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story.lead_photo.caption Chris Gunter, the new football coach at Beebe High School, stands at the fence inside “Bro” Erwin Stadium. Gunter, a 2003 graduate of Beebe, was hired to replace John Shannon during the Jan. 21 school-board meeting. - Photo by Staci Vandagriff

BEEBE — New Beebe Badgers football coach Chris Gunter looks forward to the opportunity to lead his alma mater.

Gunter, 33, a 2003 graduate of Beebe High School, was officially hired Jan. 21 by the Beebe School Board to replace John Shannon, who resigned following his 11th season.

Gunter has been the offensive coordinator at Alma High School the previous seven seasons.

“I think it is something that is unique that a lot of people don’t get,” Gunter said about his new position. “I’m grateful, and I don’t take this responsibility lightly.”

“I just think it’s a pretty special deal. I’m honored because it is a good job, and it’s a place where the community is hungry, and they are ready to jump on board.”

Beebe Superintendent Chris Nail said he is excited to have Gunter as the new football coach.

“I feel that he will build a winning culture through his enthusiasm and excitement,” Nail said. “We are excited to have him be a part of the Beebe School District. We look forward to having him lead the Badgers.”

Gunter attended junior high and high school in Beebe. He then played football at Arkansas Tech University in Russellville for former head coach Steve Mullins.

“These were some of the best years of my life,” Gunter said. “I learned some valuable lessons that I still use today.”

After finishing his playing career, Gunter served as a graduate assistant for two seasons for Mullins.

“I got to hone in on some coaching skills,” Gunter said. “That is when I had my big break to get in the door at the NCAA Division I level.”

Gunter started working as an assistant at the University of Tulsa under head coach Todd Graham. He worked with offensive coordinators Herb Hand, who is now the offensive coordinator at the University of Texas, and Chad Morris, the current head coach at the University of Arkansas.

“It was awesome,” Gunter said. “It was a really valuable lesson to me. The second year, I worked with Chad Morris. I learned a lot of good ball, and I was around a lot of good men of character.”

In 2010, Gunter left college football and served as an assistant coach for Jeff Conaway at Greene County Tech in Paragould for two seasons. The last seven seasons, Gunter worked at Alma.

“I feel like God helped me spend those years to prepare me for this chapter of my life,” Gunter said.

For the past 11 seasons under Shannon, the Badgers ran a Dead T offense, running the ball a majority of the time. Gunter will implement what he calls a multiple formation offense.

“We’re going to do a lot,” he said. “We’re going to thrive on running basic, rudimentary schemes out of many different presentations and formation shifts. I don’t have to confuse the defensive coordinator on the other side of the field. I’ve just got to confuse the 16- and 17-year-old kids on the field.

“We’ll be one-back, two-back, and we’ll add a tight end, and we’ll move a tight end around on the field.”

Gunter credits Hand and Morris for the offense he runs.

“They believe in trying to beat a team pre-snap,” Gunter said. “A lot of what you see on Saturdays is what we’re doing. That’s the great thing. The kids take pride in what we do.”

Gunter thinks this will be a good way to get students interested in playing football.

“We call most of the stuff the same thing that those coaches do,” Gunter said of Morris and Hand. “I think it’s neat for our kids, and I can use it as a recruiting tool to get in the hallway and get those kids, who may have played once and quit or are whining about coming back out.”

After being hired at Beebe, Gunter has been making his way around the community, making contact with as many people — including citizens, fans, business owners and community leaders — as he can.

“When I was first contacted about this job, I started doing a little homework on it,” he said. “I started talking to businesses and people in the community. The thought was that there was some neglect in the relationship between the coaching staff and the community.”

Gunter said there is “untapped” potential for support in Beebe for the football program.

“When I was in school on Friday nights, football was a communitywide event,” he said. “Just at some point in the past decade and a half, we just lost touch with that. I want to get as many people in the boat as possible.”

Gunter said he’s a fan of current University of Minnesota football coach P.J. Fleck, whose mantra is “row the boat.”

“I want to get as many people in that boat as possible,” Gunter said. “I want to get community members, administrators. I want former players, as many as possible. This will create a sense that this is a shareholder’s-type process and that they’ve got a foot to stand on within our program.”

Gunter and his wife, Courtney, who is a school counselor at Alma, have two children. Their daughter, Collins, is 7, and son Calloway is 3.

“Courtney is my biggest fan and advocate,” Gunter said. “[She and the kids] are going to stay and finish out the semester in Alma. That will be tough, but I feel like God has used me in this ministry. He’s ordered our steps. They can’t wait to get down here. They are excited.”

Staff writer Mark Buffalo can be reached at (501) 399-3676 or mbuffalo@arkansasonline.com.

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