BY HARRISON TARR
FOR THE OBSERVER
For fans of the Auburn High School football program, winning is more than a tradition; after a string of double-digit win seasons, it has become the expectation. In his first year as the head coach of the blue and white, Keith Etheredge led his team to a 10-3 record, sufficient for a quarterfinals exit at the hands of rival Central Phenix City. As his second year approaches, Etheredge believes that the culture is in place and the Tigers are poised to make yet another run to the state championship game.
According to the head coach, everything begins with a remarkably deep commitment to bettering the program.
“We’ve got 41 seniors this year,” Etheredge said. “Our classes are very big. From 10th grade to 12th grade we’ve got about 164 kids involved in football, right around 500 total from seventh grade to 12th grade.”
The leader of the blue and white claims that his group is composed of guys which he uniquely refers to as “stick their face in the fan” guys.
“We’ve got a lot of guys who do things the right way,” Etheredge said. “I call them guys who stick their face in the fan for you; they’re guys who want to win and will do anything they can to win. If I told these guys to stick their face in that fan, they’d grab it.”
Attitude is certainly half the battle; Etheredge believes his group has a healthy dose of talent to complement their outlook.
“We’ve got two quarterbacks who are really good, we’re really deep at receiver,” Etheredge said. “Our offensive line is probably one of the best I’ve ever coached.”
Senior left tackle — and Auburn University committ — Bradyn Joiner agreed with his head coach’s sentiment, adding that the Tigers’ offensive front should be worth paying attention to.
“The whole offensive line had to change a little bit,” Joiner said. “We only had two starters from last year that played on O-line so they brought me back from last year on D-line. We have 2-SEC tackles, we’re just trying to get the chemistry back on offense. We have two great quarterbacks and a lot of weapons.”
Between the collaborative commitment and the remarkable slew of talent, there is little doubt that the Tigers will be tough to defeat in 2022; this group hopes to silence any who might not believe in them.
“We’re going to play with a chip on our shoulder,” Etheredge said. “Everybody wants to talk about all the other teams, we want to be talked about as one of the best 7A teams in this state.”
In an effort to better prepare themselves for the rigorous journey of regional play, the Tigers have scheduled a week-one showdown with the perennial powerhouse Hoover Buccaneers in the Champions Challenge.
“It’s a situation where — when you play a great team — you not only get to see where your strengths are but it also shows you where your weaknesses are,” Etheredge said. “You play a team that has great players and that’s coached well, it gets you prepared for the season.”
Auburn and Hoover will square off in a clash of titans on Friday, Aug. 19 at the Cramton Bowl in Montgomery, Alabama, at 7 p.m. CST.