A Marshall County boys soccer program built on tradition will turn to a familiar face to usher in a new era.
Donnie Heath, who has been an assistant coach for the Marshals since 2005 after a starring career at Marshall, was announced as the program's fourth head coach on Friday. He called it a destination job, and said he has every intention of bringing the Marshals back to the forefront of the region conversation after a two-year absence from the First Region Tournament.
"It's an amazing honor. Having played here and coached here for so long, this is where I wanted to be," Heath said. "Not only in the community, but also on staff and with the coaching we have the facilities, support and everything in place to be successful."
A starter on the 2002 Marshall team that advanced to the state championship, Heath knows a thing or two about successful teams. Since beginning his coaching career as an assistant in 2005, the Marshals have only continued that winning tradition that Heath was a part of as a player.
He's helped coach four First Region championship teams and seven Second District championships with the varsity program, and will bring to the head-coaching position a sense of familiarity and family.
All of Heath's assistant coaches for his staff will be Marshall County graduates, and each has been a part of the rich history of Marshall soccer.
"The history is what makes us a program and not a team," he said. "We have players come back, we have coaches come back. When you graduate, you leave this building but you don't leave the program. That family atmosphere has only helped us with the program."
Recent coaching changes in the past two years at Graves, McCracken and Calloway counties have sent those respective programs to the top of the region. Now, with Heath on board as Marshall's head man, it'll look to reach the heights where it's so used to being.
"The biggest challenge for (the coaching staff) is to be ourselves and be clear with our expectations from them and what we expect from them as far as on the field, off the field," Heath said. "We feel like with the players we have and with the program we have, if we do a good job the rest will take care of itself."
Marshall, in Andy Pagel's final year as head coach after six seasons, finished the 2016 year with a 12-6-2 record.