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Mount Zion is going back to the college coaching well.

The Braves football program's new leader will be one many Macon County residents are already familiar with -- former Millikin coach Patrick Etherton.

"It feels great, very excited," Etherton said. "I think it's an unbelievable opportunity."

Etherton takes over for Mike Popovich, who resigned after three seasons with the Braves. Etherton will also teach biology at Mount Zion.

It's been more than two months since Popovich left for Morthland College, but Mount Zion AD Ben Davis said it was worth the wait.

"It's been a process, a long process," Davis said. "We looked at a lot of quality people, coaches that have had a lot of success. It was a slow, but thorough process to make the right selection.

"(Etherton is a) quality, class guy, organized, great communicator, hard worker. He has a great vision for a high school program.

Etherton, who grew up in Illiopolis and graduated from Millikin, now lives in Mount Zion. He had taken a spot on Mark Ramsey's staff at St. Teresa earlier in the year, but couldn't pass up a chance to lead the Braves.

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It's a program he's familiar with. Etherton said he's seen Mount Zion at least once a season for recruiting.

He acknowledged there will be change in moving from college to high school, but was excited about the prospect of dealing with his players for a longer period of time.

"My personality will stay the same, but my approach with the kids will be a bit different," he said. "The biggest difference is the calendar, we'll be able to be around our players in the summer.

"Football is football. Xs and Os are the same. We'll do some of the same stuff we did at Millikin, but the biggest thing is the calendar."

Etherton was the head coach at Millikin for five years, going 16-34. He was an assistant for seven years after playing defensive back for the Big Blue.

The next step is to see what he has to work with following two back-to-back 6-4 seasons for Mount Zion. Etherton said he's going to grab tapes of last year's games before outlining the gameplan.

"I think we'll be able to come up with a true schematic about what we can do," he said. "I think there's some talented players at Mount Zion. And there are unbelievable facilities. It's a great place to be."

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adow@herald-review.com|(217) 421-6978

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