Ashley approved as next Amory football coach

AMORY – Less than a month after Trent Hammond’s move to become Tupelo football coach, Amory has its next coach with Falkner’s Ben Ashley.

Ashley, who piled up an 18-6 record in two seasons as Falkner football coach, was approved on Friday to become the Panthers’ next head football coach and also to serve as athletic director.

“It was an unbelievable moment for me to get the opportunity to come back to Amory,” said Ashley, who was an assistant at Amory from 2005-2006. “My wife and I love the area and the people there, and when you’re talking about Amory, you’re talking about one of the premier football programs in the state. It’s a dream come true to get to come back here.”

Amory superintendent Tony Cook said Ashley fit all of the criteria he was looking for in the next coach.

“We wanted someone who understood the expectations here at Amory, someone who had been a head coach and someone with at least a AA teaching certificate, and he has a AAA,” Cook said. “He fit every bill we were looking for. He understands the need for a program that is 7th through 12th grade and not just high school.”

Ashley’s 15-year coaching career also includes stops as an assistant at Aberdeen, South Panola, Pontotoc, Eupora and Mississippi College. Cook said he thought Ashley’s energy and knowledge were a perfect fit for Amory’s football program.

“He’s one of the smartest guys I know. He’s got a lot of energy and enthusiasm, and best of all he wants to be here at Amory,” Cook said.

After coaching a Falkner team that averaged 312 yards on the ground last season, Ashley said he’s looking forward to seeing what kind of offense will fit a Panthers team that loses 16 seniors this year.

“We were a run-first offense at Falkner because that was a product of what fit those kids,” Ashley said. “I’m looking forward to getting to Amory and seeing what fits those kids. They’ve been known for throwing the ball a lot the past couple of years, but they were pretty balanced last season. As a coach, you want that level of balance because it gives you a level of unpredictability.”

Ashley said he’s also looking forward to developing the youth on the team.

“Anytime you lose a lot of good players, that means someone else gets the chance to step up and become a great player. You’re talking about a place that always plays great football,” Ashley said. “It’s the same kind of mentality. I know they have a good quarterback (sophomore Jon David Poss) coming back, and anytime you return experience there, that’s key.”

Ashley’s move to Amory reunites him with Cook, who coached him in high school and who he worked under while an assistant at Pontotoc.

“It’s going to be great to join this school district and work with Mr. Cook again,” Ashley said. “I grew up at Pontotoc at a time with superior athletics and academics. What those people there taught me is do things right and have pride in what we do every single day. I know they live by that same mentality here in Amory and want it to be the finest school district in the state and compete for state championships in everything we do.”