By BRYAN URBACH and JOE ELERSON
Westwood High School has a new face in town.
Athens High School offensive coordinator Kevin Hayes was named the head football coach and athletic director at Westwood High School during Monday night’s school board meeting.
Hayes was on campus Tuesday morning in his new position evaluating the coaching staff and looking over the facilities.
“It is a program that has been down for a couple of years for whatever reason,” Hayes said. “There is a lot of bright spots that I thought could be built on and the administration and superintendent have made a big commitment to athletics. I thought this job was a diamond in the ruff.”
Westwood Superintendent Dr. Ed Lyman said Hayes was one of 30 candidates who applied for the position.
He said he was glad that Hayes was willing to come back to Westwood where he coached in the early 80s.
“We had over 30 applicants and Coach Hayes has the experience, track record and stability that we need,” Lyman said. “We felt very pleased that he would want to come back and establish a winning program here.”
Hayes will look to bring the Panthers back from a 1-9 season in 2013. He takes over the program from Roger Mays — who was reassigned back in November after a 7-27 record. Mays took over the Westwood Panther's leadership in the final four games of the 2010 season.
“The whole key is getting the kids in there and selling them on what you are doing,” Hayes said. “We need them to get to work and that is what we need them to do here.”
Hayes said he will look for a staff that is willing to get the athletes to buy into the new program and work to be successful in all areas of athletic competition.
“I am going to run it like I have every other program,” Hayes said. “I am going to get the kids working hard and assemble a staff that is willing to do what it takes to get the kids successful.”
Lyman said Hayes’ ability to turn programs around was a key component in bringing him in to the Westwood ISD.
“Naturally, turning a program around will take time and he has done it before at Teague,” Lyman said. “He had 15 years of good solid performance in every sport. We do have excellent programs in a number of areas. We expect to have positive winning programs and we have those expectations.”
This is Hayes' second time to leave Athens in the past four years.
“I have been there twice and both times I have left it has been after great seasons,” Hayes said. “You hate to leave like that but on the same token they have a lot of kids coming back offensively for what I have done with them during my time at the school.”
Athens head football coach and athletic director Paul Essary said he is proud of Hayes for what he did under his leadership during his time at Hornet Nation.
Athens finished the 2013 season with a 10-1 overall record and the school's first undefeated regular season.
“That is a direct compliment to the program we have going here,” Essary said. “I am excited and happy as I can be for him. I have faith in Coach Hayes that he can get them turned around.”
One thing that is sometimes difficult for a transitioning coach is to be immediately taken in by the new program. Essary said having the support of the administration and the school board will help in the transition for Hayes to Westwood.
“He will be working for an outstanding superintendent and principal over there at Westwood,” Essary said. “The school board is committed to being successful. The main reason that we are successful is because of the school board and the administration.”
Essary said he wanted to give his support to Hayes in his new position.
“He will definitely be missed,” Essary said. “We want to wish him all of the luck in the world along with Westwood and I know they will be successful.”