By Morgan Bryce and D. Mark Mitchell
The Autauga County Board of Education voted to name Caleb Ross as Prattville High School’s next head football coach during a special meeting Tuesday night.
Despite numerous injuries to starters at key positions, Ross guided Opelika to a 9-4 overall record in his one and only season, tying for the region championship and appearing in the quarterfinal round of the 6A State Playoffs, falling 26-21 to Hillcrest of Tuscaloosa.
Ross, a Prattville native and alum, was linked to the job opening following former Coach Chad Anderson’s resignation during the Christmas break.
Seeing it as a chance to go home, Ross explained the degree of difficulty in making his decision to Observer sports columnist and Opelika High School insider D. Mark Mitchell.
“This is a tough decision for me. I am happy and excited to go home, but I worry about the kids … will they understand why?” Ross said in an interview with Mitchell last Tuesday night. “Hopefully as they get older they will understand (the concept of) home. Opelika is a wonderful place with an incredible school system. Dr. (Mark) Neighbors and Dr. (Farrell) Seymore do a wonderful job. I enjoyed my time at Opelika. Coach Mayor (Gary) Fuller and his team, Ronnie Ware, (City) Council President (Eddie) Smith and many others made me feel at home in Opelika. I appreciate all the many fans that supported me.”
Starting out in 2001 as a student assistant for the Samford University football team, Ross worked his way up the coaching ranks as a defensive positions coach at Clinton High School from 2002-2005, Prattville from 2006-2010 as its running backs coach and offensive coordinator, 2011 as the head coach/assistant athletic director at Thompson High School, 2012-2013 at Spain Park as wide receivers coach/offensive coordinator and assistant head coach, before joining McGill-Toolen as its head coach later in 2013.
During his three-year tenure with the Yellow Jackets, Ross compiled a 30-8 overall record and led the program to its first state title in 2015.
After the 2016 season, Ross left the school and came to Opelika March 22, 2017.
At Prattville, Ross will look to rebuild a program that has floundered in recent years, coming off back-to-back losing seasons. The Lions’ last double-digit-win campaign was 2014, and won its last state championship in 2011.
Mitchell said Ross’s absence will be felt at Opelika.
“There is no question that Opelika lost a fine Christian man with class and character. The Ross family could be seen each week at First Baptist Opelika attending the 9:45 (a.m.) service,” Mitchell said. “I enjoyed working with Coach Ross over the last year. I wish nothing but the best for Caleb, (wife) Amy and (children) Rebecca Claire and Jack.”
At press time, Opelika City Schools had not released a statement on Ross’s departure.