Heaton hired as head coach, AD at RussellvillePublished 5:13pm Thursday, March 6, 2014
By Bart Moss
For the FCT
The Russellville Golden Tigers coaching search is over and they didn’t have to look far to find new leadership.
Haleyville High School football coach and athletic director Mark Heaton will take the reins of the Golden Tiger program effective March 10.
Heaton’s hire as the new head coach and athletic director at RHS was approved by the Russellville City Board of Education at a special called meeting at 3:30 p.m. Thursday.
“My first job out of college was as a student assistant at Muscle Shoals, so I was very familiar with the rich tradition and the expectation level of the Russellville football program,” Heaton said.
“I believe this is one of the top high school jobs in the state. The community supports its football team and athletic programs. They are committed to excellence. They are used to winning and that’s what we plan to do.
“I know Russellville wants to win state championships. Every coach’s ultimate goal is to win state championships. We are going to work hard toward that goal every day in the weight room, every workout, and every practice.
“I’m happy as heck to be a Golden Tiger.”
Heaton said he has some goals and ideas in mind for his team’s offense as he steps into his new role.
“We are going to build from the ground up with fundamentals and play with multiple formations,” he said.
“We will have a spread offense. It’s not like spread offenses where you throw the ball around but more of a high tempo, downhill running game philosophy.
“We will match up with what the defense gives us when it comes to designing our game plan.”
As far as his coaching staff goes, Heaton said he would be making those evaluations in the coming weeks.
“I will meet with our current coaching staff, do some evaluations and see how we move forward,” Heaton said.
“Obviously, I have some people who are loyal to me who I would like to give opportunities, but that is something we will focus on.”
Heaton made the cut as Russellville’s new head coach and athletic director out of a pool of more than 50 applicants, eight of which were selected for an interview.
The hiring committee consisted of Russellville City Schools Superintendent Rex Mayfield, RHS principal Tim Guinn and RMS principal Franklin Hammack.
“We are excited to have Coach Heaton here at Russellville,” school board president Brett Gist said.
“He has a good, Christian attitude and has a good record for success in the past. He is young, has a lot of energy, and I think he is going to be a great fit for Russellville.”
In his second season at Haleyville, Heaton led the Lions football team to its sixth 10-win season in school history in 2013. The Lions went 10-2 and scored 418 total points, a Haleyville High School record.
Heaton is a 1996 graduate of Demopolis High School where he played quarterback and punter. He attended the University of West Alabama from 1997 to 2000 where he played the same positions.
Heaton began his coaching career in 2001 as a student assistant at Muscle Shoals High School. In 2002, he became the passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Oglethorpe County High School in Lexington, Ga. In 2004, he was hired as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Northview High School in Bratt, Fla. While at Northview, Heaton was selected to coach in the Pensacola Sports Association High School All-Star Game.
Heaton’s first head coaching job was in 2008 at J.U. Blacksher School in Uriah. In his first season at J.U. Blacksher, he led the team to an 8-4 record and won the school’s first playoff game in ten years. It was the school’s second eight-win season in 24 years.
In 2010, Heaton was hired to take over the Escambia County High School football program in Atmore. Again, in his first season, Heaton led Escambia County to the playoffs. The team boasted a 9-4 record and advanced to the state quarterfinals.
The summer before being hired at Haleyville, Heaton was selected to coach the offensive line in the 2011 Alabama North-South All-Star High School Football Game.
Heaton has led his teams to the playoffs at every head coaching stop.
“One thing that really made Mark stand out was his the fact that his whole plan centers on building men as well as building a team,” Russellville City Schools Superintendent Rex Mayfield said.
“He seems to be a man of great character that wants to instill those same values in our players.
“He has some great experience as well, and a winning record, so I’m very excited about what Mark brings to the table.”
In addition to serving as the head coach, Heaton will also serve as Russellville’s athletic director. He served in the same capacity at Escambia County and at Haleyville.
He also has experience in multiple sports including track, girls’ basketball, and competitive weightlifting.
“I want to build the best possible athlete,” Heaton said.
“We have to find the right kind of balance to be successful with all sports. We want to have a unified vision with all of our athletic programs. That will be one of our first goals.”
Mayfield said they felt Heaton’s background and experience in other sports has prepared him for the role of serving as the school system’s athletic director.
“Mark showed an eagerness to work with all athletics, which will be a great asset to all of our student athletes,” Mayfield said.
“I believe he will be a great asset to the Russellville City School System and we are glad to have him here.”