Outgoing Farmington softball coach Randy Osnes figured the best way to welcome new football coach J.R. Eldridge was to pull a prank on him.
Osnes, whose last day on the job will be June 30, couldn't resist attempting to pull a prank on Eldridge, whose family including wife Audrey and sons Jack, 14; Max, 12; and Tripp, 6, are settling into the community.
The two hadn't been formally introduced so Osnes decided to take advantage of that and made his way unannounced into the head coach's office in the Fieldhouse -- telling one of the Eldridge boys he was the parent of a potential transfer and wanted to look at the facilities.
"I'm looking for Coach Eldridge," Osnes said, and was told he's not in right now.
"Well, I'm from Beaumont, Texas, and I've got a son, 6-4, he's a quarterback; and we would like to move here to Farmington. Where's your dad?"
"Well, I'm sorry, but he's not here right now."
"You better find him or we're getting ready to head to Fayetteville," Osnes said keeping up his charade.
Osnes went outside and walked around the football field area. Pretty soon he spotted Eldridge coming in and walked up to him and said, "I'm so and so from Beaumont, Texas."
Eldridge admits he nearly bit on the ploy, but part of a coach's competency comes from an innate capacity to quickly recognize a deception. At first he started to get excited, then he recognized Osnes.
"No, you're not, you're Randy Osnes," Eldridge said as laughter broke out.
"It was a pretty funny deal," Eldridge said, adding, "I'm looking forward to getting to know him a lot better."
Osnes, who served 15 seasons as Farmington head junior high football coach, came away with an appreciation for Eldridge.
"We had a great conversation and he's a great guy and I thoroughly enjoyed that over there," Osnes said.
Prior to the prank a conversation Eldridge had with Steve Morgan, who coaches with both the football and softball staffs, might have tipped him off to the tongue-in-cheek humor enjoyed by the softball coaches.
Eldridge was talking to Morgan and he asked why that program over there has been so successful, inquiring about Osnes' track record of three state championships, numerous All-State and All-Star caliber players and achievements consistently fielding competitive teams every year.
Morgan turned to Eldridge and without batting an eye said, "It's his staff."
Eldridge relishes an opportunity to put his stamp on the Cardinal football program since taking over Feb. 1.
During a recent Spring Game, played on Friday, May 28, Eldridge liked the offensive output he's seen coming together.
Both quarterbacks, sophomore Cameron Vanzant and senior Myles Harvey, looked sharp as did a host of receivers including returning starters All-Conference runningback Caden Elsik, All-Conference tight end Chase Brown, and deep-threat wide receiver Devonte Donovan.
Elsik and Kanye Taylor took turns toting the pigskin, forcing the defense to play honest. Several long drives went for touchdowns with big plays interjected.
"We were able to showcase a little bit of that," Eldridge said.
"I'm really pleased with our players. Of course, we've been competing for about 10 weeks. In the Spring Game we really showed how much we've progressed."
Eldridge praised the level of intensity he's witnessed, saying it increased on the defensive side of the ball.
"Defensively, we got a lot more violent over the two weeks of spring practice," Eldridge said.
Up next the Cardinals will host a team camp on June 16 at Cardinal Stadium with teams from Farmington, Rogers, Rogers Heritage, Siloam Springs and Gentry. Another team camp is scheduled for July and Farmington will participate in four others over the summer.
Eldridge appreciates the first class facilities Farmington's constructed at the $16 million Sports Complex highlighted by Cardinal Stadium.
"It's awesome, I'm loving it," he said.
Speaking during a ceremony when the local softball field was named after him on April 23, Osnes said he expects Farmington football will flourish under Eldridge.
"There's just some similarities. You know, as a coach, when you meet another coach or if you're around another coach, you just see things," Osnes said. "Maybe it's just me being braggadocios, but I can see coaches that I know are good coaches, and I believe that he's the real deal without a doubt."
Mark Humphrey is a sports writer for the Enterprise-Leader. Opinions expressed are those of the author.