Coach of the Year Candidates as the Playoffs Loom Ahead


Charles Henderson's Quinn Hambrite has the Trojans at 9-1 in only his second year at the school.


Nominations for the ALFCA Coach of the Year and Assistant Coach of the Year are due in by November 10th, which is just two weeks away. Now is the time to consider all of the worthy candidates and make your nominations. Remember that in some classes, particularly 1A and 2A, we often have very few nominations.


At mid season, we took a look at some of the head coaches who had led their teams to great starts. Here are the three candidates in each classification that we discussed. Coaches can go to the website and find the article from the first week of October to get more details.


7A

Tim Carter, Fairhope

Keith Etheredge, Auburn

Adam Winegarden, Tuscaloosa County


6A

George Bates, Center Point

Richie Busby, Helena

Jeff Kelly, Saraland


5A

Terry Curtis, UMS Wright

Jake Ganus, Moody

Jerry Hood, Leeds


4A

Chris Foster, Priceville

Trent Taylor, Andalusia

Rico White, Anniston


3A

Eddie Brundidge, Houston Academy

Ashley Kilcrease, Straughn

Roger McDonald, Dadeville


2A

Steven Kilcrease, Ariton

Tate Leonard, Isabella

Will Pouncey, Highland Home


1A

Berry Bess, Georgiana

Charles Hammon, Valley Head

Houston Powell, Meek


Here is another candidate or two in each classification to consider who have distinguished themselves during the second half of the AHSAA regular season.


7A

Wade Waldrop, Hoover - Replacing a legend like Josh Niblett and taking over a program that had been tops in the state for nearly two decades cannot be easy. But after a close opening season loss to Auburn (17-14), the Bucs have reeled off nine straight wins, beating Hewitt Trussville, Mountain Brook and Thompson. Waldrep has done it behind a defense that has not given up more than 14 points in those nine wins.


Zach Golson, Mary Montgomery - In his first season with the Vikings, Golson's squad dropped the first four games, losing three by a total of 6 points. Two of those were overtime games. Since then MGM has won 6 straight, which including a victory over Daphne. They finish the regular season at 6-4, the first winning season in 20 years and made the playoffs. The 2002 season was also the last time Mary Montgomery had made a trip to the post season. The next trick for Golson would be to win a playoff game, something the Vikings have never accomplished in the history of the school.


6A

Eric Collier, Theodore - If the Bobcats beat St. Paul's Friday night, #1 ranked Theodore will secure its first undefeated regular season since Joe Downey led them to a 10-0 mark in 2000. Collier's teams have been very good the last two years, both 10-2 records. But this year has been special, with wins over Spanish Fort, Opelika and last week over #1 Saraland. He has led his team to victory in some close games on the road, which could be an advantage in the playoffs if they meet Central Phenix City again. The Red Devils have knocked the Bobcats out of the playoffs the last two years.


Bryan Moore, Hartselle - Moore is in his 3rd season with the Tigers, and has led them to a 26-3 regular season mark in that time. This season Hartselle is 9-0, winning 7 of those games by 24 points or more. A product of the Opelika tradition, Moore has established himself as one of the best coaches in the state going 74-17 in eight years as a head coach at Eufaula, Jasper and now Hartselle. His squads have been region champions 4 of the last 5 seasons.


5A

Jack French, Faith Academy - A legend in Mississippi before he ever came to Alabama 20 years ago, French has another quality team at Faith Academy. Standing at 7-2 with close losses to region foes UMS Wright and Gulf Shores, the Rams have solid wins over St. Paul's and Vigor. But it is defense that could make Faith a tough out in the playoffs. The Rams gave up only 22 points to high scoring Gulf Shores and 21 points to #1 UMS Wright in the two losses. But in the seven wins, Faith has allowed only 3 touchdowns. The 30-6 win over Vigor on September 30th was French's 300th career victory.


Quinn Hambrite, Charles Henderson - After a 2-8 campaign in his first season at the Troy school, Hambrite has the Trojans on the winning track. The eight wins equal the most for the school since they made it to the 4A championship game in 2013. The Trojans have quality wins over Mary Montgomery, St. James, Carroll and Eufaula. Hambrite arrived at Charles Henderson after serving as defensive coordinator at Carver Montgomery for three seasons. He had one other year of head coaching experience, serving at his alma mater Central of Hayneville in 2017.


