track and field.
At DHS, Powell will teach health and P.E., including weight training. He’s expected to start in Valdese when second semester gets underway on Jan. 24.
Powell’s parents, Rex and Barbara Powell, and his sister, Becky, still currently reside in Burke County, as does his girlfriend, Caitlin Whisenant. Powell last lived in Burke County in the summer of 2008 after graduating from WCU.
“First and foremost, I want to thank (principal) Mrs. (Karen) Auton and (athletic director) Mr. (Dillon) Sain for giving me this opportunity to be the head football coach at Jimmy C. Draughn High School,” Powell said, according to the release.
“As a graduate of Freedom High School, it has been my dream to return to Burke County and to teach and coach the student-athletes here. I believe that Draughn has the athletes to compete at a high level, and it is my goal to get us there. Our focus will not just be on winning ball games, but also on the development of these young men into productive citizens.”
Powell becomes just Draughn’s third head football coach all-time. He replaces Scott Lambert, who helped build the program in 2008 when the school opened and stayed until 2013.
He returned for a second stint from 2015-17, winning 30 games altogether, highlighted by a 9-4 campaign in 2011 in which the Wildcats won their first (and still only) playoff game. Lambert resigned on Nov. 20.
“I have full confidence that Coach Powell will build upon the foundation of Draughn football,” Sain said, according to the release. “I think he has a great plan, and I am eager to see it put into place to help develop not only our football players, but all student athletes in our school.”
Auton added: “It is evident that Coach Powell has a passion for the game, and more importantly, for the young men that play the game. I feel certain that he will be an asset not only to the Wildcat football program, but also to our school faculty. We are excited to have him join our staff in the coming weeks.”
Sain said three of this past year’s Wildcats assistant coaches are faculty members and expect to be back. They include Ken Pressley, Tim Barus and Billy Abee. Powell will hire the rest of the staff and already has a few local names in mind, both he and Sain said.
“I’m excited to get rolling and get in there with them,” he said. “I’m excited to meet the coaches there and want to retain anyone who wants to stay and is willing to put in the work. And I’m open to interviewing more individuals interested in joining the program and helping take Draughn to a championship-contending team.”
Powell said his offense would be multi-dimensional and the defensive scheme would depend on personnel. He prefers a 4-2-5 or 3-3 stack look on that side of the ball.
“I’ve had experience with both spread and power offenses,” Powell said, “and want to incorporate elements of both. We’ll use multiple formations. … You don’t have to have tons of team speed to run spread. And you don’t have to throw it way downfield. The big things are using what you have and spreading a defense sideline to sideline.”
Paul Schenkel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 828-432-8950.
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