Three of the state's storied football programs hired their new head coaches and all three of them decided to go with in state coaches, reversing a trend over the last couple of years.
Wade Waldrep is the new head football coach at Hoover High School, replacing Josh Niblett who took the job at Gainesville (Ga.) High School. Waldrep come to the Buccaneers after one season at Florence High School. Prior to that, Waldrop had been head coach at James Clemons High School for eight seasons. where he had a record of 54-35. He started his head coaching career in Chelsea where he spent 7 seasons. In 16 seasons as a head coach, his teams have made the playoffs 11 times.
Replacing Niblett will be a tough assignment. In 14 seasons as head coach, Niblett's teams had an overall record of171-26 record including six state championships, eight region titles and a pair of undefeated seasons.
“What an opportunity, I’m extremely humbled,” Waldrop said. “I believe there are a few places in this country where you can say high school football in Alabama, anybody that knows ball is going to say Hoover High School. The opportunity to lead this program and be a part, me and my family, we’re ecstatic, extremely humbled and grateful for the opportunity. We’re looking forward to plugging in and being a part of this community and championship program.”
Vestavia went to Georgia last year to hire Sean Calhoun, to replace legendary coach Buddy Anderson. When Calhoun decided to head back to Georgia, Vestavia decided to stay closer to home this time, hiring former player Robert Evans to become their eighth head football coach. Evans was a star safety on the 1998 Vestavia State Championship team.
Evans had built quite a resume' as an assistant coach, working with Bryant Vincent at Spanish Fort, Josh Niblett at Hoover and Chris Yeager at Mountain Brook. He spent the last four years with the Spartans as defensive coordinator. In 2021, Mountain Brook won 12 games of 14 games with their defense giving up only 3.8 points per game and recording seven shutouts.
“The thing that comes to mind is we’re going to be aggressive,” Evans said. “We’re going to be aggressive in fundraising. The mandate to our staff is that we’re going to be aggressive on both sides of the ball. All I know how to do is work,” Evans said. “I’m going to hire the best staff possible and we’re going to get our hands dirty."
Enterprise High School also went out of state three years ago to hire Rick Darlington. Darlington decided to return to Florida last month, and the Wildcats have lured the highly successful Spanish Fort coach Ben Blackmon to the Wiregrass. Blackmon went 77-18 in seven seasons with the Toros, winning a state championship and two other trips to the finals. His previous head coaching stops had been at Gulf Shores (2011-2014) and Greenville (2007-2010).
“It was just too good of an opportunity for me at this stage in my career,” Blackmon said. “I had to weigh all that out. Ultimately, I’ve came to this decision, and I’m excited about the new chapter.”
Blackmon was introduced Tuesday as the new head coach. “The biggest thing we have to do is establish our culture,” Blackmon said. “Everything we do matters. Everything we do matters from the way we talk to the way we walk to our body language to our grades as students to how we behave in the community – everything matters in how they represent Enterprise High School and represent their teammates.”