Longtime Mountainburg football coach Tom Harrell to retire after 2021 season

George "Clay" Mitchell
Press Argus-Courier
Head coach Tom Harrell, in August 2019, stands in front of team photos going back to 1990, his first year at Mountainburg.

When Zach Dean was hired by Tom Harrell seven years ago, the veteran coach told Dean that he would take over the Dragon football program one day.

"(Tom's retirement) was talked about, but we didn't discuss it much in the past five years," Dean said. "I knew it would happen at some point, but the timetable certainly moved up on me."

Harrell will coach his 32nd season at Mountainburg this fall and retire from coaching and education in December 2021.

"There's a lot of things I want to do and other things I would like to experience and do that before I get too old," Harrell said. "I would like to go elk hunting in Colorado, but that's in the middle of football season. I might not be able to do that, but it's something I've always wanted to do."

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Harrell is currently the longest-tenured active Arkansas high school football coach, who has spent his career at one school.

He came to Mountainburg in 1987 after he graduated from Arkansas Tech and was named the football coach before the start of the 1990 season.

"I'm done, at least for a while," Harrell, who played high school football for Alma's Frank Vines back in the late 70s and early 80s. "I always thought I fit in up here. It has been a good atmosphere for me."

Dean has been working with Harrell for the past seven years as an assistant. Dean will coach the junior high program in the fall and be the senior high girls' basketball team one more season.

"I'm very excited, but I'm very nervous," Dean said. "Tom has been here for 35 years. He trusts me enough to take over the football program, so that makes me feel pretty good."