OHATCHEE — For those wondering how a relative unknown coach in Calhoun County circles turned Ohatchee into the latest thing in high school football, know this about Scott Martin.
He played linebacker and kicker under Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame coach Lee Hedges at Captain Shreve High School in Shreveport, La., and enjoyed a notable 22-year career. Before retiring in his home state in 2007, Martin coached the likes of Ed Reed, Mike Scifres and Jordan Jefferson in Destrahan High School, near New Orleans.
Martin moved to Alabama and started Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa running back Brian Robinson on his way to becoming an Alabama commit and coached current Crimson Tide player Keith Holcombe.
An avid golfer, Martin made connections in the local golfing community, which drew him to Calhoun County for the Sunny King Charity Classic, which led to him meeting his wife and, ultimately, opting to leave Hillcrest for long-struggling Ohatchee.
But if you need to narrow one of the newest sharks in our crowded county coaching tank to single nut, it’s this.
“I have a history of taking jobs that need rebuilding,” the 54-year-old Martin said. “It goes back to my early days in Louisiana. My first head-coaching job was at 27, and we promptly 0-10.
“But by year four, we won the district.”
It’s year three at Ohatchee, and the Indians have gone from 1-9 to 4-6 to this season’s 5-0 start, with a No. 8 ranking in Class 3A. They seem headed for their first playoff berth since 20003.
Ohatchee just prevailed 41-21 over Weaver in a battle of unbeaten teams in Region 5. The Indians are about to play their midseason non-region game against Ashville, a team they beat 42-20 a year ago on the strength of running back Austin Tucker’s 349-yard night.
Ohatchee has tried many formulas since enjoying five .500-or-better seasons in six years under Jeff Smith. The Indians have something in Martin, their first third-year head coach since Ray Crump in 2006. They’ve found a flexible “old-school guy” who grew up on wing-T offense, evolved to the spread then converted Ohatchee to its highly effective “Ugly Eagle” offense.
Like Martin, the “Ugly Eagle” fits Ohatchee’s talent and community, but Ohatchee wasn’t his first love match in Calhoun County.
Martin finished up his collegiate career at Northeast Louisiana (now Louisiana-Monroe) in 1985, and the former kicker graduated as his school’s all-time leading scorer. Kickers are golfers in pads, and his golfing travels put him in contact with Eric Messer, who helped him partner up with Brett Rothwell for the 2013 Sunny King.
While playing in the area’s signature community golf event, Martin met attorney and Alexandria native Shirley Millwood.
“There was a friend of ours who needed a ride over to a pool party, incidentally,” Martin said. “I went over there, and it happened to be Shirley’s house, and I met all of them, and we started dating shortly thereafter, and the rest is history.”
They dated while Martin led Hillcrest to playoff berths in both of his seasons there. The Ohatchee job came open after Nathan Wehunt went 3-17 over the 2012 and 2013 seasons.
Martin knew he had Robinson coming up. He knew he’d good 6A teams at Hillcrest, but he also had a serious relationship. Plus, how could he turn down a struggling program about to be forced up in classification?
He knew he’d have time.
“I have a great administration that committed to the long term,” he said. “I said, ‘If you’re expecting to see a bunch of wins in two years, then don’t hire me.’ Let’s give this thing where we can get all our kids going through the same program.”
Martin delegates to a staff with lots of Alexandria flavor. He calls defensive coordinator Blake Jennings “head coach of the defense.”
In its second season with a 3-5-3 stack after changing from a 4-2-5, Ohatchee gives up 13.4 points a game.
“He lets us defensive coaches pretty much get after it,” Jennings said. “During the game, he’ll be right there on you, but during the week, preparing, we’re good to go.”
Strength coach Chris Finley has similar autonomy, and Ohatchee’s gains that way are visible in warmups.
Offense is Martin’s area. He tried to run power football from spread formations in 2014 but saw a need to change. He had followed Tim Murphy’s exploits with the Clayton Valley High Ugly Eagles in California and ordered video and a playbook online. Martin also attends Glazier Clinics each year and took his offensive staff to see Murphy speak in Charlotte, N.C.
Martin noticed when Murphy morphed his offense from double tight end/double wing to two tight ends, a wing and shotgun formation.
“It’s a two-tight wing with a sniffer back, shotgun, offset back, which, a lot of that is things you see in football today,” Martin said. “Some of it is throwback to the single-wing days, and it’s all kind of a combination.”
Martin also consulted with Fyffe’s coaches, who had adopted the system successfully with similar talent. The change came at Ohatchee between spring practice and the regular season in 2015.
It’s smash-mouth football and produces performances like Tucker’s against Ashville last year. Ohatchee averages 48.4 points a game this season.
The Indians also wear on opponents, and the physicality of the offense prevents Martin from going live in practice during the week. He doesn’t want to wear down his own team.
Tucker, a senior, describes the offense as “power.”
Senior quarterback Taylor Eubanks acknowledges the offense “is pretty ugly-looking, if you look at it” but effective. The beautiful part that comes with the offense and coach who brought it?
“A winning mentality,” Tucker said. “That pretty much sums it up.”