The Veritas football team will look to build on its successful 2013 season under first-year head coach Billy Earnhart, who plans to have a son and grandson on his staff and two more grandsons on the team in 2014.
The Veritas football team will look to build on its successful 2013 season under first-year head coach Billy Earnhart, who plans to have a son and grandson on his staff and two more grandsons on the team in 2014.
RIDGELAND - Billy Earnhart may not listen to Sly and the Family Stone, but he may be the only person in his family that can appreciate how his new gig is a perfect example of what the group was singing about in its 1971 smash hit "Family Affair."

Earnhart, who turned 73 this year, his son Brad Earnhart and his grandson Will Earnhart, have just been hired by another of his sons, Veritas Headmaster Tray Earnhart, to coach two more of Billy's grandsons, Jonathan and Nathan Earnhart, on the Lions' eight-man football team.

That is a lot of Earnharts to keep up with, but the recipe could be a winner for a Lions football program that just recently had it's first 5-5 season.

The family's patriarch retired from Major League Baseball after serving 43 years as a professional scout for the Arizona Diamondbacks and Houston Astros, but said last week he's not content to spend the rest of his 70's sitting around doing nothing.

"I just don't care to be retired," he said. "Maybe a few years from now, I'll be glad, but I'm not relishing that thought right now. This'll give me a chance to work with my son and grandsons, and that's the biggest reason why I'm doing it."

For Brad Earnhart, who will coach the offensive and defensive lines for Veritas this season, the chance to coach alongside his old man was too much to pass up, even if it wasn't in the plans.

"I was actually getting ready to move out of state, back to Georgia, when they told me he was going to come up here and coach," he said Tuesday. "I decided not to move so I could stay here. I mean, this has been a dream of mine my entire life, and I never thought it would happen."

If it sounds, to any cynics, like Earnhart is coming to spend quality family-time and not worry about wins and losses - think again. Earnhart has coaching credentials that date back to before the school's integrated in 1970. He's served stints as a coach, in some capacity, at at least five Mississippi high schools.

"I feel just as comfortable in football as I do baseball," Earnhart said. "I coached for many years at Callaway, Clarksdale, Jackson Prep and (Madison-Ridgeland Academy). I helped Buddy Crosby at Prep and then at Callaway from 1968-1971."

That said, this season's squad will likely be a work in progress. The Veritas football team is expected to have between 15 and 20 players this year. Those 15-to-20 will be young - so young that Earnhart's grandsons, eighth-grader Jonathan and freshman Nathan, will probably get to see the field.

The eight-man game can be confusing for some, because the formations change from region-to-region and are dictated by the athletes the school has, but Earnhart said he figures the fundamentals of the game are universal.

"I guess I'm about to get a crash-course in the eight-man game," he said. "But I suppose blocking and tackling is the same whether it's eight-man or 11-man football. I know it's more of a wide open game, with a lot of influence from spread offensive schemes and a lot more passing."

Earnhart added that he's putting his game plan together slowly, but steadily, as he prepares to move back to Madison County in July with his wife of 21 years, Carolyn.

Veritas Director of Athletics Stacey Sykes, who was tasked with hiring a new coach when former coach and athletic director Steve Spinks stepped down, could hardly hide his elation last week at finding a coach he said is the perfect fit.

"I'm absolutely satisfied," Sykes said. "Mr. Billy is as experienced in the coaching field as they come, and I'm excited that he's going to be our new coach here at Veritas."