The Face of High School Football
Kevin Kelley, Head Football Coach, Pulaski Academy
Pulaski Academy athletic director and head football coach Kevin Kelley has gained national intrigue for his unconventional philosophies. In basic terms, he wants his teams to keep possession of the ball, force turnovers, and limit penalties that stop his team or help his opponents. That’s not different from other football coaches. What is unorthodox about Kelley is how he puts his beliefs into practice.
His style seems more likely to be found by kids playing video games than a professional on the sideline. With rare exception, his teams never punt, go for two after their first two touchdowns and after every score in close games, and onside kick until they have a 21-point lead over their opponents.
Kelley developed his atypical style after analyzing statistical information on win probability. He found that teams that win the turnover battle win 80 percent of their games. So he employs the onside kick as a way to keep the ball away from opposing offenses. Even if his team is unsuccessful and his opponent gets better field position to start their drive, he believes his defense can make the stops needed to cause a change of possession. He also believes in making big plays on offense, after finding the team that made more plays of 20 yards or longer won 81 percent of their contests. While quick scoring strikes and gaining large chunks of field position reduce time of possession, big plays limit opportunities for his team to commit turnovers or have drives stalled by penalties.
While his coaching is anything but traditional, it’s hard to argue against his results. Since becoming the Bruins head coach in 2003, his teams have won seven state championships in 15 seasons, including the last four straight. His successes have gained him national media attention. He has been featured on HBO Real Sports, ESPN, and been a speaker at MIT’s Sloan Sports Analytics Conference.
Pulaski Academy is a college preparatory school founded in west Little Rock in 1971 that teaches children age two through high school.