Westbrook Christian is making the move from Class 3A the past two years to its traditional 2A spot.
“That 3A region was very athletic,” said first-year head coach Shea Monroe. “Make no mistake – there is a lot of athleticism in the new (Class 2A, Region 6), but it is more of a smash-mouth region.
“I told our guys that every week it’ll be like having a fistfight in a phone booth.”
With Monroe being new to the Rainbow City campus, he is making sure that every position is earned.
“We’ve been moving the guys around a lot,” Monroe said. “We want to make sure they’re in the best position for their abilities. Starting practice, every position was open, so everybody is fighting for playing time.”
Monroe said that the addition of several players from the Warriors’ successful basketball and baseball programs should help instill a winning mentality.
“Those guys know how to play in big games, so that will be a big help. Most of those guys have played football before but haven’t played in a while, but they’re big-time competitors. I’m expecting a lot out of those guys.”
Monroe said that either junior Garret Kennedy or sophomore Tyler Comeau will open the season as the starting quarterback.
“The other guy will play at tailback, so they’ll both be in the backfield at the same time,” Monroe added.
Monroe sees receiver as the overall strong position on offense, with senior Blake Young, juniors Braden Beecham, Caeden Godfrey and Addison Ponder and sophomores P.J. Wells, Dalton Morgan and Jackson Cox stretching opposing defenses.
On the line, Jackson Luttrell, who started as a freshman last season, returns at tackle. The group’s lone senior, Connor Bolton, is back at guard. Junior Court Coley, who will also start at middle linebacker will start at guard. Junior Michael Thompson and freshman John Harvey round out the starting five.
“We’ve got four underclassmen up front, so we’re really young at that position,” said Monroe. “We’ll also shuffle some guys in, like (freshmen) Derek Graham and (sophomore) David Barnett.” Barnett will start at nose guard on defense.
Sophomores Christian Penny, Michael Lake-Haygood and Jonathan Hall will also see action up front.
At linebacker, Bolton and senior Dakota Trammell will start alongside Coley. Senior Steven Garner, junior Caeden Godfrey and sophomores Hunter Grimes, John Ross Morgan and Will Lankford will be in the rotation.
The secondary will be manned by Kennedy, Ponder, Young, Beecham, Cox, Morgan and sophomore Caleb Barden.
Monroe described the kicking game as a work in progress with freshmen Declan Godfrey and Ja’Shaun Cattling at kicker and Beecham and Trammell at punter.
“This is Declan’s first year of football, and he’s really been working his tail off. I’d say Declan’s been our most improved player from spring practice until now.”
Longtime Southside and Ragland head coach Brian Mintz recently joined Monroe’ staff. He joins Ted Wolf, Rob McHugh, Rene Zeringue, Ricky Clemons, Chad Phillips, Brandon Byars and Cole Wallace.
“It doesn’t hurt when a member of the St. Clair County Hall of Fame is on your coaching staff,” said Monroe. “It’s a blessing to have him, and he’s been a great sounding board for me. But the thing I love about all of our coaches is that they’re Godly men. There’s not one guy wouldn’t feel comfortable being around our kids. I also really like the combination of energy and calmness that they bring.”
Monroe said it’s hard to pinpoint much about his team, except that it’s getting better every day.
“I’m proud of how far we’ve come already,” he said. “These guys want to be successful. We had a good participation level in the offseason workouts and the kids worked really hard. As we went through the summer, I thought the kids did a good job in picking up their intensity level,
The Warriors’ Class 2A, Region 6 competition consists of Gaston, Asbury, Collinsville, Fyffe, Ider, Sand Rock and Section. Westbrook also plays Etowah County neighbors Glencoe and Hokes Bluff in non-region contests.
Monroe noted that Fyffe, which has won one state championship and one runner-up in the past two seasons, is the obvious favorite to win the region, with everybody else fighting for a slot.
“It’s not going to be easy, for sure, but I want our kids to worry about us,” he said. “I tell our kids all the time that we can control two things – our attitude and our effort. If we can do that, we’ll be fine.”
Stan Veich contributed to this article.