SILOAM SPRINGS (KFSM)--Brandon Craig understands the task ahead of him. After all, week one marks his 150th high school game coached.
Craig is looking to turn around a Siloam Springs team that has won just three games over the past two seasons.
"We inherited a 2-8 football team, we’re trying to change that obviously, the culture," Craig said. "Building excitement around the program, getting involved in the community."
Prior to coming to Northwest Arkansas, Craig went 77-34 in nine years at Oologah High School in Oklahoma and 13-13 over four seasons at Campus High School in Kansas. With an overall record of 96-53, Craig is ready for his toughest challenge to date.
"He’s awesome, he’s got a lot of energy. He’s definitely flipping things around in Siloam and I’m really enjoying him," senior running back Kaiden Thrailkill said. "It was kind of not a lot of hope the last few years but with Coach Craig he’s definitely installed a lot of hope in us."
"He’s more interactive and he gives us more energy," said senior defensive leader Chase Chandler. "It’s more one on one than talk to you and not really get back to you that much. But if I ask him a question he replies or we have one on one contact after practice."
That personal nature has won over the team already, as the Panthers ready for their first game at Pryor, a school just 30 miles east of Craig's last stop in Oologah. There's still some kinks to work out before August 31 rolls around.
"I love practice, I really do," added Craig. "I mean, I’m excited about practice each day. I teach tempo and energy and getting to where we need to be fast. Friday nights may mean more to the kids but to me it's all about practice."
With 14 starters back including a skilled seniors Landon Ellis at quarterback, Thrailkill in the backfield and Primo Agbehi at wide receiver, the culture could already be shifting for the better.
"They’re going up fast just because it’s a different atmosphere," Chandler said. "You can tell at practice, everybody is in a different mood and everybody is happy."
Some other notable games outside of the season opener include a matchup with Van Buren on September 14, one of the two teams Siloam beat last year. The Panthers also host defending state champion Greenwood on October 5th