Garry Herron walks with a Roxana football player during his time as an assistant coach with the Shells. Herron is leaving Roxana to take the head football coaching position at his alma mater, East Alton-Wood River.
For Garry Herron, his new job is a return home.
Herron, a 2002 graduate of East Alton-Wood River High School, was announced as the next head football coach of the Oilers on Jan. 13 at a school board meeting. Herron replaces Joe Parmentier, who stepped down to spend more time with his family after a 1-8 season in 2014.
Herron, 31, played as an offensive and defensive lineman for the Oilers. He has worked as an assistant at EA-WR, Jersey and Roxana. He comes to the Oilers after being the top assistant the last two seasons with the Shells.
“Every since the job came open and I put in for it, there was always that excitement in the back of my mind that maybe I had a chance to go back there and get the program back on track,” Herron said. “Hopefully I do my part and get a good staff in there and do the things I want to do to help make sure the program at least gets back to some kind of consistency and at least a shot at the playoffs every year.”
Herron played under Gary Carter at EA-WR and then worked as an assistant under him at Jersey. He pointed to the experience he gained the last two seasons at Roxana under Pat Keith as being very beneficial to his new head coaching gig, too.
The Shells finished 8-3 in ‘14, making the playoffs for the first time since 2003 and winning a postseason game to boot.
“This past year was an unbelievable year. We had some great kids that really worked hard,” Herron said. “At the beginning of the year Dave Gan left to go to O’Fallon and Pat asked me — and I’ve always been an offensive guy — to look at more of the defensive side of things. I did and he and I worked a lot together on game plans and that right there challenged me this year with putting the defense together and making sure the kids were accountable. That really helped me become more of an overall coach.
“The things I’ve learned from (Carter and Keith) are invaluable. I can’t even begin to tell everything I’ve learned from them. It’s just been good being around people like that who set high goals and are good all-around people.”
And from his firsthand experience at Roxana this year, he’s seen how success can spur excitement for a program and excitement means numbers. Excitement is something he’d like to create at EA-WR.
“I think a lot of it is about excitement,” Herron said. “I think once you’ve been in a lull for a couple of years, people just tend to go onto the next best thing. If basketball is doing well, they all shift to basketball. I know the last couple of years at Wood River the soccer team has been very good, so you lose kids to that. I think a lot of it has to do with getting the kids excited, because ultimately they are the ones you are going to rely on to go out and play the game. It’s just getting kids back out who maybe walked away from it for whatever reason and getting the excitement back into the school.”
The Oilers joined the Prairie State Conference in 2014, going 1-6 on the league circuit with their lone victory a forfeit win over Metro East Lutheran.
Members of the PSC are: EA-WR, Marquette Catholic, Bunker Hill, MELHS, South Fork, Mount Olive, Nokomis and Pawnee. As for enrollment, EA-WR is the biggest school in the conference. Just by sheer size, Herron thinks the Oilers should be able to compete in the PSC.
“The Wood River enrollment is just over 500 and a lot of the other schools in that conference are 200, 250, so there should be no reason why we shouldn’t be able to compete in that conference and be at the top of it,” he said.
Herron will work as a teacher’s aide at EA-WR for the ‘15-16 school year. He graduated from SIUE with a bachelor’s degree in physical education in 2013 and will get his special education endorsement this spring.
“Garry is a coach who is very passionate about his student athletes and the game of football, from weight training to success on the field and in the classroom,” Oilers’ director of athletics Adam Miller said in a press release. “We think he will work very hard and put in a lot of time in and out of season. He’s the right person to get our football program going in the right direction.”