Justin Conyers is an example of how much coaching matters at the prep level. After leaving Battle, where he was head coach since its inception until this season, Conyers faced a different set of challenges in going from a Class 4 school to a Class 2 school with Hallsville.

Conyers has proven himself to be a talented X’s and O’s coach as his dynamic offenses evolve like teams at the college level. He said earlier in the season that a lot of the inspiration for running the run-pass-option (RPO) offense at Hallsville was turning on his TV on Saturday and seeing Alabama and Clemson do it.

Conyers isn’t the only coach with an innovative offense at the prep level, but the amount of recruiting he had to do heading into Week 1 this year sure looks more like the job description of a college coach.

For instance, the quarterback tasked with running Conyers’ system, which requires both top-tier athleticism and an acute decision-making ability, did not play football last year. Senior Jake Ashburn wanted to focus his attention more on the baseball diamond as an upperclassman after playing quarterback earlier in high school.

Conyers spotted the talent by looking at old film and by going to Ashburn’s baseball games last spring. In building a relationship with Ashburn, Conyers eventually got his guy.

Beyond having to put in work just to get more students to show up and try football, Conyers had to switch around the positions of numerous athletes who were already on the team in previous years.

His efforts have already made a huge impact on the team. Not only have the Indians reached the eight win mark for the first time since 2014, they have a legitimate chance to earn multiple playoff wins for the first time this decade. Even successful Hallsville teams, like the 2014 team that finished 8-3, have not been able to get over the hump of a second win.

If Hallsville gets it done on Friday against Hermann, the Indians will play in the Class 2 District 7 championship game. Given Hallsville’s struggles over the last two seasons (9-12 combined record), a chance at the district title may have seemed like a fantasy heading into the season. Conyers has been adamant and up-front that the district championship was the goal for the team since he got to Hallsville. It’s not just a talking point for Conyers, either, as he said that he expects it.

While Conyers had a distinguished run at Battle, including winning a state championship with the newest Columbia school, every win in 2019 has further proved that this season is one of his best coaching jobs yet.

As the second seed in the tournament, Hallsville gets third seed Herman at home. Hallsville is undoubtedly the hotter hand, as the Indians have won four straight since an October loss to powerhouse Blair Oaks, and Herman is 2-2 in its last four games. Hallsville’s formula of creative playcalling and overwhelming speed on defense earned them a 7-2 regular season record and a blowout playoff victory over Tolton last week. Proper execution against Hermann can continue to vault the Indians towards their ultimate goal.

The district semifinal between the Indians and the Bearcats is at 7 p.m. Friday in Hallsville.

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