Less than four years ago Wichita Falls High School brought back one of its own in Jayson Lavender, a third-generation Coyote, to lead the athletic program.
After four seasons, none of which ended with a playoff game, Lavender decided the time is right for someone else to take the reins as head football coach and athletic campus coordinator at the school he still loves dearly.
"I'll be a Coyote forever," Lavender said Thursday after he'd given his resignation to principal Debbie Dipprey and had a chance to tell his team the news.
In a prepared statement Lavender expressed his love for the kids and the "treasured memories" he would have of the relationships he had built with the young people at WFHS.
Wichita Falls Independent School District Athletics Director Kenny Catney looked beyond the 10-30 record on the field and believes the Coyotes lost a coach with a lot of good qualities.
"I think Jayson will always be known as a coach who had great passion and dedication toward his players," Catney said. "He was a student of the game and constantly building himself as a coach. He was one of the most driven coaches and those attributes will be hard to replace."
One place Lavender really excelled was with communication and using the latest technology with his players, their families and fans to stay up to date with the team.
"He kept people informed and was way ahead of the game," Catney said. "What I saw in Jayson was that his training sessions were spot on, very direct and there was learning taking place."
On the field Lavender was always aggressive and ready to take chances
— his teams might use a swinging gate play to start a possession — but the wins were tough to come by. The Coyotes went 3-7 in 2009 and 2011 and were 2-8 in 2010 and this past season when they won their first two before losing their final eight.
WFHS went 1-3 against Rider in Lavender's tenure, taking the season finale 28-18 in 2009.
Despite the won-loss record, Lavender isn't sorry he took a chance by leaving Mesquite to coach his alma mater.
"I have no regrets coming to Wichita Falls High School, and I thank WFISD and coach Catney for giving me a chance," Lavender said. "It was a wonderful opportunity for me and my family.
"I think it's the right time to take me out of the equation and I was thinking about the kids, the program and the school."
The Coyotes closed his first year with momentum by beating Rider. And then in 2011 they were within one win of making the playoffs when they beat Denton with Dylan Sheffield's 683 passing yards and then won their next game at Little Elm.
"Those were great memories and we had a lot of great memories for me and our coaching staff," Lavender said. "We had two guys go on to be head coaches and one guy who went on to be a coordinator. And we have great coaches on our staff right now."
Lavender expressed faith in Dipprey and the school's immediate future.
"I know the school is headed in the right direction and they have great leadership from Mrs. Dipprey," Lavender said. "The kids are great kids. I have a love for the kids at the school."
Lavender's contract with WFISD goes through June. He wants to stay in coaching either at the high school or college level but will take a little time to explore those options.
He repeated that his "greatest memories are those that are shaping the lives of the young people at Wichita Falls High School. Those are what I'll cherish the most."
Catney plans to meet with the coaches after Christmas break and then the process will begin for finding the Coyotes' fifth head coach since Leo Brittain left after the 2000 season. Brittain was head coach for five seasons. The last coach to make it to a sixth year was Joe Bob Tyler, Lavender's high school coach, who guided the Red and Black from 1981-89.