Foshee back in the game




   It all started with an article on former Stanhope Elmore head coach Jeff Foshee .

    Eric Woodley, recently installed as the new principal at Curry High, had been discussing the article with his wife Holly, who had attended school with Foshee. As he looked over a list of applicants for positions at his school, he came across Foshee’s name.

   “They had read the article,” Foshee said. “As soon as he saw my name on the computer, he called his wife. I had applied for a bunch of jobs on the state web site and he saw my name. It’s kind of a coincidence, I guess, that his wife and I went to school together so he kind of knows a little about me.”

   Woodley had served as head football coach of the Yellow Jackets a decade ago, so he knows the difficulty of finding football talent in the area just north of Jasper. The program hasn’t had a winning season since 1996 and has had just 10 winning seasons in the last 49 years dating back to 1969.

   Foshee, a defensive-minded coach who served as a graduate assistant at Alabama under Gene Stallings and as defensive coordinator for his father at Stanhope Elmore, was just what the Yellow Jackets needed on the defensive side of the ball.

   Foshee will start his new position as the driver’s education teacher and assistant football coach on Monday, ending a two-year search for a coaching position after stepping down from Stanhope Elmore in the wake of allegations that he paid a teacher to change grades for a student.

   “I knew I was probably going to have to go a little way out, but I was in a situation where I could come home on the weekends and see my kids,” Foshee said. “And they made that very easy for me. It just seems like a very good fit.”

   Foshee had recently interviewed for the head coaching position at Autaugaville and had been approached about a coaching vacancy at Wetumpka High, but said he felt comfortable with the job at the Walker County school after talking to Woodley and head coach Philip Smith despite the Yellow Jackets’ lack of success on the gridiron.

   “I’m not even sure (of Curry’s past history),” he said. “They were 5A and now they’ve dropped to 4A, so the schedule may not be quite as tough as it was. But like I said, they’ve given me an opportunity and I’m going to work hard for him, whatever he needs me to do. It’s been a blessing and a good opportunity. The people at Curry have been really good to me.”

   The school’s drop to 4A will reunite the defensive-minded Foshee with offensive-minded Lance Tucker, his former teammate at Alabama who is now the head coach at area rival Fayette County.

    Foshee isn’t thinking about that Sept. 21 meeting in Fayette. Right now, all he’s thinking about is the start of football practice on Monday. He traded in his pickup truck for a more fuel-efficient Fusion earlier this week and left for Curry to get a jump on the first day of practice.

   “I’m anxious,” he said. “I’ve been a head coach for 16 years and this time of year, you know almost everything you need to know about your football team and I’m sitting here – of course, it’s not my football team, I’m just an assistant – but I want to know what I’m working with.”

Maiden football program at Pike Road experiencing growing pains



Pike Road head football coach Patrick Browning discusses thin gs with players before practice
Photo: Tim Gayle


PIKE ROAD – Tuesday was moving day for the Pike Road football team.

    It’s their third stop in as many years. They’ve practiced at the elementary school, at the middle school and now they’re at Georgia Washington, the former MPS middle school that will be the site of the new high school.

   “You knew coming in there were going to be growing pains,” head coach Patrick Browning said. “This is my third school but this was part of the plan. I wanted to give the kids the week off before the start of practice and we had already planned on Monday and Tuesday, if we had to move, this was going to be moving day for us.

   “I think a lot of the stress you can take away with proper planning. Going forward, on our schedule, we made sure we had that 11th week off (on Nov. 2) just in case we made the playoffs.”

   There has been more planning than playing. There have been a few junior varsity games the past couple of years and an influx of talent this season as they prepare for their first official high school season as a Class 3A squad, but it took some scrambling before the Patriots finally found a home field at Alabama State.

   Browning, like many of his players, will make his official debut – as a head coach — this fall after coaching on the high school and collegiate ranks.

   “It’s rare, looking at history, what coaches get to start programs from scratch,” he said. “This area has always been known for talent. That was a big draw for me. The support of the community really drew me to the area. These kids are not going to realize it until they get out of school, or maybe later, but this is special.”

   He started as a volunteer assistant at Auburn University when he was 19. After six months, he applied for an assistant coaching position at Beauregard High under then-head coach Smitty Grider. A graduate of Clay County, he coached receivers for three years before taking off a year for personal reasons. He returned to coaching in 2011 as an offensive coordinator at Dadeville under Richard White.

