Prep football: Mast steps aside at North Douglas
It was an idea that began bubbling up during the 2016 football season.
Then North Douglas put together a historic playoff run, reaching the semifinals and JJ Mast felt invigorated to lead the Warriors for another year.
But the suggestion was well planted in his mind: 2017 would be his final season as the head coach of the Class 1A school in Drain.
He posted on Facebook before the state playoffs began that when the season ended, so would his tenure as Warriors coach.
“It’s something that I kind of thought about for a while,” said Mast. “I thought last year would be my last year, then we make the run to the semis and lead for three quarters. Me and coach (Shawn) McHaffie decided to come back for one more go at it.”
So Mast, also North Douglas’ athletic director, put in one more season, finding ways to win in Special District 3 East and trying to best foes in the postseason. He secured the clear memory of his son Easton, 8, serving as the Warriors’ ballboy.
He plans to spend more time with Easton and his twin 5-year-old daughters Reagan and Rilee.
“They’re at the age where they want to do things, and I would like to be there and to watch them,” said Mast. “I never want to be the dad who was there for everyone else’s kid and not for his own.”
Family will take on a bigger role for Mast. He will remain as North Douglas’ athletic director.
“It’s more time for me to step away, spend some time with my kids and have more time than I have had in the past,” said Mast. “I can’t remember the last time I got to go hunting. It’ll just nice for me.”
His aforementioned assistant coach McHaffie is also stepping away from the program, which won the last two league titles and will return offensive and defensive player of the year Caleb Parks. Also returning are three other athletes who received first- or second-team all-league accolades.
“One of my goals when I came to North Douglas was to get the program competing for the league championship and to be on the state radar,” Mast said. “I accomplished that. I think next year this team will have a lot of talent. A lot of kids stepped into starting roles this year and that experience will be a benefit to them next year.”
Sophomores Jake Gerrard and Austin Frieze were first team at linebacker and defensive back, while freshman Wyatt McDaniel was second team at running back.
The Warriors had four seniors — quarterback Brandon Rundell, lineman Carson Burris, end Devin Davidge and running back Gerardo Alcantar — all of whom were either first- or second-team.
“I’m staying as athletic director,” said Mast. “I think it’s more manageable (time-wise), but that’s not my sole reason.
“With football, you’re going. It takes your summer, takes your fall and there are things I’d like to do with (my kids), certainly. That it was time to step away, that was the plan for a while now.
“You don’t say anything until you’re absolutely sure. I waited until the season wound down and my feelings hadn’t changed on that, so I figured it was time to do it.”
Mast said the position will be opened up to outside candidates.
“We’ll try and gather the best pool of candidates we can and we’ll go from there,” he said. “That’s something I’d like to do sooner rather than later, but we have to take care of some things before we can do that. My resignation hasn’t even hit the (school) board yet.”
Whoever replaces him, Mast intends to be that coach’s biggest fan.
“I’m excited that someone else can get in here,” said Mast. “The program is in a good spot and someone else can bring some excitement in, and I’ll be one of their biggest supporters.”