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story.lead_photo.caption South Callaway girls basketball coach Darren Humphrey looks on during the 2019 Class 3 District 9 Tournament championship game against Blair Oaks in Linn. Photo by Jason Strickland / News Tribune.

MOKANE — Darren Humphrey reshuffled his priorities and something had to be sacrificed.

Humphrey recently turned in his resignation as girls head basketball coach at South Callaway. He logged a 117-38 overall record in his six seasons leading the Lady Bulldogs.

"I don't know that there is ever a good time to say it's over, but the time has come for me to do so," the 49-year-old Humphrey said. "It was a very difficult decision but one that I feel has been in the best interest of my family, my personal health, and my happiness."

Humphrey — a 1989 South Callaway graduate — is stepping away in the midst of steering the Lady Bulldogs along the most successful stretch in the history of their program.

South Callaway made its first appearance in the state playoffs in program history in 2018, falling to Licking in the Class 3 sectionals. The Lady Bulldogs followed by defeating Butler in sectional play in 2019, before losing to eventual state champion Strafford in the quarterfinals.

South Callaway then lost to Southern Boone in the Class 3 District 9 semifinals in February, ending the season with a 23-3 record. Southern Boone eventually fell in the sectionals to Strafford, which went on to secure its fifth straight Class 3 state title.

The Lady Bulldogs have compiled an impressive 71-11 record in the past three seasons, including perfect runs to three consecutive Show-Me Conference championships.

"As I look back over the years, many memories flood through," Humphrey said. "I remember in taking the job as head coach, that group of athletes had a goal of winning a trophy in a tournament and getting a first-round win in district, something that had eluded them for several years.

"Over the years, these goals grew and personnel changed, but the successes the program witnessed were immense. The girls built a tradition, gained a following, and brought forth pride to everyone involved."

South Callaway should be one of the top teams in Class 3 again next season. The Lady Bulldogs' skilled roster will be led by senior guard Paige Clubb, senior center DeLaney Horstman and junior guard Raegan Brown.

"The South Callaway girls will be a team to continue to watch as they have a tremendous amount of talent returning next year," Humphrey said. "Many of these athletes have witnessed and were part of the success that we welcomed in our program.

"They are dedicated to the sport, to each other, and will be successful for years to come."

Humphrey savors what his present and past players have achieved both on the court and beyond.

"As a coach, you want the best for these student-athletes when they are part of a program and, especially, when their high school journey is over," he said. "Some of your athletes will go on to play at the collegiate level, but you have to realize that many will not.

"We have former athletes that are, today, thriving in many fields — whether in the field of coaching, nursing, education, business or veterinary science. In playing a role in just a portion of their journeys, having them come back to help or just say hello, that is fulfilling in itself."

Humphrey's only stint as a head coach came at his alma mater. Prior to returning to South Callaway, he served as an assistant for four seasons under girls basketball head coach Brett Craighead at New Bloomfield.

Craighead also announced his resignation in April after 13 seasons with the Lady Wildcats.

Humphrey will remain at South Callaway as a vocational agriculture teacher at the high school and FFA advisor.

"Without a doubt, there will be a void in my life for a while, but in serving as the South Callaway girls basketball coach for the past six years, I look at that time as a blessing," he said. "You always want to have felt that you have made a difference in the lives of your students and players.

"Being able to coach tremendous athletes with such talent and determination has been both a joy and privilege. The tremendous successes that these student-athletes have accomplished — both on the court and in the classroom — the leadership that they have shown, and the pride that they have brought to the community are a few of the numerous achievements that I have had the ability to celebrate with this group and throughout my years of service."

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