   “We had some good years at Dadeville,” Browning recalled. “We averaged 40-something points a game for about three years and made the playoffs.”

His next stop was a brief one-year stint in the collegiate ranks as a quarterbacks coach at Prairie View A&M before returning to Dadeville in 2015. The last three years has been at Pike Road, preparing a junior varsity squad for its 2018 debut.

   “I didn’t even know Pike Road was starting up athletics,” he said. “A buddy of mine told me about it so I started digging into it, visited the area. It looked like a great opportunity.

   “When I came in, during the spring, they were seventh and eighth graders. Our smallest classes are our 10 th and 11th graders. We’ll dress out right at 50 kids. Some of those will be your better eighth graders.”

   He had to build a coaching staff from scratch as well. There’ll be four assistants on the staff who teach in the school — offensive coordinator Brian Dickerson, who moved in from Florence; defensive coordinator Brandon Bailey, also from Florence; assistant head coach Will Beason, who will coach the offensive line and secondary; and Josh Clark, who will coach outside linebackers and receivers and is from Pike Road. There are three more volunteer coaches to round out the staff.

   Browning knows he has the talent to win in a classification that is historically weak in the south half of the state. His quarterback is CJ Paymon, who transferred in from Montgomery Academy. One of his top receivers is Bryce Kelly, who transferred in from Trinity. Startup programs don’t fare so well their first season, but Browning thinks the Patriots can buck that trend.

   Stanhope Elmore won seven games in its inaugural year (1965). Jeff Davis won six with a built-from-scratch schedule in 1968. Trinity Presbyterian won seven in 1973 as its started out in the Alabama Independent School Association ranks.

   Most programs struggle mightily. Central Alabama won two games in 1971, the same number of wins as Macon East Montgomery (1996), Evangel Christian (2001) and Prattville Christian (2006). Two more than the winless debut of East Memorial in 2004. All the planning and all the practice can’t substitute for the real thing.

   His friend and mentor, Grider, started the Park Crossing program in 2014. The Thunderbirds flirted with history before getting blitzed late in the season by Stanhope Elmore, costing them a berth in the state playoffs. They rebounded the next week with a 54-0 win over Jemison to set the modern standard for debut seasons in central Alabama with a seven-win season.

No area team has ever reached eight wins or a playoff berth in its inaugural season.

   “I’ve talked with Smitty and leaned on him for advice,” Browning said. “What’s funny about it is he not only went through it, but he went through it nine miles down the road. The biggest thing he told me is there will be things that, as much as you prepare, you’re not going to be ready for, so you have to train your coaches and your kids to adapt on the fly and not get rattled.”

   Pike Road opens its historic first season on Saturday Aug. 25 at home against Calhoun to be held at ASU at 11:00am.  

   “You have a mixture of emotions,” Browning said. “I would say the one word that describes us the best, overall as a staff and with the kids, is that we’re just excited. We’re ready to play. They’re ready to compete.”

Keep your eyes on these college players




   For most college football fans, the upcoming football season jumps into hype mode with the conference media days. The Football Writers Association of America helps by coordinating the preseason watch lists that tout college football’s top individual players for the 2018 football season.

   The 16 awards, released over a two-week period from July 16-27, started with a bang with the release of the Maxwell Award, given to the nation’s top player, and the Bednarik Award, presented to the best defensive player. The two-week period ended with the preseason watch list for the Walter Camp Award, given to the nation’s top collegiate player.

  Among the biggest names on the list are Alabama defensive lineman Raekwon Davis and tailback Damien Harris and Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham, with each player earning recognition to three watch lists.

   Davis was named to the Walter Camp list as well as the two national defensive player of the year awards, the Bednarik and the Bronko Nagurski Trophy.

   Harris was named to the watch list for the top two national awards, the Maxwell Trophy and the Walter Camp award as well as the Doak Walker Award, presented to the nation’s top running back.

   Stidham was named to the Maxwell and Camp watch lists as well as the Davey O’Brien Award, presented to the nation’s top quarterback.

   Other Maxwell preseason nominees include Alabama quarterbacks Jalen Hurts (he was also on the O’Brien list) and Tua Tagovailoa as well as UAB running back Spencer Brown, former Opelika High (and South Carolina) quarterback Jake Bentley and former Edgewood Academy (and Ohio) quarterback Nathan Rourke.  

