By way of demonstrating his Bath County credentials, Larry Bowling said, “I remember when Chris Swartz played.”

Bowling was also on the scene for the Wildcats’ 6-6 season last fall — a pleasant rebound from a winless 2020 — as an assistant coach. He is leaning on those experiences as he takes over Bath County’s big chair.

“I’m hoping that me being local, me being from here, I think I have a better understanding of some things,” the Wildcats’ new coach said. “I know these boys. I know them well. I know their families. Some of their family members I even played ball with.”

Bowling, a 1995 Bath County graduate, replaces the departed Chris Lane. Bowling came on board as a Wildcats assistant when Lane took over midseason in 2020 for Johnny Poynter and stayed on staff last fall.

Bowling coached many of the current Wildcats in junior pro (youth) football and at the middle-school level along with Lane, who was Bath County’s middle school coach before being bumped up to the varsity level.

“I think we got a lot of talent this year,” Bowling said. “A lot of our younger guys are gonna have to step up and play bigger roles, because we lost a lot of seniors last year. … I think they’re capable of doing it. We got a running back that’s strong as an ox (in Carter Hart), and we got receivers that can catch the ball.”

Because of those two elements, Bowling favors strategy that would use both of them.

“I like the spread, but I also like power football,” he said, “because we got a strong running back and we got a big line.”

Bowling got the nod on June 22, he said — three days before the KHSAA dead period of two weeks began. That’s a bit later in the offseason than ideal to be replacing a football coach, but Bowling doesn’t hold it against Lane, who left for an assistant coaching position at Kentucky Christian University.

“I’m not mad at Chris Lane. I think the world of Chris Lane,” Bowling said. “Chris Lane had an opportunity. I explained to the boys, ‘When you’re in high school, kinda live in the moment, but when you’re a grown man with a family, you start living in the big picture. You gotta do what’s best for your family, and that’s what Chris wanted, to coach at the college level, so don’t be mad at him for chasing a dream of his.’ Because I want them to chase the dreams that they put out there for themselves, in time.”

That said, the consistent turnover in the Wildcats program of late had “the boys’ heads … rattled,” Bowling said. His plan is to alleviate that at the end of the dead period, which prohibits contact between coaches and athletes.

“We’re gonna come in and we’re gonna talk, and if we need to fuss or complain or gripe, or whatever, let’s get it out of our system,” Bowling said, chuckling. “And I think they got a right to. Some of them have worked a long time, and I respect what they do. I think everybody needs to vent from time to time. I do.

“But once we get done, we need to put it behind us and come together as a team and start playing ball.”

Bath County athletic director Michael Melton pronounced the Wildcats “extremely fortunate and excited” to move forward with Bowling.

“We feel confident that coach Bowling will continue building on the positives from last season and will give us the sense of stability and continuity for the program to grow in strength,” Melton said. “There is a lot of excitement on ‘The Hill.’”

Bowling, 45, is retired from the Kentucky State Police and works as a school resource officer in the Bath County district. Three of his older brothers also played for the Wildcats. He attended Morehead State.

Bowling is married to Jessica. They have three sons — Austin, 18, Alan, 15, and Alex, 3.

Alan is a rising sophomore who played in all 10 games for the Wildcats last year as a freshman.

The Wildcats are scheduled to open the season Aug. 19 at home against Fairview.