By Anvil Welch
Globe Sports Writer
Dustin Baldwin has taken the challenge of returning Neosho High School to competitiveness in football.
Baldwin, an assistant for the Wildcats — offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach — in 2008 under Sean Flannigan, rejoins them after four years at Miller.
“We’re tickled to death to get him,” Corey Roy, Neosho activities director, said on Thursday. “We played against each other in high school (Baldwin at Mount Vernon and Roy at Aurora). Dustin played football at Evangel with my brother-in-law Jodie Sparks.
“I’ve always been impressed with his work ethic,” Roy said. “Coach Baldwin knows the community and school. He’s familiar with our situation. Those are big positives.”
The Class 5 Wildcats, members of the rugged Central Ozark Conference Large Division, were winless in 2012 and Jared Schoonover stepped down after three years as head coach.
Baldwin, 36, is a 1994 graduate of Mount Vernon. He played for Terry Flannigan (Sean’s dad) for three years and under Bob Elder for one. Those were years to cherish, quarterback Baldwin said, but the 9-1 effort as a senior didn’t yield a Big 8 Conference title or the playoffs as Seneca prevailed in a snowy showdown.
Baldwin started three years at outside linebacker for Evangel. He began his prep coaching career at Mount Vernon as an assistant for nine years — eight for Dan Henderson and one for Joy Maberry — before the one season at Neosho.
“I thought there was support from the community,” Baldwin said. “The players worked very hard. The community rallied around our success. It was a group of players willing to do what it takes.
“We certainly want to change the culture,” Baldwin said. “We want to become a tough, physical team. We want to play fast and work hard each day.
“You aren’t guaranteed anything,” Baldwin said. “You have to work for it. We’ll work very hard to create a program so that we can become successful.”
Baldwin plans to meet with the Neosho players as quickly as possible. But he reminded that track practice for the Miller Cardinals starts on Monday.
“I’ve been blessed the last four years at Miller,” Baldwin said. “My last job (he also is activities director) as a Cardinal is to help them find a good coach.
“The support by the Miller community, the administration and, obviously the players, has been overwhelming,” Baldwin said.
Baldwin is single but won’t be much longer. He and Heather Pummill, a business teacher at Rogersville High School and originally from Sedalia, will wed March 23.
“I’m the lucky one. She also is looking for a job in the Neosho area,” Baldwin said with a laugh.