501's McNabb, Nance serve as All-Star head coaches

by Donna Lampkin Stephens

Two head coaches will lead the contingent from the 501 in the Arkansas High School Coaches Association All-Star activities Sunday, June 22, through Friday, June 27, in Conway.

Cody McNabb, who led the Morrilton Devil Dogs to the Class 5A state football championship in December, is head coach of the West squad.

Ashley Nance, whose Conway Lady Cats won the Class 7A state basketball championship in March, will lead the East girls basketball squad.

Both agreed they were thrilled by the honor.

“I love coaching football, and this is another chance for me to get to meet some different coaches and bounce some ideas off some guys who have won a lot of games, and connect with some other athletes you wouldn’t normally get to coach,” said McNabb, 38, who led Morrilton to its first state championship in 40 years last fall. “It’s coaching football — what we all love to do — and I’m going to enjoy myself and get to know these kids and these coaches a little better and have a great time.”

With this accomplishment, Nance, 28 — who has already coached two schools to state titles —has surpassed her father, the legendary Guy-Perkins coach John Hutchcraft, 61, who served one of his several stints as an assistant all-star coach in 2003, when Nance played.

“He’s never been a head coach (in the All-Star game),” she said. “I didn’t know that until the other day when he said, ‘You’ve done something I haven’t done,’ which is crazy. At some point, he should’ve been the head coach, but that’s the way it goes.

“It’s for sure an honor, but if it wasn’t for the (Conway) team and the girls, I wouldn’t be doing this.”

Nance’s assistants will include Matt Dean of Rector, Dell Leonard of Mountain Home and Jared Richey of Brookland. The West coaching staff includes Brad Johnson of Farmington and assistants Chris Kordsmeier of Conway St. Joseph, Mike Jackson of Acorn and Toby Tevebaugh of Paris.

Joining McNabb on the West football staff will be Perry Escalante of Rogers Heritage, Scott Hyatt of Booneville, Greg Kendrick of Charleston, Scott Neathery of Benton, Mark Taylor of Hector and Zach Watson of Morrilton.

The East football staff includes Tom Sears of Hoxie, assisted by John Fogleman of Little Rock Catholic, Steven Hampton of Nettleton, Benji Mahan of Mountain Home, Gary Moody of Gosnell, Dustin Prescott of Des Arc and Jeremy Parmer of Hoxie.

All-Star Week will also include boys basketball, volleyball, softball, baseball and girls and boys soccer. The spring sports rosters and coaching staffs had not been announced by press time.
Other assistant coaches from the 501 already announced are Brandy Chumley of Benton and Leigh Ann Back of Jessieville, West volleyball; and Dwaine Fishburn of Benton, West boys basketball.

Coaches will report to the University of Central Arkansas on Father’s Day, June 22. Athletes will report June 23. The softball and baseball games will be played Tuesday, June 24, with soccer and volleyball on Wednesday, June 25; both basketball games on Thursday, June 26; and the football game on Friday, June 27.

Conway Lady Cats basketball coach Ashley Nance. (Bill Patterson photo)

Nance — the only female on either basketball staff — was an assistant coach in 2009, following her first year as head coach. She led Conway Christian to a state championship the following season before moving to CHS. She was the 7A/6A West’s all-star nominee. AHSCA members then vote to narrow the nominees and again to choose head coaches.

She said she had known one assistant, Mountain Home’s Leonard, for a long time.

“He thought it was neat because he was on staff with my dad one year,” she said.

The Lady Cats were junior-laden this season, so Nance is in the unusual position of not having a player on the All-Star roster. Junior Jordan Danberry, though, will be the East’s manager.

“She’ll get basketballs for us and help rebound,” Nance said. “Honestly, she’ll just be another player, but she can’t participate in the game.”

This is McNabb’s All-Star debut. He wasn’t a player, nor has he coached in the game before.

“I’ve been to the last 10, probably, just because I’ve had young men who have played for me on the squad, but I’ve made some calls and leaned on some of the guys on my staff to let me know how everything works,” he said. “The (Arkansas Activities Association) does a great job, with (retired coaches such as) Coach (Charlie) Sorrels and Coach (Calvin) Mallett who have done it a while. Coach Mallett’s an old Devil Dog, and those guys immediately got in touch with me. They’ve been a big help.”

McNabb, who will have Devil Dogs John Cheek, Bobby Foster and Tony Hawkins playing for the West, said the fact that the All-Star activities would be at UCA was another plus.

“The thing I didn’t realize was how the community looked at it,” he said. “It’s an honor for all of us. I love it because those guys will have a big cheering section. It ought to be a lot of fun.”

Devil Dogs Trey Blakley and B
ret McElroy will serve as West football managers.

McNabb wasn’t the 5A-West’s conference nominee after Morrilton finished runner-up in the league, but his name was added to the list after the Devil Dogs won the state championship.

“It was kind of unexpected for me because of that,” he said of the All-Star nod. “But there’s no question it’s quite an honor.”

Nance agreed and called the All-Star experience an exciting time for all involved.

“They’re seniors and culminating this part of their high school career, and just to be a part of that — some really talented kids get to play the game,” she said. “We’ve met as a staff, and one of our goals is for the kids to have a good time.

“It’s a reward; it shouldn’t be boot camp. Most of them have already signed scholarships. We want them to enjoy the rest of the games and go out with a bang in their sport.”