Legendary Bassfield football coach dies at 87

Published 8:56 am Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Bassfield football coaching legend Howard Willoughby died Wednesday at the age of 87.

Willoughby coached at a number of Mississippi schools during his 40-year coaching career,willoughby WEB including Canton, Madison-Ridgeland, West Marion and Mississippi College.

He was best known, however, for coaching 17 years at Bassfield High School.

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While at Bassfield, Willoughby led the Yellowjackets to three consecutive state titles in 1984, 1985 and 1986.

Willoughby compiled an overall career record of 224-96-9 and was named Coach of the Year by the Clarion-Ledger, Hattiesburg American, Mississippi Association of Coaches and the National High School Association of Coaches.

He was inducted into the Mississippi Association of Coaches Hall of Fame in 1982.

Willoughby remained an everyday part of Bassfield football, after his retirement in 1991.  He attended every Friday night game he could to see his former team play.

In 2008, Bassfield High School recognized Willoughby by naming their field in honor of the legendary coach.

Willoughby Field WEB

Current Bassfield coach Lance Mancuso said the loss of Willoughby will be deeply felt, not just by the football program at Bassfield, but by the surrounding community as well.

“I was fortunate enough to meet Coach Willoughby, and he was just an outstanding man,” Mancuso said.

“He will be profoundly missed in our community. He touched so many young men’s lives, and I know a lot of the guys thought extremely highly of him. It’s a tough loss for our football family.”

Mancuso, who himself has now guided the Yellowjackets to three state championships (two consecutive), gratefully acknowledged the lasting influence Willoughby has had on the Yellowjackets’ football program.

“Coach Willoughby has been the foundation upon which we’ve rebuilt our program at Bassfield,” he said. “We just hoped to make him proud every Friday night when he came out to watch us play.

“As an outsider coming in, it’s been an honor for me to coach at Bassfield and be a part of the program that he built. We just hope to continue to carry on his legacy.”