4A

Patrick Malone, Deshler - Deshler hired Malone, a former Tiger himself, to return the north Alabama power to some of their glory days under Tandy Geralds and John Mothershed. Malone responded with an undefeated regular season, the first 10-0 campaign for Deshler since 2004. Those wins include victories over Madison Academy, Russellville, Colbert County, West Morgan and Brooks. Deshler has scored loads of points, averaging almost 42 per contest.


Brent Hubbert, T.R. Miller - Hubbert came off a semi final appearance by moving up to 4A, swapping a senior quarterback for a sophomore and losing some valuable offensive linemen. But after an early loss to UMS Wright, his team has grown up, defeating the rest of his schedule to run the Miller record to 8-1. The Tigers have scored 4 touchdowns or more in every victory with a strong ball control running game and have moved into a #6 ranking. Hubbert's team will be a tough out in the 4A playoffs.


3A

Jason Phillips , Excel - When Jason Phillips took over the Excel program in 2021, the Panthers had not had a winning season in 11 years. Last season showed great promise with a 6-4 campaign and the 2022 season of 9-0 has produced the most wins since 1997. Excel stumbled only against Mobile Christian, but gained that victory when the Mobile team was forced to forfeit the win due to an ineligible player. The Panthers seem to be getting stronger with victories over Thomasville, Hillcrest Evergreen and W.S. Neal the last three weeks. Before the arrival of Phillips, Excel had one win against Thomasville (1954), no wins against Hillcrest and no wins against Neal. A victory against Chipley (Fl) Friday night would give Excel their first undefeated regular season since 1975.


Gus Smith, Gordo - It is difficult to build football success and even tougher to continue a great tradition of winning. Smith has continued the Green Wave success of former coach Ryan Lolley. In his first head coaching job, the former Mobile Christian and Jackson assistant has Gordo ranked #2 with an 8-1 record. After an early loss to Bibb County, Gordo has racked up the points, averaging 46 per game. The Green Wave has solid victories against an excellent Winfield team, as well as Pickens County and Fayette County.


2A

Matt Johnson, Reeltown - After an opening loss to rival Tallassee, Johnson go the Rebels running with their wishbone offense. The team is 7-1 and ranked #3 in the latest poll. Reeltown is champion of tough Region 3 which includes Highland Home, Lanett, Luverne and Goshen. Johnson is in his 7th season as the Reeltown coach, which incudes a 2019 trip to the Super 7 in which the Rebels went 13-2. He also knows something about replacing a legend, having followed Hall of Fame Coach Jackie O'Neal in 2016.


Grady Griffin, Aliceville - After an early loss to an outstanding Center Point squad, Griffin's Yellow Jackets have won the rest of their contests with great offense to post a 9-1 mark. Aliceville has scored 40 or more points in eight games. Griffin produced an 8-4 record last season in his first year at the school. Look for the Yellow Jackets to make some noise in the playoffs.


1A

Jason Howard, Spring Garden - When Howard took over as head coach at Spring Garden in 2012, the school was mostly known for basketball. But he has changed all of that. Now in his 11th season, Howard has led the Panthers to five 10 win seasons in the last six years. That includes only 3 regular season losses in the last five years and a 2020 trip to the semi finals. The Panthers are 9-1 and ranked # 6. This could be the year that Spring Garden can move deep into the playoffs having moved down from 2A to 1A.


Travis Lockett, Linden - It is hard not to be impressed with the job done by Travis Lockett. Yes, they have good players and in 2020 won the 1A championship with a perfect 15-0 season. The Patriots are currently 8-0 and ranked #2. They have victories over always tough #9 Sweet Water and have given #5 Millry their only loss of the season. Such success has made it difficult for Linden to schedule games, but Lockett decided to get his team ready for the playoffs by traveling the last week of the season to Florence to take on 3A Mars Hill Bible. It could just be the experience that puts the Patriots in the Super 7 once again.