The long anticipated move of combining Dothan and Northview High Schools has lead the coaching news in south Alabama in the 2019 off season. Hazel Green’s Smitty Grider was tapped and given the task of bringing the two rivals together as one.
Grider, who was the first head coach when Park Crossing began its football program in 2014, was chosen to lead the new Dothan High School Wolves. “The opportunity to come here with the support of the whole city behind you is something that just jumped out at me, Grider said. “It’s always hard when you leave, but they (Hazel Green administration) understood about the opportunity of this being the third-largest school in the state.”
Enterprise lured Rick Darlington from Apopka High School in Florida to replace David Faulkner, who took a job on Chip Lindsey’s new staff at Troy University. Darlington has spent most of his career in Florida, leading Apopka to state titles in 2014 (8A), 2012 (8A) and 2001 (6A) with his single-wing offense. He also had state runner-up teams at Apopka in 2013 and Valdosta (Ga.) in 2003. “We’ve got to teach work habits, work ethic,” Darlington said. “We’ve got to teach them to love each other, set high expectations and just try to get better at what we’re doing in the weight room, on the field and in the classroom.”
Scott Mason resigned after 2 seasons at Florala High School to take the job at Escambia County High School. “I’m going to run my own version of the spread system,” Mason said. “We call it thunder and lightning. It’s kind of a combination of the air raid and wing.” Mason said he always wanted to be the head coach at Escambia County, after competing against the Blue Devils while an assistant at Faith Academy.
Mason was replaced at Florala by Toby Greene, a longtime coach in south Alabama. “At this stage of your career, you really want to get into a spot you feel like you will be comfortable,” Greene said. “I just had a good feel about Florala. I didn’t want to take something just to take something.” Greene had served as the offensive coordinator at Dothan High School the past two seasons. The 1A Wildcats were 5-6 last season under Mason.
Another veteran coach took over a wiregrass program when Joel Williams accepted the job at Straughn High School. Williams left Delta State University where he had been the offensive coordinator. “I just wanted everything to be in a town setting,” Williams said. “Where you have your high school, middle school and elementary school all right there. When we drove up and saw Straughn, I said out loud, ‘Yep, that is the picture that I had in my mind of where I want to be.’ I’m just coming back to my roots.” Williams’ career stops in Alabama include Foley High School, Birmingham Southern College, Gadsden High School, Samford University, Mountain Brook High School, UMS Wright (head coach from 1994-96), Birmingham Fire, and T.R. Miller High School (head coach, 1987-89).
Zack Holmes replaced Justin Jones at New Brockton. Holmes was an assistant coach at Enterprise last year and before that, the defensive coordinator at Eufaula. “I am super excited to be a member of this great coaching staff and to be a part of the New Brockton community,” Holmes said.
Leaving Jackson was not easy for veteran coaching Danny Powell, but the opportunity to take the job at Clarke Prep was too good to pass up financially. “I have nothing but great things to say about Jackson High,” Powell said. “I had eight great years there. We had great support and really good football players. It was a good run, but this opportunity came up pretty quickly.” Powell officially will retire from the public school system effective June 1.
Powell won 82 games with the Aggies and reached the playoffs each season. He won the 2011 Class 4A state title in his first year at the school and made three straight Class 5A semifinal appearances (2014-2016). In 19 seasons as a head coach in Alabama, Powell is 168-59-1 overall and 42-9 in the playoffs. He has won five AHSAA state titles – including four at Leroy – and one AISA state title at Lee-Scott Academy.
Two schools up I-65 just north of Montgomery also hired their new football leaders. Jeremy Carter was tapped at Prattville Christian and Marbury hired J.B. Wallace.
“I’m going to change the culture,” Carter promised. “I’m going to teach it and coach it the way I know how to do it. The work ethic is going to have to change and we’re going to have to get on board. I hope they’re ready for it.” Carter played at Billingsley, and spent last year as an assistant on the Lions staff.
Wallace comes to Marbury from Prattville High School where he served as defensive coordinator in 2018. “What drew me here the most is the potential that I saw,” Wallace said. “Just being able to watch some of these guys on film and see them move around, the potential was there. Just meeting with them and speaking with them I think the hunger is there. I just think we need a plan in place and we need to go to work. That’s what we need to do.”