A NEW REGIME: Cathedral High football coach ready for challenge

Published 12:43 am Wednesday, May 11, 2016

NATCHEZ — Chuck Darbonne stood with a strong presence before his new team Friday in the multipurpose building at Cathedral High School.

The eyes of the 37 players in attendance were fixated on their new head man, hanging on to every word.

With his 2014 MHSAA Class 6A state championship ring that he won as an assistant at Mississippi powerhouse South Panola High School fitted tightly on the pinky finger of his left hand, the first-time head coach spoke to his players about dedication to excellence, commitment in the classroom and winning championships.

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Darbonne’s speech took approximately 10 minutes, but it took less time for him to realize what he has in his new crop of players.

“The guys will look you in the eye, shake your hand and are sincere about things,” Darbonne said. “Hopefully, that means good things as far as their work ethic. To me, that’s a good thing moving forward.

“I’ve already gotten a great vibe from the kid’s facial expressions that they’re ready to work. I’m ready to get started as fast as possible.”

The 34-year-old Darbonne is making the move to Cathedral after spending the last two seasons as quarterbacks coach at South Panola.

In addition to his time at the Batesville-based power, Darbonne has a strong background on the offensive side of the ball, spending two years as a quarterback at Holmes Community College and offensive coordinator stints at Mendenhall and Terry high schools.

Darbonne, however, said his time at South Panola was what best prepared him for his newest challenge.

“There’s a lot of pressure every day,” Darbonne said. “I experienced the highest of the highs (a 2014 state championship), and the lowest of the lows getting beat in the first round (in 2015). That was tough to swallow, but in hindsight, it gave me experience on how to handle the tough loss and deal with some of the backlash.”

Darbonne was born in Lafayette, La., and grew up around a Catholic church. He attended Cathedral Carmel before moving with his parents to Madison in sixth grade.

Darbonne graduated from Madison-Ridgeland Academy, where he starred on the football field, in basketball and track and field.

The most recent opening was not the first time Darbonne expressed an interest in moving to Cathedral. When it appeared former Cathedral coach Ron Rushing was set to accept a position at Brookhaven High School, Darbonne reached out to the coach and close friend to inform the Cathedral administration of his interest in the job. Yet Rushing ultimately stayed with the Green Wave before accepting the head coaching post at Brookhaven Academy last month.

Darbonne said perhaps the timing of the change worked out best for everybody.

“I don’t know if I would have been a good head coach at that point (in 2012),” he said. “I don’t know if I would have been mature enough to be able to handle some of the stuff coaches have to handle … The timing worked out great for me this time to build on what he has done.”

Darbonne described himself as a “nice, easy-going guy,” who is approachable and eager to meet the Green Wave faithful.

“If they see a frown on my face, don’t be intimidated, because it’s just a natural look — I’m just thinking about something,” Darbonne said. “I hope they come up to me and speak to me, because I can’t wait to meet the community.”

Darbonne said his next few weeks will consist of wrapping up his obligations at South Panola before making the permanent move to the Natchez area.

“I’m excited to be a part of the Natchez community and the Cathedral family,” Darbonne said. “I’m ready to get started.”