By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
Drew Noles (pictured above) won’t have very far to travel to the next phase of his coaching career.
To be exact, his new school’s campus is located a mere 5.3 miles from his former one.
One day after retiring as head football coach at Etowah High School on Jan. 17, Noles accepted the same position at Westbrook Christian. However, Noles will teach and coach tennis at Etowah during the spring semester.
Noles takes over a Westbrook program on the rise. Over the past two-plus seasons under Brian Mintz, the Warriors went 15-15 with consecutive state playoff berths in 2017 and 2018. This past season, Westbrook went 7-4 and finished as the third seed in Class 2A, Region 6. The Warriors also went undefeated against their Etowah County neighbors with wins over Coosa Christian, West End and Gaston.
Noles is looking forward to spring training to get an idea of what will be at his disposal this summer and fall. He’s already met with several Westbrook players and has toured the program’s athletic facilities.
“We think that there can be great things happening at Westbrook,” he said. “It’s a quality football program with quality players, and we want to be just a small part of it. We know that the schedule will be tough, but it’s a challenge we’re looking forward to. We’re excited about what the future looks like.”
In six seasons in Attalla, Noles guided the Blue Devils to 52-19 record (including a 34-6 mark in region play), two region titles and two appearances in the state quarterfinals. This past season, Etowah went 12-1 and posted its first undefeated regular season since 1999. A number of Noles’ players signed college football scholarships, including several with D-I schools.
“The people at Etowah have been great to us,” said Noles. “We’ve loved our time here, and it’s been good for our family. We’re leaving a great place behind, and it’s something that we’ll always appreciate.”
Although winning football games is important, Noles pointed out that success on the field is not necessarily his top priority.
“We’re certainly passionate about football, but we’re a lot more interested in the kids and what their future looks like. The question of what our kids will be doing 10 years after they graduate is always something we’re concerned about. It’s very important that we develop good relationships with these kids.”
Westbrook is a Class 2A school with a significantly smaller student body than 5A Etowah. When asked if he plans on walking the halls and convincing students to try out for the football team, Noles said that No. 1 job of a coach is to recruit.
“The first priority is to work with the ones we have, and then sell our program. What we do is different than what a lot of other places do, and we want people to understand that. But we’ll share our vision of what we want to do.”
Noles, who is the youth minister at Atalla First Baptist Church, said he’ll continue to strive to be a Christian role model for his players.
“I think there’s a huge difference between a coach that is a Christian and a Christian coach. We’ve always tried our best to coach by our Christian principals, and our mission is to build leaders and be a part of molding young men. I hope that I’m not a guy that has to go around and tell people about Christ; I hope that they can see Christ through me. The fact that [Westbrook] is a Christian school is awesome, and it gives us a platform to continue to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Prior to Etowah, Noles was head football coach at Boaz High, where in 13 seasons he directed the Pirates to an 80-63 record and eight state playoff appearances.
According to Westbrook athletic director and head baseball coach Matt Kennedy, Noles’ name came up after Mintz resigned his position shortly before Christmas.
“We started to look around and to find someone who might fill that role, and Drew had the qualities of what we were looking for. The thing that stood out with Drew was that he understood what our mission is about in his being a youth minister and a man of faith. Just like we had in Brian, we wanted somebody who will build young men of character who will have a great relationship with the Lord and eventually be great husbands and fathers. So that kind of solidified the decision of who we needed to go with. I really think that Drew will carry on with what Brian established.”