As much as Matt Griffith will always remember his second daughter's Raylynn Leigh's first birthday the family celebrated Tuesday, the date June 1st will also have extra special meaning now.
After a 6-0 vote Tuesday night by the Harrisburg School Board special meeting, Griffith was hired to replace Gabe Angelly as the Bulldogs' football coach
Griffith becomes the 31st coach in school history according the school page on the IHSA website and takes over a ball club that went 2-4 this past spring and in four years under Angelly was 8-24.
The 28-year-old Marion native teaches U.S. history, Illinois history and current events at Harrisburg High School. He graduated from MHS in 20011 and spent four seasons at Southern Illinois University playing under Dale Lennon. After graduating in 2015, Griffith began coaching freshman football at Harrisburg in the fall of 2016 and has been a varsity assistant since 2017.
Griffith said he's excited, but he also realizes the challenges that come with being a head coach.
"These boys will play football for four years, but will be expected to be men for the rest of their lives," Griffith said Tuesday night. "I am a very competitive person, however, wins and losses will not be the focal point of this program. I've had great coaches like Kerry Martin teach me this.
"Helping to produce young men this community, school district and coaching staff can be proud of will be the focal point. These young men having successful careers and being good men and fathers after they are done at HHS, this is how I will measure the success of this program."
Martin noted that Griffith has all the tangible and intangible attributes to be a great head coach.
"First and foremost, he is a great teacher, but he is also humble, smart, has a great work ethic and works well with others," Martin said. "He has always been a natural leader. I'm excited to see what the future holds for him as an educator and coach."
SIU head coach Nick Hill was the offensive coordinator Griffith's senior year at Southern and Hill was quick to make a comparison to another local head coaching legend, one Hill is very familiar with.
"He reminds me a lot of my high school coach, Al Martin. He's everything you want in a small town coach," Hill said. "He's going to put in the time and get every kid out to play. The numbers in that program will go up, he'll develop them and Matt was an walk-on offensive lineman who ended up becoming a starter because he outworked everyone. I can see that happening with the Harrisburg program. They'll win, because they'll outwork everyone."
With not much time on the table before the summer calendar starts, Griffith is working to finalize the coaching staff and getting to work with the players.
"Our coaching staff is fortunate that we have been in the program and have worked with the players for the past few years. Our program is blessed to have Josh Allen as our strength and conditioning coach. He's laid out the summer lifting and conditioning program and I am excited to get to work and for the program to earn the right to represent the town of Harrisburg."
Griffith is married to Nichole Griffith and the two have two daughters Anna Grace Griffith (3) and Raylynn Leigh Griffith (1).
Spyder Dann covers prep and college sports for the Southern Illinois LOCAL Media Group. Follow him on Twitter: @spydieshooter.