After an extensive search that included more than 25 applicants, Joplin High School has selected its next head football coach.
Joplin Athletics Director Jeff Starkweather on Monday confirmed that Curtis Jasper will be named to the position, pending school board approval during its next meeting in February. He replaces Chris Shields, who resigned as head coach in November.
Jasper, 37, comes to Joplin after spending the past 16 years coaching in the high school and collegiate ranks — including the past eight years as head coach at Westran High School in Huntsville, Missouri, where he led the Class 1 Hornets to a 76-24 overall record.
After going 1-9 in Jasper's first year at Westran in 2007, the Hornets won at least eight games in each of his final seven seasons — including a 14-1 mark in 2010 and a 13-2 tally last season — while collecting five conference titles and four district crowns. They were the Class 1 state runners-up in 2010 and 2014 and reached the state quarterfinals in 2011 and 2013.
"We are excited to have him," Starkweather said. "Curtis is a proven winner. He's taken that program and turned them around, turned them into winners. That's what we look for here at Joplin High School. I think our kids are really going to enjoy playing for him."
Jasper said the opportunity to guide Joplin was simply too good to pass up.
"Obviously, it's a bigger school with great facilities, not just athletics-wise, but academically as well," Jasper said. "My wife and I have four kids. That aspect of it was very important to us."
Curtis and wife Julie are accompanied by children Joe, 10, Claire, 8, John, 7, and Caleb, 2.
"We have great relationships here at Westran and could have stayed here our whole lives, but after going (to Joplin) and talking to people and getting a feel for it, we felt it was a great fit and the timing was right.
"I'm happy to be an Eagle, no doubt about it."
Jasper began his coaching career in 1999 as an assistant at Odessa High School in Odessa, Missouri. He moved to the collegiate level the following season and assisted Avila University in the construction of its football program, which began play in the fall of 2001. He returned to the prep ranks in 2002 and spent the next five seasons as an assistant at Moberly High School. Prior to coaching, he played four seasons as an offensive lineman at William Jewel College.
While Jasper's resume alone qualified him for the job, Starkweather said his personal makeup made him stand out in the interview process.
"We're very excited having him coming on board," Starkweather said. "He and his family are great people. That's what we wanted here. He's a guy that builds relationships. He's a man of high character that we feel will build relationships that will last a lifetime with our kids. Again, I think our kids are really going to enjoy him."
"I think that's a big reason why I became a football coach," Jasper said. "I have a very good relationship with my coach from high school and he made a huge, positive impact on me. He came through at such a huge, critical time in my life. When you're in high school, I think the positive influences coaches can have on you at that stage are really important. I hope myself and the other coaches have that same kind of impact."
While some may see the jump from Class 1 to Class 6 as a major hurdle, Jasper said he's prepared for the challenge.
"I grew up in Washington, Missouri, which is a fairly big high school, so It's not like I've only been around small programs my whole life," he said. "I've been in and around college programs, too. The main thing — regardless of the size of school or what the facilites are — it all comes down to building relationships with your students, and I feel like that translates no matter the size of school."
While it's premature to say what style of play the Eagles will adopt in the coming years, Jasper said he can't wait to get to work.
"The main goal is to be the most physical team and fundamental team on the field and execute offensively and defensively at a high rate," Jasper said. As far as X's and O's, a lot is going to depend on what shakes out. One thing we've done extremely well is running the blocking scheme of inside and outside zone ... We've also been spread at Westran, because we believe in expanding the field both horizontally and making defenders make plays in space and get ball to playmakers in spread. We'll see what happens.
"High school is different than college," he added. "In college, when you sign a new contract you drop everything and go. It's not that way in high school. I'll be finishing the school year out at Westran, but I'll be working closely with Mr. Starkweather and the coaches down there. As soon as the school year is over, we'll be headed down that way."