Head Coaching Hires Heat Up

February 7, 2018

The action continues to heat up with the latest hires in the ranks of Alabama high school football in preparation of the 2018 season.  One coach went back to his old stomping ground, one coach came out of retirement and another moved up the ladder to 6A football. A north Alabama school hired one of its own, a south Alabama school hired a north Alabama coach, while another reached out of state to snag a former state championship coach.

Benjamin Russell head coach Danny Horn returned to Clay County, this time as head coach of the Clay Central Volunteers. Horn had been head coach of the Clay County Panthers for 20 seasons when he resigned after the 2008 season to become coach of the larger Benjamin Russell High School in Alexander City. Horn’s record at Clay County was an unbelievable 225-40 and he won six state championships. Clay County High School merged with rival Lineville High School in 2012 to form Clay Central.

Horn’s best years at Benjamin Russell were from 2012 through 2015 where his Wildcat teams won at least 10 games each season. In 2015, Benjamin Russell went 12-2 and made it to the semi finals of the 6A playoffs.  Horn replaces his former assistant coach Kris Herron, who spent 2013-2017 as the Volunteers head coach before retiring recently.

Houston Academy in Dothan hired former T.R. Miller Hall of Fame coach Jamie Riggs, who had retired after the 2015 season.  Riggs spent 27 seasons as head coach of the Tigers, and finished with a record of 293 wins and 62 losses at Miller. He has 305 total wins, which is the second most in the history of the AHSAA. His 69 playoff wins are the most in AHSAA history.

Riggs replaces Jimmy Addison who resigned at the end of the 2017 season. The Raiders have lost the last 19 games in a row.  Riggs will attempt to revive a program that was very competitive for many years in 2A, but has yet to win a region game since moving up to 3A football two seasons ago.

“I was just waiting on the right opportunity, and I when I heard of the HA opening, I just thought this might be the right fit,” Riggs said. “When I talked to the people at Houston Academy, I was impressed with their commitment to improve the football program. It’s quite a challenge, and we will attempt to build some good foundations for the future,” he said. “Our vision for the future is to make Houston Academy the best high school football experience in Dothan.”

Eufaula hired Elba head coach Ed Rigby, who in five years as the Tiger coach won a state championship and had a state runner up finish. His overall record at Elba was 53-12.  Rigby takes over a 6A Eufaula program that finished 9-3 last year and has advanced to the playoffs every season since 1998. He replaces Bryan Moore, who left Eufaula to take over at Jasper.

“My goal is to exceed the high expectations the community has set for not only the football program but for all of Eufaula athletics,”  Rigby told the Eufaula Tribune. “I am 100 percent in.” Rigby came to Elba from Tate High School in Gonzalez, Florida, right outside of Pensacola.

Oneonta hired Redskin assistant coach Phil Phillips as their new head coach. Phillips, 52, replaces Brandon Herring who resigned after a 3-7 season in 2017. Phillips has served Oneonta in many capacities over the years, including offensive coordinator during the Redskin’s 2013 state championship season when Don Jacobs was head coach.

The ALFCA named Phillips as their Assistant Coach of the Year after the 2012 season. Phillips attempts to redirect the Oneonta program which has had three consecutive losing seasons for the first time since 1998-2000.

Florence High School has hired Tennessee high school coach Will Hester.  Hester led Ravenwood to the Tennessee 6A state title in 2015. He resigned to build the program at the new Nolensville High and the Knights went 4-8 this past season.

Hester replaces J.B. Wallace who resigned after the 2017 season. After an 11-3 campaign in his first year in 2014, Wallace and his Florence squad suffered through three consecutive losing seasons.

“The talent level is not the issue,” Hester told the TimesDaily. “In my opinion it must be something more of a culture within the program issue; (we need) the kids playing hard for each other instead of worrying about themselves.”

Elmore County High school hired West Limestone head coach Jordan Cantrell as their new head football coach. Cantrell had been head coach at West Limestone for four seasons, going 25-20. His best season was 2016 when the Wildcats went 10-2 before losing a tough second round game 39-38 to Cherokee County.

Cantrell replaces Norman Dean who resigned after 13 seasons and 77 wins. Elmore County went 2-8 this past season.

“We’ve got to first create trust in our program,” Cantrell said. “We’ve got to develop relationships with the kids and the assistant coaches so we can develop that work ethic for the future. The wins will come,” he said. “We have to make it a family atmosphere so these guys will work and understand the expectations of our program.”

Chad Eads has accepted the job as the head football coach at Gardendale.  He replaces Matt Plunkett who resigned to take the Cullman High School head coaching position.

Eads has spent the last 11 seasons at Hoover High School as one of the state’s top offensive line coaches. He has been a part of numerous state titles at with the Bucs, and he hopes to bring some of that success to Gardendale.

“I want kids to do the little things right,” he said. “That’s what separates. … It’s a chance to teach kids that.” The Gardendale program has gone from 10 wins in 2015, to 8 wins in 2016, to 6 wins last season.  Eads hopes to reverse that trend. “It seems like the kids are there,” he said.

Look for more hirings and more openings in the month of February.