HOT SPRINGS — The last year the Bath County football program had a winning season was 2010.

Dillon Fry was a Charger senior that year — an all-state defensive back and the team’s leading rusher.

Hit the fast forward button!

Ten years later, Fry is the man in charge.

When the Chargers open their season Monday night at Narrows, Fry will be making the decisions on the sideline as the 15th head coach in the history of the program.

The Bath County native thought he’d seen just about everything there was as a player at both the high school and college levels (at Mount Union and Emory & Henry), and as an assistant coach.

Then 2020 and COVID-19 came along.

“It’s different for everybody, nobody has experienced this,” said Fry in a phone interview Thursday while he was without power at his home.

Yeah, the weather hasn’t cooperated this past week for high school coaches either, especially in Bath County.

“The weather definitely hasn’t been our friend,” he said. “It’s a little unusual. Your first practices you are usually out there in the heat, sweating like crazy. This year, you got kids wearing hoodies and sweatpants and things like that trying to stay warm.

“Today, at least on my road, we have about two inches of ice, some sleet and rain,” Fry continued. “But you know it’s like I tell the kids, adversity in life is always going to hit you. It’s no different in football. You just have to make the best of it you can. If we’re having a Zoom meeting, let’s make that the best Zoom meeting we can possibly have. If we’re practicing in-person, let’s make that the best practice we can have.”

The Chargers are coming off a 1-9 season, with their lone victory a 32-0 win over Craig County.

The Bath County defense gave up a school record 465 points in the nine losses.

“A big thing we are working on this year is tackling,” Fry said.  “We are practicing our tackling every day. You have to make sure kids are safe and they know the fundamentals of tackling before you put them out there.”

Sophomore Jaden Ryder is the top returner from a year ago.

In his freshman season, Ryder led the team with 26 receptions for 247 yards, rushed for 166 more yards, scored two touchdowns and was in on 61 tackles, including seven for loss.

Where will he line up this year?

“He’s a little bit of a do everything for us,” said Fry. “He can play running back, linebacker, fullback. It just depends on the situation we’re in. He can do a little bit of everything.”

Other key returners include starters from last season — Shawn Tucker, Forrest Waldeck and Caiden Offer.

“We don’t have a lot of guys returning,” Fry added. “We have a lot of guys that got some valuable snaps last year even though some of them were freshmen. But we don’t have a lot of guys that are three-or four-year players. We have a lot of mature guys, a lot of seniors. But they just don’t have a lot of football reps.”

The 21-player Charger roster is made up of eight seniors, four juniors, seven sophomores and two freshman.

Fry played for Will Fields at BCHS and uses things he was taught by coaches he played for and coached with.

“We do a lot of similar things to what Will did, just because I know they helped me as a player,” said the Charger rookie coach. “As far as scouting reports and trying to organize practices to make sure you get your individual time and you get your team time. That’s one thing I’ve noticed as a head coach that you don’t really notice as much as an assistant  or even as a player — practice flies by. You are trying to get everything covered and the next thing you know, it’s time to send the kids home.

“The kids have been following all the things that we have to do to play,” he added. “I give them a lot of credit. The kids have worked hard. They are the reason that this (football season) is possible.”

Next week, the Chargers will run head first into two teams with veteran programs.

Narrows was 11-1 last year and has won 32 games over the last three seasons.

Buffalo Gap, Saturday’s opponent, was 6-5 a year ago and is known for their physical play up front.

Fry said his team will take the same approach, no matter the opponent.

“It’s about us,” he said. “It’s not about who we play, it’s about how we play. If we play our best game, we’ve got a shot. But if we are focused so much on who the other team is, who we’re playing — you’re not going to play your best game.

“The big thing I want to see us do this year is to improve each day and each week, make sure we’re better at the end of the season than we are right now,” Fry finished. “Even from practice, from day one to now, we’ve improved greatly.”


Bath County first-year head coach Dillon Fry talks to his team during practice on Tuesday. (Gavin Dressler Photo)