The last East Carter boys soccer game before Chris Huddle took over as coach was a stunning loss to West Carter in the 2015 62nd District Tournament semifinals.
The last game Huddle served as the Raiders’ skipper was in the state semifinals — the first time in 15 years an eastern Kentucky team had gotten that far.
Following East Carter’s sensational 2019 season that ended 36 seconds shy of kicks from the mark for a potential trip to the state championship game, Huddle resigned as the Raiders’ head coach. He’ll trade coaching positions with three-year East Carter assistant — and son — Quinn Huddle.
Chris Huddle got in on the ground floor of youth and club soccer in Carter County some 15 years ago because that’s what sons Quinn and Evan wanted to do. After three All-Area Coach of the Year honors and three 16th Region Tournament titles in a span of four years that also included the Raiders’ first wins at the State level in school history, father is ceding the top spot to son.
“That’s awesome,” Chris Huddle said. “I enjoy it, but (Quinn) has a passion for the game that’s another level above me. He lives and breathes it, and he knows a lot more about the game than I do. He played at a high level, and this is really what he wants to do.”
The Huddles complemented each other well on staff, both said, and will continue to do so as they switch jobs. Chris will remain on the Raiders’ staff as an assistant.
“I think the reason our relationship is so good is, at times, (Chris) sees the game not from the same point of view,” Quinn Huddle said. “When I’m over-complicating it, he goes, ‘Why don’t we just do this?,’ and there’ll be times where I get really frustrated, but he tries to see the positive, and at times it’s vice-versa.”
East Carter athletic director Brandon Baker recognized that dynamic.
“I think it will be a seamless transition,” Baker said. “Easy hire for East Carter. Chris has been a major contributor in building the foundation of not only East Carter soccer, but soccer in the Grayson community. And Quinn, with his soccer background and soccer network, I consider our soccer program in the best hands possible.”
The Huddles’ last game in their previous roles showcased the progress that can be made by a northeastern Kentucky soccer team — even if they themselves just a few years ago would’ve thought a state semifinal berth and a competitive showing there to be far-fetched.
“As a player, every team that won the 16th Region while I was playing, and even while I was keeping up with it in college, it was kinda just like, ‘Well, I hope they win the next game, that would be cool to be in the Elite Eight,’” Quinn Huddle said. “And when we made the Final Four, I have to give so much credit to our players and even the fans, we really believed we were gonna win that game, and I think that’s half the battle.
“I think at the moment our mentality as a program is, we can win a state championship. ... Of course, the 16th Region championship is a goal and a district championship is a goal, but in our program’s history, there would be nothing better than to be able to win a state championship and do something nobody from around here has done.”
Quinn Huddle played center back at Concord University in West Virginia and lent that expertise to his father’s staff when he returned to Grayson in 2017.
“There’s soccer coaches that like to score a lot of goals; the last two or three years, we’ve been known for not giving up many goals,” Quinn Huddle said. “With a tough schedule, we found ways to keep the score low, and it’s really benefitted us.”
Quinn Huddle, 25, is a 2013 East Carter graduate. He teaches business at his alma mater.
Chris Huddle owns and operates a T-shirt and screenprinting shop in Grayson with his wife, Stephanie, and serves as a Carter County magistrate. He’s still coaching as an assistant, but he’s accomplished much of what he set out to do in that field, and with youngest child Abby bound for college, Chris called it “time to take a step back.”
“When I took it over four years ago, it was an opportunity,” Chris Huddle said. “I had always coached in the youth leagues and the travel stuff, and I kinda wanted to prove to myself that I (could coach high school). I thought I could, but I didn’t know that I could coach at this level, and I feel like I’ve proven to myself that I could. It’s just time for (Quinn) to take it over.”
Quinn Huddle anticipates “a pretty constant and consistent environment” through the change.
“I think as far as practice and game preparation goes, there won’t be a lot different,” Quinn Huddle said. “Mine and my dad’s relationship was very fluid. He trusted what I was doing and I trusted what he was doing. We’ll be able to continue the same procedures as we did in years past.”
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