Coosa Christian AD sees bright future for Conquerors


Photo courtesy of Average Joe’s Sports Talk 

By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor

Stacy Jones was searching for a new experience in high school athletics, and Coosa Christian recently provided him with ideal opportunity.
The former Etowah High, Auburn University and Major League Baseball pitcher was hired as the school’s athletic director earlier this month.
“When I was offered the position, I prayed about it and thought about it, and the Lord told me that it was time for me to move in that direction,” said Jones. “When I went down [to the school’s campus] and watched and talked to people, I didn’t find anything negative about it. So I jumped on board with two feet and I’ve hit the ground running.”
Jones and Coosa head football coach Mark O’Bryant are familiar with one another after Jones was the pitching coach at Etowah several years ago when O’Bryant’s son Kale was a player.
“Coach O believed in me 100 percent and trusted me with his son, and I always appreciated that,” said Jones. “He’s an excellent motivator and someone who will always climb a wall if there’s a wall to be climbed. He’s also surrounded himself with some really good people here. Our student body has almost doubled in the last couple of years, and a lot of that is a testament to what Coach O has accomplished.”
Jones noted the recent success of the school’s football and baseball teams. After starting the season at 2-4, the football Conquerors reeled off seven straight wins and made it to the Class 1A state semifinals. The baseball team went 25-13 while qualifying for the state quarterfinals.
Jones made it clear that he does not put much stock into gaudy regular season records.
“For me, success is how far you can make a run in the playoffs. Once you have sustained success in the postseason, especially in a 1A program, you’re headed in the right direction. If you go out and play bigger schools and get beat up a little bit and then play schools that are your size in the playoffs, that’s when you’re on the road to competing for that blue map (state championship). As far as I’m concerned, regular seasons should be nothing but a warm-up for the playoffs.”
Another priority for Jones is putting together a school band and drumline with the goal of creating additional enthusiasm among the student body at football games.
“I want to have a little music for our kids,” he said. “I’m in the process of getting that finalized.”
Another goal of Jones is to expand and upgrade the school’s athletic facilities, including lights for the baseball and softball fields and an additional competition gym.
“That will create a scenario of having more people on campus to see what we’ve got going on,” he said. “If anyone really wants to know what’s going on in Coosa Christian athletics, I’ll tell them not to come to me but to watch what’s going on around here.”
Jones stressed that a big part of his job is making sure that the school’s student-athletes are well-taken care of em-otionally as well as physically.
“These kids watch how we act and what we say. If you’re out there saying one thing while you’re doing another [thing], they’re going to see through it. If we do what we’re supposed to do, we’re going to change how these kids go about their lives. Having that kind of impact is going to help transform their lives and become better Christians.”
O’Bryant said that Jones’ hire re-affirms his belief that Coosa Christian can no longer be considered as a “leftover job” school.
“There was a time when Coosa was where you went for a job after you retired from teaching and coaching somewhere else, and that’s no longer the case. Stacy brings a whole lot of credibility. I’ve been trying to get him on board for the past couple of years, and he’s a perfect fit for the position. Stacy is a tremendous human being, and our kids will listen to him because of all he’s accomplished.”
Jones cites former Etowah High baseball coach Larry Foster as a key influence. As head coach at Etowah from 1981 to 2004, Foster guided the Blue Devils to a 520-209 record while winning state championships in 1985, 1987 and 1996. Etowah qualified for the state playoffs 18 times under Foster during that span. Returning prior to the 2013 season, Foster guided the Blue Devils to five state playoff berths in six seasons. His 2017 squad made the state quarterfinals.
“With Coach Foster, it all starts before you started practice,” said Jones. “Being on time was being 15 minutes early, and you had better have your socks and your shorts and your pants and your hat on right or there would be con-sequences. That was a great lesson for me at 15 years old. Playing for Coach Foster, you learned pretty quickly that you make him happy in order for him to ballpoint pen in your name into the lineup.”
Jones noted that Foster put a lot of emphasis on breaking down the game, with the top four requirements of success being pitching, defense, running the bases and hitting.
“And it had to be in that order,” said Jones. “If you can’t pitch, you can’t win. You’ve got to be able to throw and catch the ball and get the outs when you’re supposed to. With running, we learned how to take a lead and how to get back [to the base],and how to read the ball when it’s halfway to the plate. With hitting, you don’t work on pulling the ball; you work on hitting the ball the other way into the gap.
“People hear his name and know that he’s a great coach and won three state championships, but more important than that, he put between 90 to 100 kids in college. Out of the high school teams I played on, 18 out of 22 players wound up signing college scholarships. That’s also a testimony to [the late] Robert Cartrett, who was the assistant coach.”
Jones was also a standout basketball player for the Blue Devils and was offered several college scholarships.
“I didn’t play high school basketball until Gid Riddle came to Etowah,” he said. “He was very much like Coach Foster in that there were certain ways you had to do things. We started my junior year with 12 people and finished the season with eight. When Coach Riddle told me after that season that he could get me a scholarship with a junior college, I told him that I was going to play college baseball, even though at that point I didn’t have single offer.”
Jones did not have long to wait until college scouts began showing up during his senior year.
“I went from having no none there to having eight to 10 radar guns behind the [home plate] screen,” he said.
Jones ended up with several offers, including several to SEC schools, before accepting a full scholarship to Auburn. Jones’ standout three-year career on The Plains, during which he was teammates with Bo Jackson, Frank Thomas and Gregg Olsen, resulted in him being selected by the Baltimore Orioles as the third player in the third round of the MLB draft. His nine-year career in professional baseball included one season each with the Orioles and the Chicago White Sox.
“I bounced around mostly in Double A and Triple A ball, but I’ll always remember walking out onto the field in Seattle Kingdome (against the Mariners) while the national anthem was playing. I reminded myself that it was the game in throwing 60 feet, six inches and that the bases were 90 feet apart. The only difference was that [the MLB players] made a lot more money.”
Jones faced Ken Griffey, Jr., in the second inning and induced the future Hall of Famer to ground out to future Hall of Famer Cal Ripken, Jr., at shortstop. One of Jones’ roommate in the minors was future Hall of Famer Mike Mussina.
Jones retired in 1997 after suffering a torn ligament in his elbow.
“Very few players get to end their careers the way they want to,” he said. “I came back home and tried to figure out what I was going to do with the rest of my life.”
Jones eventually returned to Etowah High, where he taught a JAG class and was the pitching coach for Foster. After the latter retired after the 2018 season, Jones worked for the City of Centre in running the town’s youth programs.
“My dad always told us that he loved us and was proud of us, and a lot of kids these days don’t hear that,” said Jones. “My parents never told me what I should or shouldn’t have done after a game. They just let me be and enjoy being a kid. That’s what we need to be doing with these kids today. We’re all here for a short time, and we can’t take anything with us when we go. All we can do is leave something behind.”

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