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Coaching Openings Continue as 2024 Carousel in Full Swing

Erik Speakman has retired from public schools and taken the job at Faith Academy in Mobile.

It didn't take long for coaching changes to get started as the 2023 football season concluded. Teams having less success, coaches retiring after a long career, other coaches retiring from public school to private school and others leaving for greener pastures are all occurring as the new year begins.

A coach leaving one job can turn into a string of resignations. Highly successful Orange Beach coach Jamey Dubose resigned November 17th to take over the program at Biloxi (Ms) High School. Dubose, who has 3 state titles to his credit, came to Orange Beach from Lowndes High School in Valdosta, Georgia, where he had spent two years. He had successful runs at Central Phenix City. Florence and Prattville prior to leaving the state.

Orange Beach, who is in the process of a 46 million dollar athletic project, replaced Dubose with former Hoover coach Wade Waldrep. Waldrep was 16-9 in two seasons with the Buccaneers. Ultra successful Clay Chalkville Coach Drew Gilmer took over the Hoover program on January 4th.

"It was a difficult decision, mainly because of all the relationships we've built there (at Clay) over the years," Gilmer said. "I've been at Clay-Chalkville for 14 years so that's tough. But again, when it comes down to it, you have to do what's best for your family and two, for your career. This is the place, this is the program, not only in the state of Alabama but I believe in the country." Clay Chalkville is yet to name a new head coach.

Another string of hirings started when Faith Academy Coach Jack French retired in mid December. French had served at Baldwin County, Baker and Clarke County during 20 plus years in Alabama. Before that, he had a Hall of Fame career in Mississippi, where he coached for 25 years.

“I just think anyone with half good sense can figure out it’s time,” the 70-year-old French said. “I’m getting tired. I just know that the kids need someone that has a little more energy than a guy like me, especially our kids. We’ve got good young people, and they need someone that can give more than I’ve been able to give. I need to back off and realize I’m not even middle aged anymore.”

Faith Academy replaced French with former Opelika Coach Erik Speakman, who had a 45-25 record with the 7A Bulldogs.

“One thing that really excites me about this opportunity is just getting out of my comfort zone,” Speakman said. “When I took over at Opelika, I kind of already knew everything that was going on. Now, I get to learn new things and new people and how things operate somewhere else. I’m really looking forward to it.”

Opelika hired Hartselle Coach Bryan Moore on December 19th. Moore, a former Opelika assistant, built a perennial playoff contender with the north Alabama team, going 38-9 in four seasons.

“I am so honored to be the new head football coach at Opelika High School,” Moore said. “It’s surreal to have the opportunity to come back and lead a program that I began coaching many years ago. Opelika has always been a special place to me and my family. It’s where I got my start in teaching and coaching and where my kids were born. My desire for this program is for it to be the best football program in Alabama.” In 2015, he took his first head coaching job at Eufaula. He led the Tigers to a 26-9 record in three seasons and went to the playoffs in each of those campaigns. He spent the 2018 and 2019 seasons at Jasper High School and led that team to a 22-3 record before heading to Hartselle.

Hartselle replaced Moore with Bert Newton. Newton has been an assistant coach for the Hartselle Tigers football program for six years from 2017 through 2023. Newton was the defensive coordinator at Vestavia Hills High School during the 2021 season, but returned the following year to Hartselle. Newton had been associate head coach and defensive coordinator for the Tigers.

“I’m super excited,” Newton said. “Some people have said it’s about time I became a head coach. I said, ‘No, it’s the right time.’ It all works out for a reason. I’ve gained so much experience under so many great head coaches. I’m really fired up about continuing to grow this program and also growing myself and trying to become a better coach and a better leader.” Newton is the son of Hall of Fame coach Bob Newton who ran a dynasty at Homewood for many years.

In other coaching news, Jere Adcock stayed retired only one season as he took over the program at Whitesburg Christian in Huntsville. Adcock was head coach at Decatur for 27 seasons.

“To be honest with you, I wasn’t tired of coaching,” Adcock said. “When I got out, it was just the right time to do it. The more I sat through this football season, the more I missed it and the more I watched and studied stuff. I caught myself doing what I always did. I asked myself, ‘Why continue to study if you’re not going to coach?' I continued to be involved with learning. I didn’t sit it on the shelf and say I was done with it.”

Long time Sweet Water and Clarke County coach Stacy Luker got back in the head coaching business by taking the job at South Choctaw Academy. He spent the fall of 2023 coaching with his friend Jack Hankins at Wayne County, Mississippi.

“I knew I needed to step back for a year,” Luker said. “I told Jack there wasn’t any timetable. I just knew I needed to step back and fall in love with parts of coaching again." Luker spent six very successful years with the Clarke County Bulldogs in Grove Hill which included a state championship in 2021. “I’m excited,” he said. “It’s going to be different for me. It seems like a good place, a good opportunity.” Luker won five state titles at Sweet Water.

Tallassee named Lawrence O'Neal as their new head coach. O'Neal comes from B.T. Washington. He finished his 3 year stint there by making it all the way to the 4A semi finals in 2023. Prior to that, B.T. Washington had never won a playoff game.

"I’m super excited to get started,” O’Neal said. “This is a new challenge and a new chapter in our life. We’re just ready to get to work. I saw a great opportunity and a great school system and an opportunity to pick up where Coach Battles left off. I can pick up the baton and keep on running with it and build a powerhouse program.”

Veteran coach Scott Rials took over the Calera program after four years at Baldwin County. Rials also spent five years as head coach at Luverne, two at Satsuma, nine at Elba and six at South Montgomery Academy in the AISA.

“I was excited about their commitment to excellence and just trying to get things going and not waiting around and hanging on and hoping maybe for another coach or somebody to show up later,” Rials said. “I was excited about their moving quickly because, to me, you’ve got to get somebody in there in January. If you wait until February, March and April, you’re so far behind the 8-ball that it’s hard to catch up.”

There are currently 26 openings in high schools across the state of Alabama.


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