MIDLOTHIAN — If the Jaguar baseball program deciphers the conundrum of Abilene Wylie and claims its first UIL 4A state title, a ground level built by its architect may be the foundation.
That may be true even if the architect and his wife are busy enjoying the freedom of retirement and watching from the bleachers.
The MISD Athletics Department announced the retirement of Head Coach Nick Junior and as well as his replacement, assistant coach Justin Blackwell, on Friday per reports confirmed by Lee Wiginton, the Midlothian Heritage High School athletic coordinator.
Because of a desire to concentrate on family and his son Andrew Junior, Nick, who came out of retirement to help build the Midlothian Heritage baseball program from the ground up, decided to return to it two years later.
"My dad passed away in December and I realized that it was time for me to focus on my family," Nick said. "Not an easy choice. The thing that gets me is the effect the boys have on us. It's like having sons up there. After 34 years, its kind of hard not to be emotional about it. My dad went to everything I ever had and now, it's time for me to do the same for my son, Andrew."
His retirement is effective at the end of the school year — on Friday. Andrew, named the new offensive coordinator at UIL 4A rival Sanger High School in March, will start his offseason preparation for the 2017 football season in less than a month.
"I did what I was supposed to do," Junior continued. "I set the base and put the program in a good position. Justin will do fine. he's fired up to take on that challenge and I'm fired up for him."
In two seasons at Midlothian Heritage, Nick led the Jaguars to 36-16 overall and 16-7 District 7-4A and 8-4A records. They won two bi-district championships after sweeping both Bridgeport and Mineral Wells High Schools and one area round title after topping Graham High School in a best two out of three series in 2016.
Blackwell, who's taught and coached in Midlothian for 10 years, will open his first year as a head coach when spring hits the city in 2018.
Nick's coached as far west as Odessa and as far east as Mabank, with some stops in between in places like Waco. He said he's met lifelong friends in three decades and good men like Lee Wiginton.
He and Midlothian Heritage's current athletic coordinator met when Nick was working as a Head Coach at Bosqueville. Junior was a defensive coordinator at China Springs High School at the time.
"He's a good man. I really only thought it would be a year and he gave us five rounds of playoffs in two years," said Wiginton, who also doubles as the school's head football coach. "The kids were fired up when we announced Justin, though. He's from here and this is the only place he's ever coached."
Blackwell spent eight years at Midlothian High School as a freshman football and baseball coach and a varsity football assistant. Eight years of the 10 have been spent in football and 10 have been in his primary sport of baseball. He played for former Panther Head Coach Eugene Dryer between 1993 and 1997, where he reached the playoffs four consecutive years.
Blackwell inherits a team that lost seven seniors — including All-District selections Charlie Clark, Coby Calvery, Caleb Spenrath, Rob McKelvey and starting shortstop Laramie Sayles — that were vital parts of one of the best defenses in the district.
"Coach Junior's created a high standard and it's my goal to keep this program consistently at that level," Blackwell said. "He set a base and now it's up to us to maintain and exceed it. We want to compete for a state title year in and year out and be a team that helps Midlothian stay in the top five of the Lone Star Cup standings yearly."
Marcus S. Marion, @MarcusMarionWNI