By D. Mark Mitchell
For the Opelika
A total of 15 local high school football coaches gathered at the Southern Room on Southern Union State Community College’s Opelika campus last week for the first annual “Kicker High School Media Days presented by the Orthopaedic Clinic.”
The two-day event allowed local AISA and AHSAA high school coaches a chance to showcase their team and players.
The Orthopaedic Clinic partnered with 97.7 Kicker FM to help facilitate the event.
Several media outlets including WTVM, WRBL, WXTX, WLTZ, WSFA, Opelika-Auburn News and the Opelika Observer provided news coverage.
Former AHSAA Executive Director Dan Washburn started the event by speaking about his 17- year tenure as AHSAA head. Under Washburn’s leadership, the Super 6 and Final 4 for football and basketball were formed, which later turned into all sports playing at a neutral venue in pursuance of a state championship.
Chambers Academy Coach Jason Allen followed Washburn as the first coach to speak. In his second stint as the Rebel’s head coach, he has guided Chambers to 45 victories in five seasons, won two region titles and finished second in the state the last two seasons.
Robert Maddox, entering his 14th season as Lee-Scott Academy, previously coached places including Troy State, Gardner Webb, Valley and Auburn High School. The Warriors have no seniors and only one junior on their roster. This will be an inexperienced team that will improve each week.
Beulah’s Cody Flournoy, entering his second season at the helm of the Bobcat program, brought his normal energy and smile to the podium. Nicknamed “Coach Flo” by his players, has a unique style of coaching and laid-back approach.
The Bobcats won three games in his first season. Look for the Bobcats to claw their way into the playoffs.
Beauregard’s Rob Carter, who has compiled a 41-7 record in five years, including the school’s first state championship in 2016, talked about the Hornets in 2018.
BHS lost several players from last year’s 10-2 team, including star running back and Mississippi State commit La’damian Webb. But, expect the Hornets to keep swarming teams and gathering wins.
Mike Glisson stepped to the podium in his first season as Smiths Station football coach.
Glisson served as both the offensive and defensive coordinator under Tim Carter at Auburn High School and served as the defensive coordinator under Carter at Beauregard prior to being named the Panther’s head coach.
Glisson will get the job done but will need five to eight years to help cultivate and maintain a competitive program.
Lanett’s Clifford Story, starts his 10th season as the Panthers head coach. Last season, he led his team to a 15-0 record and won the 2A State Championship at Bryant-Denny Stadium. The Panthers are 26-3 in the last two seasons.
Look for them to repeat after dropping to 1A classification this year.
Auburn’s Adam Winegarden, starting his fourth season with the Tigers, will have several new faces on the field to go along with eight returning starters. Auburn finished with a 10-2 overall record, including a win over rival Opelika and 7A quarterfinal appearance.
The last coach of day one was Jason Gibson of Glenwood. He will start his third season with the Gators, after leading them to back-to-back playoff appearances in his tenure. Gibson is also the head coach of the Columbus Lions program.
The second day of the event started with current AHSAA executive Director Steve Savarese, who spoke about the coming season.
Savarese talked about the new replay system in place that member schools are allowed to use if they purchase the equipment. Costing $3,000 initially and $1,000 each year after, 35 schools have already purchased the program.
The AHSAA is also in its first year of the new competitive balance factor. Private schools that are a member of the AHSAA must advance up a classification after winning a state championship.
The sport that wins the championship will be the only team to go up a classification. Savarese serves on the NFHS Board of Directors.
Dadeville’s Richard White was the first coach to speak on the second Media Day.
Entering his 19th season, White’s teams have made the playoffs 14 times, winning 150 games.
White, widely respected by his peers, spoke of the consistency needed to maintain a successful program.
Springwood hired John Gartman a week prior to this event. He brings 14 years of AISA experience to the table, including 12 at Pickens Academy where he won a state championship.
Lafayette Coach James Lucas, entering his fifth season as the Bulldogs head man, has guided the Bulldogs to a 23-7 mark the last three seasons.
Notasulga’s Anthony Jones starts his fourth season as head coach.
An NHS alum, Jones is trying to keep his hometown school playing good football, including a 12-5 mark in region play the last three seasons.
Central High School’s Jamey Dubose stepped to the podium to talk about the Red Devils in 2018. In Dubose’s four seasons, he has coached the Red Devils to a 40-9 overall record while only playing nine regular season games.
Look for the Red Devils to make a fourth straight semifinal appearance.
Valley’s Buster Daniel, in his second season, stepped to the podium to talk about Ram football.
A VHS alum, Daniel said he is hoping for improvement in year two.
The longtime Opelika high assistant believes his team is close. With proper school and community support, Daniel is capable of helping Valley become a winning program.
Capping off 2018 East Alabama Media Day was Opelika’s first-year head coach Erik Speakman.
The Bulldogs will have their third coach in three seasons, after Caleb Ross left in February to take the head job at 7A Prattville.
One day after Ross resigned, Speakman, longtime defensive coordinator for Opelika, was named head coach.
The Bulldogs finished with a 9-4 record in the 6A state quarterfinals with a close loss to Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa last season. In 2016, Opelika played for the 6A State Championship at Jordan Hare Stadium.
Speakman inherits a winning program with 34 seniors on the team.
Opelika opens the season at Callaway High School in Georgia.
AISA teams started practice last week. AHSAA teams will start practice next Monday.