Late 1970s CHS standout who also played at Mizzou turned to teaching, coaching only about a decade ago. Gets first head coaching post, replacing new Polo superintendent Kyle Ross, after half-dozen years as CHS freshman head coach.
POLO, Mo. — Reid Stephens of Chillicothe, a former Chillicothe High football standout in the 1970s and a member of the CHS coaching staff the past half-dozen years after retiring from a lengthy career with the United States Postal Service, has been hired as new head coach of the Polo High football Panthers.
Stephens, a Chillicothe Middle School math teacher who oversaw the freshman football Hornets from 2012-17 and was advance scout for the CHS varsity team, will succeed Kyle Ross in the Polo post.
“I am very excited about being the next Panther head varsity football coach and math teacher for grades 7-9,” Stephens comments. “I have already spent a full day at the school in the math classroom with students and met with next year's team.
“I am looking forward to a great teaching and coaching experience at Polo.”
Ross stepped aside after about eight mostly-successful years to concentrate on his new duties as district superintendent after a couple of years as PHS principal.
“This (decision to relinquishing the head coaching role) has not been easy on me,” Ross shares with the C-T. “I have been on the sidelines in some capacity for over two decades.”
I do feel good about Reid as I think he is a fantastic human being and will take care of ‘my guys.’”
With a senior-heavy squad, Polo’s Panthers compiled a 5-5 record last fall, losing in the opening round of district play.
“I have followed Polo and the teams in the (Grand River Conference) since my high school officiating days back in the ’80s,” notes Stephens.
“Polo has always had a reputation of being physically competitive and also for being tough-minded. I can relate to the rural setting having grown up on a farm just outside Chillicothe. I grew up hunting and fishing, and I was very active in FFA. Football has always been my passion, but my rural roots were where I first learned the benefits of working hard.
“When I inquired about the position and visited with (Ross), I felt that this was a good fit for me and the Panthers.”
In terms of his football coaching philosophy, as it applies to his new post, Stephens reports, “The Polo Panthers will be known by this theme - Tough People Win!
“We will be physical, tough-minded, well-conditioned and smart on Friday nights. Offensively, we will utilize our personnel to exploit weaknesses in the defense. This requires flexibility to adapt from year to year, week to week, and series to series. This will be accomplished with diverse packages utilizing multiple formations, only featuring what we can do well and execute to perfection. We will put the opposing team's defense in conflict with series football.
“On defense, first and foremost, we will take away what the offense does best. We will stress fundamentals with great pursuit and gang tackling. We want to stop the run first. We will adjust our defense to align with our personnel and we will utilize the strengths of our players to obtain maximum results.”
The new coach also notes there is an off-field component to his coaching style.
“One of the greatest joys and privileges of my profession is to see young men transformed into champions for life,” Stephens relates. “My passionate desire as a football coach is to create a team culture and to build individual character through discipline, hard work, perseverance, humility, reputation and significance.
“My goal is to use football as a tool to take young men in life where they would not be able to go by themselves. I believe my coaching, teaching, leadership and life experience will allow me to not only be successful in this position, but also to help young men have successful futures.
“I believe in winning football games on the field, but ultimately in using football as a tool to win in life.”
Having been deeply rooted in Chillicothe football for a long time and among those interested in and considered for the head coaching vacancy at his high school alma mater – a job which went to former Jefferson City: Helias and South Callaway head coach Tim Rulo in early March, Stephens acknowledges going to a new school and program was not an easy choice.
“It was a difficult decision not to stay at Chillicothe, because I have a great relationship with the football players and other students at school,” he admits.
“I am very thankful for the opportunities that Chillicothe R-II Schools have given me since my career change seven years ago. However, when I started down this path, my goal was always to become a high school varsity head coach.
“(Retired CHS head coach) Phil Willard has been a great mentor and encouragement to me and has helped prepare me for this opportunity. I wish the best for CHS football and expect great things from Coach Rulo and the Hornets squad next season.”