2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner

Joyce leaving Doherty to go home

Published: March 11, 2014, 6:58 pm, by Scott Kaniewski

When home came calling, David Joyce had to answer.

The Doherty football coach, who led the Spartans to one of the greatest seasons in recent program history, is heading back to Arkansas.

On Tuesday, Joyce, a graduate of Arkansas, was hired to be the head coach at Mountain Home High School in Mountain Home, Ark. Joyce’s hiring was first reported by the Baxter Bulletin in Mountain Home.

With two kids and another on the way, Joyce will take the family back to Arkansas so the kids can grow up around their grandparents.

“It’s the right time to get back so their grandparents can see the grandkids,” Joyce said. “My mom cried (with joy).”

In 2013, his second season, Joyce led the upstart Spartans to the 5A Pioneer League, went 8-3 and reached the second round of the playoffs — all that after a two-win season in 2012.

If ever there was a time to leave the program, Joyce said this is it, because the Spartans are loaded for next season.

“Doherty is in a great spot,” Joyce said. “We have a conference champion-caliber team with half our starters coming back, and they’re in a good place right now. I know they’re going to have the right coach in place ASAP.” 

Joyce’s offense was nearly unstoppable this season. The Spartans averaged 41 points per game and were held to single digits just once — a 42-6 loss to eventual state champion Valor Christian. In their other two losses they still managed 35 points in each game.

Senior running back Zach Young (a CSU-Pueblo signee) rushed for 2,558 yards and 41 touchdowns, both state bests regardless of classification. But right behind Young, ready to take over is Tequan Baker, Joyce said.

“He’s a monster,” Joyce said. “He pushed Zach all year in practice to keep his job.”

Joyce took over a 1-9 program in Doherty and took over a 1-9 program in Battle Mountain in 2007. Within four seasons there, he had the Huskies in the playoffs.

Joyce is taking over another reclamation project in Mountain Home. The Class 6A school — the second largest classification in the state — is on a 20-game losing streak. 

“Just like at Doherty all the pieces are there,” Joyce said. “It might take a little bit but it’s right for the taking. All the pieces are there to have a great program.”

Before coaching at Battle Mountain, Joyce was an assistant at Green Forest (Ark.) High School.

“When I came to Doherty it was like someone put a B-12 shot in me,” Joyce said. “I was just revitalized. They are the hardest working kids. They had been wanting to work that hard. They just needed somebody to believe in them and stop talking about the other schools in the area. I pushed them as hard as they could go. We didn’t dodge or duck anybody.” 

Leaving Doherty sounded like one of the hardest decisions Joyce has ever made.

“It’s just one of those things,” Joyce said. “I was being pulled in two directions. I haven’t slept in six days.”