Coach Chuck Friend calls a play during practice at Neshoba Central last fall. Coach Friend will be inducted into the Mississippi Association of Coaches Hall of Fame this Friday night in Jackson.
Coach Chuck Friend calls a play during practice at Neshoba Central last fall. Coach Friend will be inducted into the Mississippi Association of Coaches Hall of Fame this Friday night in Jackson.
Longtime Neshoba Central football coach Chuck Friend will be inducted into the Mississippi Coaches Hall of Fame this Friday night in Jackson.

Coach Friend, who has coached high school football in Mississippi for nearly five decades, had two tenures at Neshoba Central as the head football coach. He retired after the 2013 campaign.

Other members of the 2014 HoF Class of 2014 include John White, also of Philadelphia who served as the longtime basketball coach at Warren Central; Jack Case, Donnie Fuller and Micky Linder. Induction ceremonies will be held at the Jackson Hilton on County Line Road.

"It is an honor to be inducted into the Hall of Fame," Friend said. "There are a lot of deserving people who just haven't coached at a school where they won a state championship. I am very pleased to be named to the half of fame.

"I have coached high school football for a long time, and had a lot of good players and coaches to coach with. To me, the high school level is the great place to coach. You develop a close relationship with your players. They may go on and play college and pro football. But in most cases, their high school coach is still their coach, no matter where they are," Friend said.

"I still enjoy hearing from my former players. I usually talk to one of them about once per week. Sometimes the news is good, sometime it isn't always good. But the relationship is there."

After graduating from West Point High School, Friend joined the Navy and fought in the Vietnam War from 1970-1972. After getting out of the service, Friend farmed with his father for a few years. He went back to school and graduated from Mississippi State in 1978. He started his coaching career as an assistant coach at Columbus and Starkville. Then he went to Neshoba Central in 1980 as the head coach.

"When I first came here, we had a lot of speed and size," Friend said. "The playoffs were just getting started and we were competing in the Mid-Mississippi Conference."

While at Neshoba Central, he led the Rockets to five Mid-Mississippi Conference titles, three division crowns, and three Class 4A North State championships.

He moved on to Starkville where his teams won back-to-back state championships. The Yellowjackets won the Class 4A title in 1994 and the Class 5A title in 1995.

He would move on to Tuscaloosa Central for a couple of seasons before retiring. He returned as head coach at Neshoba Central in 2007.

Friend recalled some of his biggest wins including Neshoba Central's first victory over Meridian High School in 1990s.

"I think they were No. 1 in the state at the time," Friend said. "And when I was at Tuscaloosa Central, we beat Tuscaloosa County one time and I think they were No. 1 in the state. Those were pretty big wins."

He coached twice in the Bernard Blackwell Football All-Star Classic as an assistant in 1988 and as head coach in 1995. Coach Friend was also honored by coaching three times in the Mississippi/Alabama All-Star Football Classic as an assistant in 1993, a head coach in 1996, and as administrative coach in 1998. Named Coach of the Year by the MAC and the Jackson Clarion-Ledger, he is a longtime MAC member who has spoken frequently at clinics at Ole Miss, Southern Miss, Mississippi State, the MAC, West Alabama, and for Nike in a Houston, Texas, national clinic.

And Coach Friend will be on the sidelines again this season as the offensive coordinator at Leake Central.

"After I left Neshoba Central, Coach Teddy Dyess invited me to come and help at Philadelphia with the weight program, and I did that as a volunteer until April," Coach Friend said. "Then the Leake Central job developed and I joined them as a full-time staff member. I still live in Philadelphia and drive up to Carthage each day."