By Sam Jordan
(MENA) For Tim Harper, it was a difficult decision to leave Mena and the Polk County area for a new chapter in his family’s life, but, Harper has no regrets. In fact, Harper has many fond memories of his time working with the many people he came in contact with during his stint of almost six years.
Harper recently resigned as the Athletic Director and Head Football Coach at Mena High School, to accept the head coaching duties at Coweta, Oklahoma, a suburb of Tulsa.
According to Harper, it was “an opportunity to take over a good football program, that is a 5A school with about 1100 students at the high school, with outstanding athletic facilities, that gives Harper a fresh start of being able to coach everyday.”
Harper stated that when he took over the program, he was told that he might win one game on the schedule. However, the Bearcats were able to win five games that first year. Harper later said that he told some of his friends at Searcy, where he previously coached prior to coming to Mena, “that he thought they had a shot at making a run at things in a year or so”, with some handful of starters, that were exceptional workers in the weight room, and worked so hard to make it to the state championship.”
That team was “picked to finish 6th in the conference, seventh in the entire 4A, and ended up runner-ups in the state. It was a very awesome year.”
The following year, the squad lost many of its starters and was only able to muster a 3-7 record. Harper stated that it was “probably his toughest year in his coaching career”; but, his proudest moment was being named Polk County Citizen of the Year. Many people may not remember that accomplishment.
Harper was able to rebound the team with two more good squads and left new coach Craig Bentley with seventeen starters and has the team ranked high in the state going into the 2019 season. Harper stated that this is not a rebuilding team. Harper mentioned that he was “pulling for Coach Bentley to get the job and be able to come home” and that “he was the right man for the job” to coach the Bearcats.
According to Harper, “Coach Bentley would be the smoothest transition for the players on this team” and went on to add that “he knows them, they know him and honestly he knows how they work” from the way the program has worked.
Coach Harper elaborated that Coach Bentley will also “bring new ideas” and will continue to work hard this year.
Harper is not only leaving Mena High School, but, leaving as Pastor of Faith Missionary Baptist Church for six years. With his new job in Oklahoma, Harper does not have a church home to pastor at the present time. Harper said that it was some of the best times of his life.
“Those folks were not just church members, but, they’re family.” Harper said that “he loves each and every one of them” and “probably was one of the most difficult decisions he has ever had to be made.”
The church has seen a consistent growth from 35 to 130 parishioners weekly, since he started his pastorate.
Harper concluded that “he is constantly praying for them”, even after leaving the area, that they are friends for life.