Ross put his all into pro­gram

Siloam Springs Herald Leader - - SPORTS - Gra­ham Thomas

Bryan Ross sat be­hind his desk in his of­fice Fri­day af­ter­noon and an­swered ev­ery ques­tion I had to ask. My hope is that it’s not the last in­ter­view we ever do.

Ross, just mo­ments ear­lier, had told the Siloam Springs football team that he had re­signed as head football coach after nine years in the po­si­tion and 14 years to­tal in the district.

Some­one new will be sit­ting in that seat in the com­ing months.

Since com­ing to North­west Arkansas in the sum­mer of 2006, I’ve dealt with a lot of football coaches. But three head coaches in par­tic­u­lar I have spent more time with than oth­ers be­cause of their be­ing the head coach for the team I cover.

Those three guys are leg­endary head coaches Ron­nie Pea­cock (Rogers) and Barry Lun­ney Sr. (Ben­tonville) … and Bryan Ross.

I first met Bryan Ross back in Novem­ber 2007 when I was a sports writer for the Ben­ton County Daily Record. I was cov­er­ing Rogers that sea­son, but the Moun­ties had fallen short of the Class 7A play­offs, so I spent the next week work­ing on a fea­ture story about the ex­plo­sive Siloam Springs of­fense head­ing into their Class 5A play­off game at Batesville.

When I got into town and vis­ited with then-head coach Clint Ashcraft, he told me that he had a few kids in mind for me to in­ter­view, but Ashcraft also made it very clear to me that he wanted me to talk to his of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor, Bryan Ross.

So that’s just what I did. I don’t re­mem­ber much about the in­ter­view hon­estly, but I do re­mem­ber Ross and five play­ers — Nathan Nall, Roger Jack­son, Tim Davis, Cody Hitt­son and Robert Hooper — gather­ing in the stands at Glenn W. Black Sta­dium for a pho­to­graph that ran as the main art in the pa­per.

I moved on to the Ben­tonville beat in 2008 and 2009, and at the end of the 2009 sea­son, through a news­pa­per merger, my job was moved to Siloam Springs and I be­came the beat writer for the Pan­thers.

Get­ting reac­quainted with Ross wasn’t dif­fi­cult. We both share a love for Ma­jor League Base­ball, and I like him de­spite his love for the St. Louis Car­di­nals.

Over the years, he and I have worked to­gether as news­pa­per reporter and head coach, and I can tell you that from a reporter’s per­spec­tive, Bryan Ross has been a dream to work with.

He took my calls, and if he didn’t an­swer, he re­turned them as soon as he was able. He re­sponded to text mes­sages and emails. He an­swered ev­ery ques­tion I ever asked, even though I’m sure there were times he wished I had just left him alone.

I can only hope the next Siloam Springs head coach will be as ac­com­mo­dat­ing.

There were some truly great mo­ments in the Bryan Ross era of Siloam Springs football. The first big win has to be the Pan­thers’ up­set of Green­wood in 2010, Siloam Springs’ only vic­tory over the Bull­dogs since 1994.

The Pan­thers also took out Green­brier on the road that year when Green­brier had a Divi­sion I quar­ter­back and a ter­rific of­fen­sive football team.

An­other high­light was an of­fen­sive up­ris­ing and vic­tory at Rogers Her­itage in 2011.

In 2013, there was an ex­cit­ing come-from-be­hind tie against Shiloh Chris­tian at Don­ald W. Reynolds Ra­zor­back Sta­dium to open the year, a near win at Spring­dale Har-Ber and a road play­off win at Searcy.

The 2014 year saw sev­eral good road wins: at Clare­more, Okla., at Alma, at Rus­sel­lville and capped by a home win against Texarkana in the Class 6A play­offs.

In 2015, the Pan­thers opened the sea­son 3-0, in­clud­ing two wins at brand new Pan­ther Sta­dium in its first year.

The last two sea­sons, the wins have come too few and far be­tween. Ross rec­og­nizes that. It’s time to give some­one else a shot at lead­ing this pro­gram.

But the lack of vic­to­ries didn’t come from a lack of work put in by Ross and his staff. In fact, when talk­ing to opposing coaches, they would tell me that Siloam Springs play­ers were al­ways coached so well, knew what to do, and were in the right po­si­tions. It’s just that a lot of the times the play­ers they were go­ing up against were bet­ter football play­ers.

These same coaches have all the re­spect in the world for Bryan Ross. I’m not sure any other coach would have had the guts to stay and lead the Pan­thers through their tran­si­tion from a Class 5A school in 2011 to be­ing the only 6A team play­ing in a con­fer­ence full of 7A teams in 2012. Bryan Ross stuck through it, and that’s to be ad­mired.

I’m con­fi­dent Ross will have op­por­tu­ni­ties to con­tinue coach­ing some­where. That’s why I said I hope Fri­day wasn’t our last in­ter­view.

Ross is a good football coach with a great feel for the game. If there’s a knock about him — if you re­ally can call it a knock — it’s that he’s not a big “rah rah” guy. He’s not a used car sales­man. He’s not a preacher go­ing around shak­ing hands and kiss­ing ba­bies. That’s not his style.

But he’s a dang good football coach and a true pro­fes­sional. I’m glad for the chance to get to work with him.

— Gra­ham Thomas is the man­ag­ing ed­i­tor for the Her­ald-Leader. He can be reached at gth­omas@nwadg.com. The opin­ions ex­pressed are those of the au­thor.

Bud Sullins/Spe­cial to the Her­ald-Leader

Siloam Springs head football coach Bryan Ross re­signed Fri­day after nine sea­sons. The Pan­thers went 30-64-1 un­der Ross, who was an as­sis­tant coach for five years prior to be­com­ing head coach.

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