Matt Poe turned around a dormant program by focusing on mental toughness.

By The Old Coach, FNF Coaches Correspondent

In the two season before Matt Pote became a head football coach for the first time, the program he was about to take over was not in a good place. Pottsboro was coming off back-to-back 0-10 seasons and had made the playoffs just twice, and had a winning record just four times, in the previous 18 years.

Now as Poe enters his 11th season at Pottsboro, which makes him the longest-tenured coach in Cardinal history dating back to 1972, struggling through the fall is a rare occurrence.

“A lot of it is expectations. We do a lot of stuff with mental toughness,” Poe said. “Make them believe. Now it’s proven.”

Only once has Poe won fewer than seven games – the 2009 Pottsboro squad went 1-9 after reaching the state semifinals in 2008 when it replaced 20 starters with a large group of sophomores.

In 2010, Pottsboro went 10-2. And in 2011, the Cardinals started a streak of consecutive district championships, having won all of their district contests in that span — a streak Poe and his staff look to stretch to six in 2016. In the last six years Pottsboro has lost 10 games total and never more than two in a single campaign as the program is riding four straight seasons with at least 11 victories.

“That’s where the bar has been set and they don’t want to be a part of not reaching that goal. They put some pressure on themselves to carry that torch,” said Poe, who needs seven victories to reach a milestone 100. “I think you make a mistake sitting around and patting yourself on the back.”

Part of the success comes from continuity. While at least some players will change on a yearly basis, the staff has had almost no turnover since Poe arrived. The plan, philosophy and scheme never deviates from the goal.

“One of the reasons we’ve been able to maintain the success has been the stability of the staff. Six of us have been here 10 years,” Poe said. “We’re a lot of ‘we’ around here. We’re ‘we’ people.”

There’s a feeling that Poe might have been born to be a coach. His father, Ron, led McKinney for 31 years, won a state title and was a runner-up, amassed 225 victories until retiring in 2001 and the town’s stadium bears his name. His uncle, Don, won 101 games over 17 seasons at Lewisville, Sulphur Springs and South Garland. And his brother, Bill, is about to enter his third season as the head coach at Justin Northwest after a previous stint at Longview Spring Hill.

“I’ve obviously had some great mentors and role models,” Poe said. “Not only football but dealing with kids and helping boys become men.”

About the author

Dan Guttenplan