By CHRIS HOBBS
NEWTON – Newton-Conover High’s search for a new head football coach has restarted after Darren Ponder, the interim head coach named on May 2, decided he won’t fill that role.
Multiple sources told HobbsDailyReport.com a committee conducted interviews on Wednesday, as the school looks to replace Matt Beam, who resigned May 2 after four seasons as head coach.
Red Devils athletic director John Echerd — responding to an email inquiry by HobbsDailyReport.com asking if he could clarify if the head-coaching job is open and, if so, provide information about the next step in the process — said the position is open.
His email also said interviews have been conducted and the school hopes to present a candidate’s name to the Newton-Conover City Schools Board of Education for its consideration at a meeting on Monday night.
School system boards vote on extending an employment contract to a prospective coach only; coaching assignments are made by a school’s principal.
The need to look for a new head coach – who will be the fifth since Don Patrick came from Wilkes Central to Newton-Conover prior to the 1974 season – arose after Ponder apparently had a change of heart.
A press release from the school system when Beam resigned, indicating he was going into business in Lincolnton with his brother, also said Ponder would be the interim head coach.
Ponder was defensive coordinator for Beam at Newton-Conover since 2016.
Sources say Ponder has already applied and interviewed for an open football staff position at another school in the region.
Ponder was not available for comment on Wednesday.
He began his coaching career at Mitchell County and was later a head football coach at Madison. He has also served as defensive coordinator at West Lincoln until leaving the Rebels to become defensive coordinator and athletic director at Burns, where he worked with Beam.
Ponder was defensive coordinator a second time at West Lincoln, in 2015 under head coach Tom Sain, before joining Beam at Newton-Conover.
Newton-Conover went 7-4-1, 6-6, 6-5 and 9-3 in four seasons under Beam, who came there from Burns. His first two teams reached the state playoffs and his third team did not reach the postseason.
The Red Devils were 1-4 in the postseason under Beam. After beating Ashe County in a first round game in 2012 and falling to Bandys in the second round, the Red Devils lost opening round games to Lincolnton and Wilkes Central in 2014 and 2015 and were ousted in the first round last season by Shelby.