There will be a familiar face leading Lutheran High North this year, one who believes he knows exactly what it takes to get the Lions over the hump following consecutive losing seasons.
Shaun Stephens may be a first-year head coach, but he’s well-versed in LHN culture, entering his sixth season at the school. He previously coached wide receivers and defensive backs from 2014-15, was the offensive coordinator from 2016-18 and also served as the assistant coach in 2018 under Nathan Robbins.
Stephens played at Waltrip and served as a volunteer coach for the Rams from 2010-13.
“I walked over here and asked Coach Robbins if they had any spots open. I brought my resume the next day, and he hired me,” Stephens said.
In a way, his journey is just beginning as he gets used to the different dynamic of being the boss. Stephens, who also teaches children with autism, related the changing dynamic on the field to the one in his classroom.
“I have two assistants. As the head coach of my classroom and in here, you’ve got to be able to teach the coaches what you want to be able to teach the kids,” Stephens said. “As an assistant, you had your own niche.”
Helping to ease the transition, Stephens said, is that he already has held roles typical for a head coach, working with all sides of the ball during his previous five seasons.
“Looking back on it, God was having me do a little bit each here and there, so when I stepped in I already had some of that knowledge and experience,” he said. “Lots of kids here are the same kids I went out to middle schools and sought to come here. It’s like putting on some old shoes where you already know the size, so it’s been an easier transition on the coaching side.”
Paramount to the Lions’ potential resurgence will be breathing life into an offense that averaged just 12.5 points per game last season during a 2-9 campaign. Stephens said the Lions have speed to burn.
The Lions boast senior receiver Will Harris, who was previously home-schooled and hasn’t played football before, but ran the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds at a University of Houston camp. Joining him on the outside will be versatile junior Jaaron Henderson, who spent time as a tailback, quarterback and wide receiver last year.
“We’ve got a lot more speed this year than we’ve had in years past, so I’m excited about what the season holds,” Stephens said. “They’ve jelled incredibly well, and you need to have that family environment. … If you’ve got kids that are undisciplined and un-coachable, you’re not going to win football games.”
Stephens also will be breaking in a new quarterback in sophomore Owen Poole, who he called the most poised signal caller he has ever seen. Protecting Poole’s back will be senior center Evan Romero and senior Travis Malkowsky.
“If anything happens, he’s just stone cold-faced,” Stephens said of Poole.
In terms of their offensive or defensive schemes, Stephens doesn’t anticipate wholesale changes as much as a few tweaks.
“You may have a scheme as a coach you think will work, but the kids won’t give you much effort – and there are some things you’ll do where they love working on it, so they’ll ask to do more,” he said. “I think a lot of teams are going to be surprised when we start playing with everything we’ve got in the works.”
Stephens’ maiden voyage as a head coach starts Sept. 6 with a home game against Sabine Pass.