New coach

New Salem football coach Bryson Barnes.

The long search for the latest Salem High School football head coach is over, and the Tigers ended up hiring from within.

Bryson Barnes, a 25-year-old in his first year as a teacher/coach, Tuesday night accepted the vacant Salem football head coaching position, it was confirmed to The Salem News Wednesday afternoon, April 28.

He will be the fourth Tiger head coach in the past four seasons.

“I’m extremely excited,” Barnes said. “This is a great opportunity. In my short time here, I’ve been impressed by the culture and the love of football.”

When Barnes signs his coaching contract, it will be as full-time head coach. He will be replacing Salem High alum Lane Howard, who served on an interim head basis during the 2020 campaign. Howard, a 2011 Salem High graduate, has taken a job in the private sector and will not be returning to Salem Public Schools for 2021-22.

Lane was elevated from an assistant coach to interim head coach when Dylan Wyrick resigned over the summer after spending just one season as Salem head coach in 2019. Wyrick had replaced Brian McNamee as Tiger head coach after McNamee retired in the summer of 2019, ending a six-year stint in the position.

The Tiger football head coaching position was manned for 32 seasons by Missouri Football Coaches Association Hall of Famer Bill Schuchardt, who had two Show-Me Bowl appearances, five Final Four berths, 16 district championships and 14 SCA titles while leading the Tiger program. He retired in 2013, replaced by McNamee.

Earlier this year Salem had interviewed several applicants for the head coaching position, and offered it a couple times. Earlier this month a candidate for the job originally accepted, but a couple days later withdrew his name from consideration.

Two weeks ago the Salem Board of Education then offered the position to Salem Athletic Director and former Schuchardt assistant Phil Karr, but Karr turned it down.

Barnes is in his first year in the Salem school district. This past fall he coached Salem middle school football.

After playing big-time high school football at Plano, Texas – where he competed against the likes of future NFL stars quarterback Kyler Murray and safety Jamal Adams – Barnes played four seasons as a tight end at Missouri Baptist University, an NAIA program in St. Louis.

In 2020 Barnes was a graduate assistant coach for receivers and tight ends at Missouri Baptist. He earned his B.S. degree in sports management and last year got his Masters degree in business administration from Missouri Baptist.

Barnes is teaching business at Salem this school year and will do so again in 2021-22.

His wife, Kristen Barnes, completed her first season as Salem volleyball head coach this past season.

The Tiger football squad finished 7-4 in 2019 and 6-5 this past season.

There will be several key losses to graduation, including SCA Offensive Lineman of the Year Brandon White, 1,000-yard rusher Caden Camden and standout receiver Dawson Mock.

However, Barnes will still have an experienced core returning, led by senior-to-be quarterback Garrett Connell.

“We will have a team meeting Friday, sit down with the staff then finalize our summer program by the end of the week,” Barnes said.

Barnes hopes to utilize a strong running game. To do that he’ll have to find a replacement for Camden’s production, who ran for more than 1,000 yards the past two seasons.

“My concept is a pro-style system, with a lot of the run,” Barnes said. “There will be really good balance. We will try to be creative in the run design. Garrett fits well with that – he’s a great young player who will be a lot of fun. The greatest thing I can do is put each individual player in the best position to have success in finding those mismatches.

“Defensively we’ll meet with them and see what we have player-wise. I have gotten comfortable with the 3-4 (defensive formation) – that was what I was around in college. Last year Salem was more of a 4-3 team with a nickel package as well.”

As far as potential full-contact summer activities, Barnes said that is still pending on what will be allowed by the Missouri State High School Activities Association.