By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
Shannon J. Allen, Sand Mountain Reporter
Kevin Vinson has left the Coosa River Valley for Sand Mountain.
The 1998 Southside High graduate was recently hired as Sardis head baseball coach. Vinson was an assistant coach last season that saw the Lions win their first area championship since 2010 and gain their first postseason berth since 2014. Sardis swept Dora in the opening round of the Class 4A state playoffs before falling to Hokes Bluff in a hard-fought second round series.
“I appreciate Sardis for giving me this opportunity,” said Vinson, who will be a head coach for the first time. “I’ve been an assistant for a while, so this is a long time in coming. The kids up here work hard and don’t ever complain or argue about anything.
“There’s some things technique-wise and organization-wise that I’m hoping to bring in to help us build on the playoff experience we had last year. We want to establish a work ethic and mentality that will help us win a tough series like the one against Hokes Bluff.”
SHS head football coach and athletic director Gene Hill said that Zach Gilliland cited the time factor involved with being the head coach as a reason for resigning his baseball post.
“I see Kevin bringing a lot of energy and excitement to the baseball program,” said SHS head football coach and athletic director Gene Hill. “He played in a really good baseball program at Southside and played college ball, so he’s got a lot of experience. There is some good young talent on the baseball team. There were some ninth-graders who started last year. There are some good kids to build around.”
Vinson played under Jimmy Blanton, Mike Argo and Joel Poole at Southside. The Panthers made it to the Class 5A state finals in Vinson’s freshman season and qualified for the semifinals his senior year.
Vinson played baseball at Gadsden State for two years before signing with JSU. A knee injury prevented him from playing for the Gamecocks.
“I really enjoyed playing for [Gadsden State] Coach [Bill] Lockridge and Coach [Chuck] Medders,” said Vinson. “That’s the level where you really learn how to compete and how to battle through things when you need to. It was a good experience for me.”
After graduating from Jacksonville State in 2002, Vinson spent the next 10 years working for a local advertising agency. He was a volunteer assistant baseball, football and basketball coach at Southside for seven of those years.
In 2014, Vinson and his wife decided that the time was right from him to go back to school and earn his teaching certification. He graduated in April of 2016 and soon was hired at Sardis High as a teacher and junior high football and baseball coach. Vinson feels he inherited a solid program from Gilliland.
“If we can get our guys to buy in and believing in themselves and what we’re trying to do – which I thought they started to do last year – I think that the sky’s the limit. We just have to push these kids and make them see that they could do stuff that they didn’t think they could do.”
In other recent SHS coaching hires, former Sardis and record-setting Jacksonville State track standout Whitley Towns Waldrop has returned to her alma mater to coach cross country and outdoor track and field.
“Whitley was the first hire we made right at the end of school in an English opening we had,” Hill said. “I think Matt [Harris] is going to help her in track. She has worked all summer with the cross country team at 6:30 every morning.”
SHS varsity boys basketball coach Van Owens is getting a new assistant in Adam Lawrence, who will teach math at SHS and coach the junior varsity boys squad.
Veteran Sardis staff member Matt Lofthus will coach the junior varsity girls basketball team in 2017-18 for varsity girls coach Josh Wallace, who also serves as Sardis High’s assistant principal.
Head softball coach Richey Lee and head volleyball coach Hannah Cornelius also are getting a new assistant coach in Kristen Gilliland.
“Kristen was at Arab last year coaching softball,” Hill said.