published Sunday, August 10th, 2014

Whitwell honoring Holtcamp before jamboree

SEQUATCHIE VALLEY FOOTBALL JAMBOREE

Friday's schedule at Whitwell High School

(All times Eastern)

6:30--Ceremony introducing local TSSAA Hall of Famers and dedication of Vernon Holtcamp Field

7--Bledsoe County vs. South Pittsburg; Grundy County vs. Lookout Valley; Chattanooga Christian vs. Marion County; Whitwell vs. Sequatchie County ... (Halftime contests: longest punt, longest throw, longest field goal, fastest lineman race, fastest skill-position-player race) ... Grundy County vs. Lookout Valley; Bledsoe County vs. Sequatchie County; South Pittsburg vs. Marion County; Chattanooga Christian vs. Whitwell

Whitwell will be honoring one of its own Friday with a ceremony dedicating Vernon Holtcamp Field in honor of the longtime Whitwell High School football coach. It will take place at 6:30 EDT at the high school field before the start of the Sequatchie Valley jamboree at 7.

Most of Holtcamp's 30-year coaching career was spent at Whitwell, his alma mater. He was an assistant football coach for 13 years and the Tigers' head coach another 13.

"He was the longest tenured and the most successful coach I know of at Whitwell, and I've been in the Valley since 1990," said Whitwell assistant principal Paul Underwood, who was an assistant coach for Holtcamp from 1990 to 1993.

Whitwell compiled an 82-54 record in Holtcamp's tenure as head coach. His best season was in 1991 when the Tigers went 12-2 and lost at Franklin Road Academy in a Class A state semifinal. Holtcamp received three coach-of-the-year awards that season, including his district's coach of the year, which he earned three different times.

"When you're in that position on a winning streak, the pressure gets to you," Underwood said. "Vernon was always able to keep things in perspective. The kids enjoyed playing for him. The coaches enjoyed it, too. He knew there were other things than football, but he also knew this was a very special time."

Holtcamp's son, Coby, was the starting quarterback and a senior on the 1991 team. He's now an assistant coach at Ringgold.

Coby's coaching career, which also included stops at Ridgeland and Bradley Central, began in 1995 when he started helping his father. Growing up a coach's son, he was surrounded by influences that ultimately led him in the same direction.

"Where he went, I went," Coby said. "The earliest I can remember being on the sideline is 1984. I was 11 years old then. I got to know the people around him. They were coaches and teachers, too. Early on I didn't know what I wanted to do as a profession, but I kind of had coaching in the back of my mind.

"We're not going to break the bank or anything, but it's a way to enjoy what you do for a living."

Vernon said that early in his son's coaching career he sat in the booth above the stands and helped him out a little. He also said Whitwell first-year coach R.C. Helton discussed with him the possibility of doing the same thing this year, although Vernon didn't think he could be of much help unless he was at practices all the time.

"I considered it," Vernon said, "but then I started thinking about those two- and three-hour days out there in that sun."

The coach did confess he misses a few things about coaching.

"I guess it's the camaraderie with the players, and of course the competition and the improving," Vernon said. "That's what I always enjoyed about it from the very beginning."

Underwood said Vernon will be presented a plaque commemorating the occasion. A permanent sign will be put up at the field at a later date.

There will also be a ceremony recognizing TSSAA Hall of Fame inductees from the Sequatchie Valley area before the action is scheduled to begin.

Four 20-minute periods with a continuous clock are scheduled to take place before a halftime break that will feature a variety of individual competitions. Another four 20-minute periods will conclude the festivities.

Admission is $6 per person. The Holtcamp family is inviting all former Whitwell players and coaches to come early and attend the dedication.

"It's been something I hoped would've happened," Coby said. "It's something well-deserved."

Contact Kelley Smiddie at ksmiddie@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6653. Follow him at twitter.com/KelleySmiddie.

about Kelley Smiddie...

Kelley Smiddie is a sports writer who has worked at the Times Free Press for 12 years. He covers high school sports and softball. Kelley’s hometown is Chattanooga, and he graduated from Brainerd High School and graduated Chattanooga State and UTC. Contact Kelley at 423-757-6653 or ksmiddie@timesfreepress.com.

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