By Gene Stanley/Sports Correspondent
From his years at Cedar Bluff High, both as a player and coach, Scott Clifton knows something about winning football games.
Now he hopes to bring that winning experience to a school – Coosa Christian – that has struggled since joining the Alabama High School Athletic Association in 2005.
After an 0-6 start last season, the Conquerors ra-llied to finish 4-6 (2-6 in Class 1A, Region 7 play).
Clifton wants to build on that winning streak and make a push for the playoffs.
“That (winning streak) gave them some confidence as a team,” he said. “The upperclassmen are still talking about it, trying to instill confidence in the younger players. We’re going to try and build on that streak, but with different coaches, it’s hard to tell in the preseason.”
There are only two seniors in Seth Williamson and Andy Lawson, but Clif-ton is counting on those two players to be leaders on the field. Coosa will be heavy with youngsters, as there are only a handful of sophomores and juniors but a large freshman class.
“Those freshmen that play will have to grow up in a hurry once the season starts,” he said.
Clifton was hired early enough that he got to coach in the spring game, during which he liked a few things that he saw and said the other stuff is correctable.
“They’re still in the process of learning my way of coaching,” he said. “We’re young in some areas and have experience at others.”
Clifton described the Conquerors as “hard-working and well-conditioned.”
“They love the weight room,” he said. “They’ve really taken to the structure we’ve brought.”
Besides Williamson and Lawson returning upperclassmen include last year’s quarterback in junior Ben Mills, along with junior lineman Drake Burger and sophomore lineman/linebacker Mikey Green.
Mills had a combined 809 rushing and throwing yards with eight touchdowns last season. Williamson and Lawson had 59 and 37 tackles, respectively, on defense last season.
With the powers of Region 7 – Cedar Bluff and Collinsville – in a rebuilding year, Clifton thinks that most of the eight teams have a legitimate shot at the playoffs.
“They’re young, but they’re still Cedar Bluff and Collinsville,” he said. “So until someone beats them, they’re the favorites. Donoho, as usual, will be very talented, and Spring Garden lost a lot but brings a lot back. Gaylesville and Valley Head both bring almost every player back. Jacksonville Christian wasn’t very good last year but could have a really good year.
“With that said, I hope we’re able to compete for a playoff spot.”
Assistant coaches are Justin Norton, Derrick Crane, Brad Hunter, Nick Reed and Danny Foster.
Editors note: For the complete 2013 Messenger Football Preview that includes team rosters, photos and schedules, purchase a copy of the Aug. 23 edition of the Messenger.