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Mt. Pleasant lures Hartsfield to take over grid program

By Maurice Patton

Fresh off a trip to watch one of his protégés compete for a college football national championship, Kit Hartsfield was announced Tuesday as the new football coach at Mt. Pleasant.

Hartsfield, 22-13 with three Class 6A state playoff appearances over the past three seasons at Blackman, succeeds Bronson Bradley at the Tigers’ helm.

“It’s a football-hungry program and community,” said the 33-year-old Hartsfield, a Lawrenceburg native who played his final two years at Riverdale – winning a 2004 state title – before going on to start four seasons at linebacker for Austin Peay. “They want success. I can feel the intensity from the administration. It’s a vision I want to be a part of, I’m excited to be a part of.”

The younger brother of longtime Midstate girls basketball coach Wendi Hartsfield Scott (Lawrence County, Riverdale, Blackman), Kit began his coaching career immediately out of college, taking the helm at Oakland Middle School and spending three years as defensive backs coach under Thomas McDaniel at Oakland High School.

“Coaching is part of our entire family,” he said. “It’s all I’ve ever known. It’s something I wanted to do from middle school age. I just did it in a different sport than most of my family.”

Kit Hartsfield (left, with former Ohio State coach Urban Meyer) will succeed Bronson Bradley as football coach at Mt. Pleasant. (Courtesy photo)

Following McDaniel’s departure to take the reins at Christian Brothers, Hartsfield moved across Murfreesboro and joined David Watson’s staff at Blackman as defensive coordinator. As a Blaze staffer, he helped the team post a 28-10 mark with a pair of state quarterfinal berths.

Named to succeed Watson at the top of the Blackman program in 2018, the Blaze went 10-2 and advanced to the second round of the playoffs in Hartsfield’s first campaign, followed by an 8-5 finish in 2019 and a quarterfinal loss to Region 3-6A rival Oakland. Blackman finished 4-6 this past fall, falling to Hendersonville in the opening round of postseason play.

“(In the last two years) we lost to Alcoa twice, we lost to Ravenwood twice, we lost to Independence twice, we lost to Oakland twice,” Hartsfield said, emphasizing the challenging schedule Blackman faced during his tenure.

Bradley led Mt. Pleasant to four playoff appearances in seven seasons, but was dismissed in late November after a 1-8 finish in a pandemic-hampered campaign. Despite losing nine starters – six on offense, three on defense – school administration saw fit to make a move after the Tigers sustained four one-possession losses.

Mt. Pleasant went 38-37 under Bradley, reaching the second round of the postseason in 2014 and in 2018 while also qualifying for the 2015 and ’19 Class 1A playoffs. The Tigers posted eight wins in both 2018 and ’19.

The vacancy drew nearly 50 applicants from across and from outside the state. A screening process resulted in six finalists interviewing over the weekend for the vacancy, with Hartsfield emerging.

“Coach Hartsfield brings a ‘championship mindset’ to Mt. Pleasant,” principal Ryan Jackson said in a release. “He has competed at a championship level as both a player and coach. He understands what it takes to lead and operate a top-tier football program, putting an emphasis on developing authentic player-coach relationships in order to fully maximize the potential of all of our players.”

Jackson said Hartsfield is expected to be visible with both the middle school and youth league programs in Mt. Pleasant.

 “The unification of our campus football program is paramount,” he said. “Creating an athletic powerhouse program in Small Town, USA, is our goal, and it starts with getting all stakeholders on the same page, with everyone pulling in the same direction.”

Mt. Pleasant will compete in Region 5-2A next fall, along with Richland, Summertown, Loretto, Cascade and Forrest. The Tigers’ non-region schedule will also include home games against both Columbia Central and Spring Hill – the first official meeting against the former since 1961, while the latter series resumes after a six-year hiatus.

Having sent a number of players on to the college ranks, including Ohio State running back Master Teague — he was in attendance for the Buckeyes’ 52-24 loss Monday to Alabama — Hartsfield said he’s ready for the challenge of similar achievements at the Maury County school.

“I love my Blackman people,” he said. “I had a great time, great support from that community. They’re going to continue to be successful.

“Football is 11 on 11. Every field is 100 yards long. Every kid wants to be coached and wants to be loved on. That’s my purpose, to help these kids reach their goals. I’m looking to build a staff that coaches for the kids and helps mold them into young men and can develop them to their fullest potential on the field.”