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Henderson Starts Football Practice Under New Head Coach Phil Castles

Henderson coach Phil Castles talks to players during Monday morning’s two-a-day practice. (Christopher Vinn, ETSN.fm)

HENDERSON — Phil Castles may be new to Henderson, but he’s certainly no stranger to East Texas football.

The Lions’ new head coach arrives after compiling a 30-19 record in four seasons with Corsicana, which he led to a 13-2 mark and Class 4A Division I state semifinal appearance in 2011.

But Castles has previous head coaching experience at two East Texas schools: Chapel Hill and Elysian Fields. Castles led the Bulldogs to a 24-20 record from 2005-08, while guiding the Yellow Jackets to a 28-9 mark from 2002-04, including back-to-back 10-win seasons in 2003-04.

Henderson’s Zedrick Lister runs the ball during Monday morning’s two-a-day practice. (Christopher Vinn, ETSN.fm)

Castles said he and the staff are still getting to know players as well as possible in preparation for the 2013 season.

“Work ethic is always gonna be important. Getting to know the kids and establishing relationships, that’s a big part of what we do,” he said. “Right now we’ve got a lot of new coaches who don’t necessarily know the kids, so we’re going through a lot of that, just learning names and that kind of stuff. That’s crucial and those things come with time.”

Henderson hired Castles in February after former head coach Dickey Meeks left for the same position at Pittsburg.

Meeks raised expectations to previously unseen heights during his seven-year tenure with the Lions. After going 11-29 in his first four seasons, Meeks led Henderson to a 13-2 season in 2010 that ended in a Class 3A Division I state championship, the first and only in school history. Meeks then guided the Lions to an 11-3 Division I state semifinal run and 9-5 Division II state quarterfinal appearance in his final two seasons.

Henderson DT Brandon Armstrong. (Christopher Vinn, ETSN.fm)

“We’re expecting great things. The expectations are not gonna lower here. We’ve gotta keep them where they are. We’ve got high expectations regardless of the schedule and regardless of the circumstances. That’s just the way it is.”

Castles inherits a Henderson squad that graduated eight offensive starters and six defensive starters. One name East Texas fans won’t soon forget is Patrick “Monsta” Brown, who was an offensive and special teams nightmare for opponents. The SFA signee is one of many veteran Lions along with linebacker Jamaal Kind and defensive end Bo Brady who are gone after fueling the 33-10 run during the past three seasons.

Players such as defensive tackle Brandon Armstrong and running back Jordan Dickeson return and could take on larger roles as seniors. Senior tailback Zedrick Lister, junior athlete Randy Davis, and sophomore tailback Jeremiah Boone could also be impact players.

“We’ve gotta have some guys that grow up very quickly and jump into those leadership positions. It’s an unforgiving schedule, so we don’t have just a whole lot of time to wait on those things and let those things develop,” Castles said. “Those kids have got to jump in with both feet and be ready to go. Fortunately some of those guys came to our summer workouts and got to put in some time there and get to know their coaches.”

Henderson’s Caleb Jimmerson throws a pass during Monday morning’s two-a-day practice at the Lions’ indoor facility. (Christopher Vinn, ETSN.fm)

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