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SHIPROCK — The Shiprock High football program once again has a new head coach.

Eric Stovall takes over the program after former coach James Snyder resigned in February.

Former Shiprock High athletic director Nic Williams, who was part of the hiring committee, said Stovall was the hands-down choice for the position.

"He did a great job in the interview process. We liked his years of experience — he's coming in with a lot of coaching experience," Williams said. "We had a few other guys who did well in the interview process, but he caught our eye."

The Chieftains finished last season with a 3-7 record.

This will be Stovall's first head coaching job at the high school level. He spent time as an assistant high school coach, along with head jobs at the middle school and youth levels in New Mexico in a coaching career that spans 20 years.

"Obviously, there will be a learning curve. Being an assistant and working with some great coaches for a long time, you learn the ins and outs to be successful," Stovall said. "I saw the opportunity open up, and I know there are great kids with a lot of athletic ability in Shiprock, and we want to do what we can to get them better for the future. That was appealing to me."

Stovall becomes Shiprock's fourth head coach in as many seasons, and Williams said getting someone committed to providing stability to the program was a point of emphasis during the hiring process.

"Consistency is probably the root of all successful programs, and I think he'll do a great job," Williams said. "He's got a lot of good people backing him up, and he had a lot of good references from people in the area."

Stovall said building a stable program is one of his focuses as he takes over the team.

Part of his plan is to start working with the youth and middle school teams in Shiprock, helping the kids develop the proper fundamentals. He hopes that by working with players at a young level, he will help light a fire in them so when they reach high school, they'll have a desire to wear the Chieftain colors on the football field.

"I think it's a big deal that he understands what these kids need," Williams said. "It kind of caught my attention that he knew all about our kids in middle school. He knew all about the kids and all about the program. He knows what our kids are about and what type of program needs to be implemented in order for our kids to succeed."

Stovall said he wants to see the team compete at the highest level, winning as many games as possible. But more important, he wants his players to grow and develop into good young men.

"My philosophy has always been that the kids are always first," Stovall said. "They have to be the focal point for the team to be successful. We have to build camaraderie. I think a lot of it is caring about the kids as people and not just as football players. Coaches don't just coach on Friday nights."

Karl Schneider is the sports editor for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4648 and kschneider@daily-times.com. Follow him @karltschneider on Twitter.

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