FARMINGTON -- Farmington alumni Spencer Adams landed Barton's head football coach and athletic director jobs sparking a quick exodus from Northwest Arkansas to the Mississippi delta this spring.
This is the first head coaching job for Adams (Class of 2006), who served as Farmington's offensive coordinator for the past six seasons.
"It was a crazy opportunity that basically happened overnight. My first day was April 6. I hit the ground running," Adams said Monday. "It's kind of been a whirlwind."
A post on Arkansas Activities website advertising the position, stated: "The Barton School District has a great tradition in football. We currently have won 8 state championships with 3 runner-up finishes. This means we have won or played in the state championship game 11 times in the last 39 years. We are currently looking for a head coach (possible athletic director) that will continue our winning tradition. Successful head football coaching experience is preferred."
The school's top finishes were also listed: "State Champions: 1978, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1993, 1994, 1997; and State Runner-Up: 1990, 2003, 2011."
The opening generated a lot of interest in a football tradition rich community. Nine candidates were interviewed, according to Spencer's father, Mike Adams, who resigned as Farmington head football coach in December and retired from the district at the end of the semester in January.
"Spencer was the only guy interviewed without any head coaching experience. They think a lot of him that he's prepared and ready for that challenge," Mike Adams said, speaking during a signing ceremony for Farmington 2021 graduate Caleb Matthews, who accepted a scholarship offer as a deep-snapper to the University of Tulsa, on March 19.
Adams said Spencer's strength as a coach comes through creating relationships with players and believes that will serve him well as he begins his career as a head coach at Barton.
"He develops real good relationships with his players. I think they will trust him and that makes it a lot easier to get them to do what you need them to do," Adams said.
Adams said another one of Spencer's strengths as a coach is having a knack for play-calling.
"Tactically, he's got a real great play-calling mind and does a great job with that," Adams said. "He'll have a chance to prove himself."
Spencer Adams broke off his involvement with the Farmington boys track and field program, and was allowed to get out of his contract in order to move 4.5 hours from Farmington to Barton, a distance of 290 miles and take over spring football practice. Farmington lies 21 miles east of the Oklahoma line while Barton is 13 miles from the Mississippi line.
He spoke to Farmington Superintendent Jon Paul Laffoon and athletic director Beau Thompson, both former head basketball coaches who understood his desire to expedite his relocation and supervise spring football practices. They agreed to let him out of his contract as boys head track and field coach.
Among challenges confronting Adams as his tenure began were a perception Barton returned sparse football talent while facing declining enrollment with inevitable comparisons to previous coaches: Van Paschal, the current leader among Arkansas' high school all-time active coaches, won 52 games at Barton from 2010-2016 highlighted by a state title appearance in 2011, Clark McBride won 15 games during his two years there, while the last head coach Paul Burkhead won three games and lost 17 over the last two seasons.
On the plus side, top notch facilities made the job attractive. Last season's junior high group showed potential by going 7-2, which Bear fans hope will translate into more depth with the sophomore class promoted to varsity in a conference competing with traditional powers such as McGehee and Rison.
Adams looks to rebuild a program used to winning but is now coming off a 16-game losing streak. He knew coming in he must find a way to assure his message resonates with fans and inspires players while expanding depth, raising the talent level, and drawing community support.
"The way of life is a lot different down here in the delta, but everybody's been great to me," Adams said, noting the program at one point had the nation's longest win-streak and he appreciates support from both the community and administration.
Compiling A Staff
Less than a month after his hiring, nearly all the Barton assistant coaching positions were open so Adams began the process of compiling a football staff. He advertised for a defensive coordinator on April 14, and more three varsity football assistants on April 21. The Bears added five assistant coaches with a flurry of hirings on May 11.
Cedric Houston, a three-year starter at Tennessee, who was drafted by the New York Jets, was tabbed as running backs coach. Former Farmington running back Justice Hobbs, who interned with the Cardinal staff in 2020, came on board as strength and conditioning coordinator/wide receivers coach.
Reade Box, a former head coach at Hollis, Okla., with two semifinal appearances and 90 wins signed on as defensive coordinator as did another former head coach, Jeff Stewart, taking over the junior high program. Cole Savage, a hometown product of Barton, joined the program to work with the secondary.
Mike Adams' career record stands at 209-155-2 following the 2020 season in which he guided Farmington to a 5-6 record and secured the school's first postseason win, 28-7, over Valley View on the road at Jonesboro on Nov. 13.
Adams knew Spencer's hiring at Barton would affect him, stating, "I'm going to miss having him around, but it's a great opportunity for him," and later decided to support Barton's program as a consultant.
Spencer Adams estimates more than a hundred people have asked if his dad is coming out of retirement since he announced his involvement with the Barton program with a tweet May 11.
"He's full-time retired. He's serving as my volunteer consultant. It doesn't get any better than 44 years of experience and all the wins he has. He's still happy to be involved with the game and still be around it," Adams said.
His dad was on hand for spring football and will visit during the summer as well as attend Barton's fall camp, but according to Adams, he's still enjoying retired life in Fayetteville while watching game film and doing analysis for the Bears on the side.