Change for the Cats Martinez leaves Sherman to take over at Bridgeport

Jason Della Rosa
Herald Democrat
Sherman head football coach J.D. Martinez has stepped down after five seasons to take the football coach and athletic director position at Bridgeport.

Sherman head football coach J.D. Martinez has stepped down to become the head football coach and athletic director at Bridgeport and will hope to have the same turnaround effect to when he took over the Bearcats.

Martinez was approved by the Bridgeport ISD Board of Trustees to replace Shannon Wilson, who resigned in early March after compiling a 14-26 record and two playoff appearances in four seasons.

Martinez and Bridgeport superintendent Brandon Peavey, who has led the ISD since 2017, were assistant coaches on the same staffs at Keller Central, Fossil Ridge and L.D. Bell and this will make the fourth time they will work together.

“It’s a pretty good relationship. It’s amazing how everything is based on good relationships," Martinez said. "It's closer to where I grew up in Granbury. It's a smaller community, really tight-knit and we're excited about the next chapter."

In five seasons leading the Bearcats, Martinez went 24-28 and made the playoffs three times.

"We've been in the playoff race every year I've been here. We were in the conversation the last game of the year," Martinez said. "I'm real proud of the job our coaches did and the hard work the kids put in."

This past fall Sherman went 5-5 overall and 4-1 in District 7-5A (I). The Bearcats tied Longview for second place — their match-up was cancelled due to COVID-19 — and were the third seed based on a tie-breaker.

Sherman lost against College Station, 38-26, in the bi-district round and is still searching for its first playoff victory since 2012.

The new head coach for the Cats will be in 7-5A (I) with Highland Park, Longview, McKinney North, Wylie East, Tyler and West Mesquite for the 2021 season before February’s realignment. Sherman is expected to remain in 5A for the upcoming realignment cycle but may need to sweat out the cutoff to enter 6A. With continued growth in Sherman, a move up to 6A could then be expected in 2024, which would be the fourth season for a new hire.

"Coach Martinez committed five years to the Sherman ISD athletic programs. His leadership helped our district establish a cohesive athletic pipeline that extends to our middle school campus and youth sports leagues," Sherman ISD athletic director Bob Jones said. "Coach Martinez has been dedicated to ensuring that our young men see the value in being student-athletes with high character, dedication, and commitment to excellence. As a district, we thank him for the positive impact he has made on the students in Sherman ISD." 

Jones, who was hired as athletic director in February 2020, will lead the search for Martinez's replacement and the district is launching a survey to receive input from the community.

 "We're seeking feedback from parents, employees, and community stakeholders regarding desired characteristics and qualities potential candidates should possess for the position," Jones said. "The information we collect from the survey will guide us during the hiring process. We value our community's input and willingness to participate in our survey."

Martinez, who had never been a head coach before his arrival at Sherman, won more games in his first year than the Bearcats did in the previous two seasons as Sherman went 4-6 with three of those losses decided by six points or less.

The following season, 2017, the Bearcats reached the postseason for the first time in five years and finished 5-6 with a bi-district loss against V.R. Eaton.

Sherman won one fewer game in 2018 but made a return to the playoffs due to a second straight 3-3 district record and advanced out of 7-5A (I) as part of a three-way tie for third place. The Cats lost in the first round to Magnolia West to end 4-7.

The back-to-back playoff berths were the first by the program since a run of five straight from 2008-12.

A chance at three consecutive postseason trips came up on the wrong side of a tie-breaker in 2019 with another 3-3 district finish and third-place tie. It was Martinez’s most successful season at SHS with a 6-4 mark.

The move also means the Battle of the Ax will have a match-up between the Bearcats and Yellow Jackets both featuring new head coaches for the first time since 1945 — when it was Sherman’s Finis Vaughn against Denison’s Arnold Johnson — after the Yellow Jackets hired Brent Whitson last month.

In the Battle of the Ax, Martinez inherited a three-game losing streak that started in the final year of Gary Kinne’s tenure and lasted both of Bill Patterson’s years in charge. Martinez went 0-5 against the Jackets, who will look to extend that streak to nine — their best run of success in the long-standing rivalry that will have its 123rd edition this fall.

"I would have loved to have won the Ax for the community of Sherman," he said.

Martinez was hired in February of 2016 after the Bearcats had consecutive 1-9 seasons under Patterson and the latter year’s win was by forfeit against Sulphur Springs.

He was the offensive coordinator at Flower Mound Marcus in the four seasons prior to Sherman and was taking over as a head coach for the first time. His previous stops as an assistant had been at Corpus Christi, Keller Fossil Ridge, Keller Central and L.D. Bell.

Sherman moved away from the combined role of head football coach and athletic director in 2013 and went more than six years without someone in that role on a full-time basis until Bob Jones was hired in February of 2020.

Tommy Hudspeth was serving as the interim AD before Martinez was hired and instead of putting the two positions back together, Martinez was given the role as the district’s athletic coordinator.

Bridgeport went 1-7 this past season and 0-4 overall in District 3-4A (II) as the only school in the five-team district to miss the playoffs. The Bulls will be with Graham, Iowa Park, Vernon and Mineral Wells again this coming fall before the next realignment in February.

It was Bridgeport’s worst season since an 0-10 campaign in 2013 and a step back from a 5-6 mark and postseason berth in 2019. The Bulls had a 5-5 mark in 2018 and their last winning season was at 8-4 in 2014, which was also included the program’s last postseason win.

"There's no substitute for experience. There's no doubt in my mind we're going to win some football games there," Martinez said. "It's something I can do. I've definitely learned from my experiences at Sherman."