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Phillip Lolley Brought Two Rivals Together Smoothly to Form North Jackson High School

The following is an article written by Bill Plott for  celebrating this year's inductees into the Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame. Coach Lolley is one of five inductees with a background in football that will be honored March 18th in Montgomery.

MONTGOMERY – It would be natural to point to Coach Phillip Lolley’s coaching record as the highlight of his career.

     However, those who witnessed his ‘healing’ power might beg to differ. Bringing the communities of Stevenson and Bridgeport together to form North Jackson High School was a blueprint for success that other school systems have tried their best to emulate.

     “The athletic accolades are many and well deserved, but what he did to help a heal a divided Stevenson community and then what he did to bring two rival schools and communities together at North Jackson High School may be his biggest and best accomplishment,” former North Jackson High School principal Kenneth Harding said. “Sports can bring people together and unite them in a common cause, but it doesn’t just happen. It takes the right person with the right attitude, the work ethic, the determination, and a genuine concern for people to make it happen. Coach Phillip Lolley did that on top of all of his athletic and coaching accomplishments.”

     Lolley will be joining 11 others March 18 who will be inducted into the Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame as members of the Class of 2024 at the 34th annual Hall of Fame Induction Banquet to be held at the Montgomery Renaissance Hotel and Spa Convention Center. Those individuals selected with him are: football coaches Rick Rhoades and Perry Swindall;  football and track coach Eddie Brundidge; basketball coaches Chucky Miller and Thomas “Mike” Boyd; baseball and football coach Ron Nelson; wrestling and football coach Dickey Wright; softball and baseball coach Chris Goodman; AHSAA administrator Kimberly Vickers;  and selected from the “Old-Timers’ Division were coach/administrators Frank “Swede” Kendall and Cornell “C.T.” Torrence.

     Raised in Choctaw County in rural west Alabama, Phillip “Pop” Lolley is among a handful of coaches who can claim championship experiences at the high school, collegiate, and professional level. A 1972 graduate of South Choctaw Academy, he received his bachelor’s degree from Livingston University (now the University of West Alabama). He also holds master’s degrees in teaching and driver education from Livingston and the University of Montevallo. He began his teaching and coaching career in private schools, serving as science teacher and coach at South Choctaw Academy and Warrior Academy for approximately five years. In 1982, he moved into the Alabama High School Athletic Association when he accepted the defensive coordinator position at Demopolis High School. He was also an assistant coach in basketball and baseball as well as teaching.

     After two years in Demopolis, he may have been an unlikely choice to take over a program in the northeastern corner of the state. The Jackson County school system took that chance, however, naming him the head football and baseball coach at Stevenson High School. His success was pretty much immediate. He produced a 27-17 record with three playoff appearances in what turned out to be a major transition period for the school. In 1988, the decision was made to consolidate Stevenson with Bridgeport, thus ending one of Alabama’s most storied rivalries.

     “There was a lot of negativity in both communities regarding the consolidation and losing their community school,” recalled Harding. “People did not believe the two schools could come together in any cohesive manner. Some fought to the bitter end to try and keep it from happening. But it was going to happen.”

     He said Lolley was the right man to blend the two communities together.

     As spring training approached in 1988, there was a lot of scrutiny and anxiety in the two communities. “Sports does a lot of things for a lot of different people, and it can even bring rival communities together,” said Harding. “Coach Lolley was up to the challenge. The spring was very successful, and the student-athletes meshed well. Coach Lolley’s work ethic and expectations set the tone for what would be a highly successful program for years to come. That spring game began the coming together of the two communities. The student-athletes were already ‘in,’ and the adults were coming around, albeit slowly. After a successful first football season (8-3), the naysayers were fewer and less vocal. During Coach Lolley’s tenure at North Jackson High School, the football team never missed the playoffs, won several region/area championships, and in 1993 won the Alabama 4A state championship.”

     Harding said Lolley’s impact went far beyond the success his football teams had.

     Lolley’s coaching honors include a number of Coach-of-the-Year awards in football and baseball. He also coached in the North-South Baseball All-Star Games in 1984 and 1985 and was on the Alabama coaching staff in the1994 Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Classic. In 1999, he left the high school ranks to become assistant strength and conditioning coach at Auburn University. He was later named cornerbacks and secondary coach and Director of NFL Relations. A defensive back coach for seven years, he was on the staff of the 2010 national championship team that finished 14-0. He was also on the coaching staff in 2013 when the Tigers (12-2) played in the BCS Championship Game and finished as runner-up.

     That transition did not remove him from active involvement in the AHSAA and high school football. In 2009, the association decided to move the football championships from Legon Field in Birmingham to a rotating schedule between Jordan-Hare Stadium at Auburn University and Bryant-Denny Stadium at the University of Alabama.

     “Phillip was instrumental in facilitating the discussion with Auburn University regarding the importance of having our state’s football championships on Auburn’s campus,” said former AHSAA Executive Director Steve Savarese. “Following the first year, and our coaches having to sit outside for all 7 games in 40-degree weather, Philip singlehandedly went to all applicable Auburn administrators to move the high school coaches inside, thus promoting a first-class experience for those who coached. Without his influence, our championships would not be what they are today. I will be forever grateful for his commitment to high school football and, most of all, those who coach.”

     After 15 years at Auburn, he decided to try another level. In 2014 he joined the Edmonton Eskimos (now Edmonton Elks) in the Canadian Football League as defensive coordinator. Edmonton advanced to the semifinals with a 12-6 record, their best since 2003. The following year, they were 14-0 and Grey Cup champions.

     Altogether Coach Lolley spent five years in the CFL, coaching with Saskatchewan Roughriders and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats before returning to Edmonton for a final season as defensive coordinator. At Hamilton he engineered the team’s first shutout in 43 years.


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