ASHVILLE SENIORS. Pictured above, kneeling, from left: Luke Harris, Adrianne Hernandez, Anthony Zito. Standing, from left: Clay Keller, Hayden Phillips, Gabe Sawyer, J.J. McGinnis. (Chris McCarthy/Messenger)
By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
The Shea Monroe Express is up and running in northeastern St. Clair County.
The former Westbrook Christian football coach was hired in May to take over a program that has not qualified for the state playoffs since the 2005 season and not won a postseason game since 2001.
“Because it’s no secret that wins have been hard to come by at Ashville lately, the first thing I told our kids was that before we could even start talking about winning, we had to learn to start playing really hard in every game.
“The biggest thing we preach to our guys is that tomorrow isn’t promised. We’re very thankful just for the opportunity to play football this season.”
Junior Dylan Harris is back for his third year under center, while seniors Luke Harris and Adriene Hernandez return at running back.
“Adrian has been starting for four years and this will be Dylan’s third year starting for us, so they do have a lot of experience. We’ve got eight seniors, so we’ll be a young football team. But even our sophomores got a lot of meaningful playing time last year as freshmen.”
Ashville shares Class 4A, Region 6 with Etowah, Dora, Fultondale, Good Hope, Hanceville and Oneonta and has non-region games against Southeastern, St. Clair County, Oak Grove and Weaver.
“It’s going to be a competitive region,” said Monroe. “There’s a lot of unknowns just because we haven’t played a lot of these teams. They’ve got a brand-new coach (Zac Glaze) at Oak Grove who was the defensive coordinator at Mortimer Jordan. Southeastern should be much improved. Good Hope, Etowah and Oneonta are all well-coached football teams whose kids play extremely hard. Dora’s a good team that dropped down from 5A.
“Coach [Brooks] Dam-peer does a really good job at St. Clair County, who is in the toughest 5A region in the northern part of the state. Fultondale’s got a lot of experience on their staff, and Coach [Cody] McCain is trying to rebuild the program over at Hanceville and has it going in the right direction. Weaver plays in arguably the toughest 3A region in the state, but I think that Coach [Justin] Taylor will turn that program around.”
Monroe is well aware that Ashville is the third smallest size school in Class 4A.
“I know the type of challenge that’s ahead of us. I think our kids are hungry and they’ve worked hard; we just have to teach them how to be better leaders. You can’t expect a kid to walk out on the field and say that he is a leader. You’ve got to show them how to lead, first by example and then vocally.
“I just want to see our kids improve every day. It’s not going to be an overnight fix. I’d like us to be judged on how competitive we are every Friday night and how our kids represent themselves in the school and in the community. I’m a firm believer that if you take care of all of those little things, the big things will take care of themselves.”
Katie Bohannon contributed to this article.