Photo courtesy of Daniel Boyette/al.com
By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
The Attalla City Board of Education certainly didn’t drag its heels in hiring a new football coach and athletic director at Etowah High.
On the same day that the board accepted Drew Noles’ retirement, it hired John Holladay as the school’s 27th head coach.
Noles, who last week accepted the head coaching position at Westbrook Christian, will remain as teacher and tennis coach through the end of the school year.
Holladay resigned earlier this month as football coach at Tuscaloosa County, where he went 5-15 over the past two seasons. Prior to that, he coached one year at Buckhorn, where he guided the Bucks to a 5-5 record in 2016. Holladay spent three years at Brilliant, six at Hamilton, two at Clay-Chalkville and six at Walker (now Jasper). In 21 years as head coach, Holladay has a 140-8 record, won three region tiles and made 13 playoff appearances.
After only a week into the job, Holladay sensed something special about the EHS football program.
“As a town, [Attalla] just kind of suits me. Etowah is a place that cares about football and cares about winning. The program is rich in tradition and has a great history. The kids have been working hard in the weight room and are excited about the season, so it’s been a good first few days.”
EHS Principal Steven Hall cited Holladay’s vision of the program’s role beyond the playing field as a deciding factor in Holladay’s hiring from a field of over 70 applicants.
“We had a lot of really good football coaches who applied for this job, but what we were looking for was an accomplished coach who could win and at the same time understand our community.
Coach Holladay has grown as a man and grown as a mentor, and the bottom line is that it’s about the kids. If you look at his career, Coach Holladay has produced high-achieving teams. Even at
schools where his teams played in an area in which it wasn’t easy to win, he still was very competitive. That takes the ability to motivate and inspire kids to a higher potential, and that’s what we need.”
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.
“We’re not looking to replace [Noles]; we’re looking to evolve into the next step, and I think Coach Holladay is the right man to lead the program into that next phase,” said Hall. “In Coach Holladay’s own words, first and foremost is character development and helping kids understand what it means to be committed to their faith and to winning football games. He also has a passion for helping our kids reach the next level academically, which is very important.”
Over the past week since Holladay’s hiring, Hall pointed out that the feedback from the school and community has been very positive.
“Everybody who has met John just absolutely loves him, and they feel his passion, He has an enthusiasm and inspiration about him that’s contagious.”
High among Holladay’s list of short-term goals is getting the players on the same page.
“We’d need everyone to buy in and trust that the changes that we’ll make will pay off. We’re about winning, and not just on the scoreboard on Friday nights; it’s about [winning] in every aspect in our lives. It’s about doing things the right way, all the time, every day. Life’s tough sometimes, and if you can establish a winning mindset and develop good habits, it can only help.”