  Past winners include Baker Mayfield in 2017, Lamar Jackson in 2016 and Derrick Henry in 2015.

Joining Davis on the Bednarik list are Alabama linebackers Anfernee Jennings of Dadeville and Mack Wilson of G.W. Carver High as well as Auburn’s Dontavious Russell. Past winners include Minkah Fitzpatrick in 2017, Jonathan Allen in 2016 and Tyler Matakevich in 2015.

Brown and Bentley are on the Walter Camp list as well, joining Davis, Harris and Stidham. Past winners include Mayfield in 2017, Jackson in 2016 and Henry in 2015.

   While the other awards don’t necessarily carry the weight of the Maxwell, Bednarik and Camp awards because they are position-specific, they are just as prestigious.

Auburn receiver Ryan Davis is among the candidates for the Biletnikoff Award, presented to the nation’s top collegiate receiver, along with South Alabama’s Jamarius Way. Past winners include James Washington of Oklahoma State in 2017, Oklahoma’s Dede Westbrook in 2016 and Baylor’s Corey Coleman in 2015.

  Alabama’s Hale Hentges and UAB’s Logan Scott are among the preseason candidates for the Mackey Award, presented to the nation’s top right end. Past winners include Oklahoma’s Mark Andrews in 2017, Michigan’s Jake Butt in 2016 and Hunter Henry of Arkansas in 2015.

   Hentges and Brown are among the 106 players on the preseason watch list for the Wuerffel Trophy, presented to the college player that best combines exemplary community service with athletic and academic achievement.

   Others from the state on the list include South Alabama senior defensive end Sean Grayer, Troy senior receiver Damion Willis and UAB senior linebacker Craig Kanyangarara.

   Alabama’s Ross Pierschbacher is on the Rimington Trophy list, presented to the nation’s best collegiate center, along with Troy’s Deontae Crumitie and UAB’s Lee Dufour. The Jim Thorpe Award, presented to the nation’s top defensive back, includes Troy senior Blace Brown on its preseason watch list.

   The Bronko Nagurski Trophy, presented to the nation’s top defensive player, includes Auburn defensive linemen Derrick Brown and Marlon Davidson of Auburn on the preseason watch list, along with Davis and Troy teammates Hunter Reese and Blace Brown. Past winners include North Carolina State defensive end Bradley Chubb in 2017, Alabama’s Jonathan Allen in 2016 and Temple linebacker Tyler Matakevich in 2015.

    The Butkus Award, presented to the nation’s top linebacker, includes a trio of Alabama players – Jennings, Wilson and Dylan Moses – along with Auburn’s Deshaun Davis. A fourth Alabama linebacker, Terrell Lewis, would have been on the list but was scratched after a preseason knee injury.

   Moses won the high school version of the award in 2016 as a senior at IMG Academy. Also on the 2018 preseason watch list is Oklahoma’s Caleb Kelly, who won the high school award in 2015 while at Clovis West.

   On the high school list is two Alabamians, Auburn High’s Mohamoud Diabate and Carver’s Ke’shun Brown.

   Past winners include Roquan Smith of Georgia in 2017, Reuben Foster of Alabama in 2016 and Notre Dame’s Jaylon Smith in 2015.

The Outland Trophy, presented to the nation’s most outstanding interior lineman, includes Alabama tackle Jonah Williams and Pierschbacher on its preseason watch list, along with Crumitie of Troy and 2017 winner Ed Oliver of Houston.

The Lou Groza Award, presented to the nation’s top kicker, included four Southeastern Conference players on its preseason watch list, but none from Alabama or Auburn. The list includes 2017 winner Matt Gay of Utah. South Alabama’s Corliss Waitman is the only in-state player on the watch list for the 2018 Ray Guy Award, presented to the nation’s top punter.

   Forty-three players were named to the watch list for the Paul Hornung Award, which is presented annually to the most versatile player in college football. Among those on the list are Alabama’s Trevon Diggs and Troy’s Marcus Jones. Past winners included Saquon Barkley in 2017, Jabrill Peppers in 2016 and Christian McCaffrey in 2015.

   Most of these awards will release a list of semifinalists in mid-November, along with a group of finalists a week later. Many of the winners will be announced on Dec. 6 at the Home Depot College Football Awards.