2023 High School Football Preview: New coach turning up the heat in Sardis City


Photo courtesy of Bentley Gray Photography 

By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor

Folks around Sardis City may experience an unusually warm fall this year.
“I tell our guys every day that I’m the thermostat and I’m setting the temperature,” said Sardis High first-year head coach B.J. Brooks. “I’m an energy guy, so I bring it. I’m always ready to go. We’re just trying to get our guys to understand just how much work it takes to be really good. We are trying everything we can as a coaching staff to give these guys every opportunity to be successful.”
However the 2023 season plays out, Brooks is certain that his football team will not be lacking in preparation and support.
“I told our kids that I’m going to bend over backwards for them and serve them to the best of my ability,” he said. “I’m going to give them everything I’ve got, and I’m expecting them to give everything they’ve got in return. Whatever we have to do to pull bits and pieces to help these guys be successful, that’s what we’ll do.”
A 2008 Glencoe High graduate, Brooks was an All-Etowah County Schools selection at linebacker who led the state in tackles his senior year of 2007 under head coach Lee Ozmint. He was named to the Class 3A Honorable Mention team following the season.
The 2022 Lions posted a 4-6 record in Chris Stephenson’s one season as coach. Sardis stood at 3-2 before losing four straight games, all in Class 5A, Region 7. That skid wound up eliminating Sardis from playoff contention.
“I told our kids that I expect to win,” said Brooks. “I know it’s important to the seniors. This is the one chance I get with them, and we only have a few months to make it right.”
Brooks has a good amount of talent and experience at his disposal. Senior Blaze Gerhart was named the All-Etowah County Schools’ Offensive Athlete of the Year after finishing with 943 combined yards passing, rushing and receiving.
Back at signal caller is Brian Chapman, who as a freshman passed for 760 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Highlighting the receiving corps are senior tight ends Eli Morton and Carson Gillilan, who had 17 and eight receptions last year, respectively. Gerhart caught 14 passes, while senior Derek Tarvin had eight.
All-County seniors Gage Garner and Jose Ponce return to the offensive and defensive line, respectively.
All-County sophomore Levi Martin, who had a team-high 61 tackles last season, is back at linebacker along with seniors Alex Davis (43 tackles, three sacks in 2022) and Bryson Blevins (45 tackles) and junior Seth Cooper (32 tackles).
Senior Luke Martin, who was selected the 2022 All-Etowah County Schools’ Defensive Athlete of the Year, returns to the secondary, as does senior Bryan Gramajo.
The Lions’ Class 5A Region 7 competition includes Arab, Crossville, Douglas, Scottsboro, Boaz and Guntersville.
“We’re not really concerned with anyone else,” said Brooks. “I’m not worried about Boaz, I’m not worried about Guntersville, I’m not worried about any of those [region] teams. I’m worried about Sardis. I want to do what’s best for these kids, because that’s my job.”
Brooks shared the “Four Faces” he intends to develop in the Sardis football program.
“The first one is being a good person,” he said. “We want to have the best people possible. The second thing is to build a complete student. The best students usually have the best opportunities of making good money and providing resources back to the community. The third thing is the athlete. We share a lot of players here, and everybody wants the best players. So, we want to build overall athletes at Sardis High School. The fourth thing is the football player. We’re going to have these guys mentally and physically prepared to go out there and put a good product on the field on Friday nights. Ninety-nine percent of kids who come into this program are not going to play college football, but they’re going to be a person the rest of their life, and that’s the most important thing.”
Brooks played a year of football at Jacksonville State before jumping into the coa-ching ranks. His first stop was at Cherokee County, where the 2009 Warriors went 15-0 and won the Class 4A state championship. He then coached under Joe Billingsley at Gadsden City from 2010-2012.
After Brooks completed his degree and became a teacher, his first job was at One-onta. He helped the Redskins win the 2013 Class 4A state title before accepting the position of offensive coordinator at Etowah.
Brooks wound up spending four seasons in Attalla under Drew Noles. With Brooks on the staff, the Blue Devils went 33-14 and made the postseason all four years. The 2017 team went 11-2 and made it to the Class 5A state quarterfinals.
Brooks moved back to Gadsden City for the 2018 and 2019 seasons under Bart Sessions and Ali Smith. He then accepted an offer from Hoover coach Josh Niblett to coach the Bucs’ receivers, where he spent the past three seasons.
Lindsey Frazier and Shannon J. Allen and contributed to this article.


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