Photo: Eli Pearce (center) will be throwing instead of catching the ball for West End this football season. (Sherry Abercrombie)
By Shannon J. Allen/Sand Mountain Reporter
The West End High football team participated in four summer competitions before preseason practice starts Aug. 5.
The West End linemen competed at Guntersville. The Patriots attended full team camps at J.B. Pennington on July 9 and West Alabama on July 10, while their skill players, linebackers and defensive backs competed in a 7-on-7 at Ashville on July 11.
The trip to West Alabama was special for Davis because his father played for the Tigers and his parents met at the university.
“They were on the semifinal team in 1975 that was one of the last really good teams they had until Brett [Gilliland] got the job down there,” Davis said of his father’s UWA legacy. “They’ve redone the field and it’s all turf, and it’s such a nice place to go down there and play now. Coach Gilliland has done a really good job, and they’ve turned themselves into a pretty good team down there.
Davis said that the Patriots had the opportunity to face teams that they would not normally get to compete against.
“The trip was good for us. We competed against a couple of AISA schools, because the private schools are big down there. We may have been the smallest team there outside of the private schools.
“It was hot. We caught some cramps and some kids had to sit out. We played some young kids. For the most part, we battled our tails off. We finished 2-2-1.”
West End returned home from Livingston and participated in Ashville’s 7-on-7 the next day. The Patriots finished 1-2 in pool play but won two games in bracket play to reach the final four along with Boaz, Lincoln and Appalachian.
The field at Ashville featured 15 teams. The majority of teams West End played were Class 4A and 5A schools.
“Seven-on-7 is not football,” Davis said. “People say that and I get that, but the biggest thing that I’ve seen out of our kids, especially coming from last year when I didn’t see a lot of fight a lot of times … and that was a lot of me, that was a lot of me as a coach. I think it was a situation where I got in a rut maybe just expecting things of kids and instead of encouraging and coaching, I was looking for excuses and I think our kids started looking for excuses.”
The Patriots posted a 1-9 record in 2018 and finished 3-7 in 2017. West End went 6-6 and reached the second round of the Class 2A state playoffs in 2016.
“This summer we’ve battled, we’ve competed,” Davis said. “Things haven’t always gone our way, but I haven’t seen the bad body language, I haven’t seen the quit and the give up. When kids make bad plays, I see more kids going over and encouraging them, [saying,] ‘hey, we’ll get them next time,’ rather than scolding them or talking bad about it. That’s the good things we’ve seen.
“I’m encouraged by our kids’ mentality in these 7-on-7s to go out there and compete, even though we may be undermanned. We played Boaz, and they play all one offense and all one defense, and Lincoln was kind of the same way. And we’re playing six, seven, eight guys, but that’s the nature of the beast in 2A. I’m real pleased with watching the guys compete.
“We played Leroy at West Alabama and we tied them 19-19. They’ve always got great players down there, great talent. Our kids went out there and battled with them, and I think it’s a testament to what kind of kids we’ve got right now.”
Leroy finished 9-4 and lost in the 2A state quarterfinals last season.
The Patriots will in Piedmont’s 7-on-7 on Saturday.
“Piedmont is huge,” Davis said. “It’s all day and a hot one. It’s a lot of games, and that goes back to that competing thing. We want to play as many games as we can play. We want guys to get reps in coverage and let [junior quarterback] Eli [Pearce] get as many throws as he can against other coverages. It’s good stuff.”
The Patriots kick off the 2019 season Aug. 22 at Susan Moore.