Former Panther Caleb Carmikle was named head football coach and athletic director at Magnet Cove, the Malvern, Arkansas high school announced late last month.

After a two-year stint at the helm of the Glenbrook Apaches, a 2A, private school in Louisiana, Carmikle, a former three-year starter for Heber Springs football, was drawn back to the Natural State by the Magnet Cove position.

“The biggest thing was getting me closer to home. I'm really close to my family and a lot of friends that are all in the state,” said Carmikle. “I loved where I was at. I was in a good situation. It was a rebuilding task over there, and we finally got it back on track to where we felt like we were going to compete for a conference championship next year.”

“I knew it had to be a special job for me to leave this year, and Magnet Cove, in my opinion, is the best job in 2A,” Carmikle said. “The community support reminds me a lot of how it is in Heber. I think when you're picking a job to take, unless you're at a place that's just blessed with tremendous athletes, you've got to have the community on board, and they are here. It's 100 percent football all the time.”

Carmikle takes over a Magnet Cove program that finished 3-9 last season, missing the state playoffs for the first time since 2007.

Magnet Cove – also the Panthers – will return 19 seniors next year on a roster that includes 40 plus students-athletes.

“When you grow up watching your high school football team win every Friday night, that's something that's bred into you, and that's why so many kids play high school football here,” said Carmikle. “For a 2A school, it's just unreal, and it's because of the tradition of success these guys have been seeing their whole lives.”

After serving as an assistant at Conway Christian during college, Carmikle will now compete directly with the Eagles in the 2A Region 5 conference, along with England, Hector, Bigelow, Cutter-Morning Star, Poyen, and Quitman.

“The biggest thing is that the quality of coaching in this conference might be as good as any in 2A,” said Carmikle. “From top to bottom, it's a very balanced conference. On any given night, the team that's in last place could have a chance to beat the team in first place, and that makes for a lot of fun.”

As athletic director, the 24-year-old Carmikle's duties will extend well beyond managing the football program.

“I was fortunate to be around guys like Steve Janski and Brad Reese at Heber,” said Carmikle. “They're going to be huge mentors for me and guys that I know I can lean on and call any time I have a question.”

Carmikle credits much of his early-life success to his time at Heber Springs under the guidance of former head coach Steve Janski, the current athletic director at Fayetteville High School, and the rest of the Panthers' staff.

“I think we got to play for, in my opinion, the best coaches in the state at Heber. Not just Coach Janski but the entire staff that was there whenever I was in school, guys like Scott Davenport, David Farr, and Daren Gowen,” said Carmikle. “I got to see from a very early age how coaches are supposed to act and how a true program should be run.”

“Heber's a place that will always be special to me” Carmikle said. “The community did a lot for me and my mom during a really tough time.”

Magnet Cove football opens the season at home against Parkers Chapel on September 1. Carmikle will return to Cleburne County for a meeting with the Quitman Bulldogs on October 6.