Etowah High to field boys, girls soccer teams


By Chris McCarthy/Editor

Jim Glover Field in Attalla will no longer get the spring season off. 

Etowah High School will introduce both boys and girls varsity soccer teams for the 2015-16 school year.

According to EHS athletic director and head football coach Drew Noles, 44 male and female students from seventh though 12th grade came out for the school’s intramural soccer league this past spring. That large turnout convinced Noles and the school administration to give the green light to both a boys and girls soccer program.

“Of this group, most of the kids don’t play another sport, so it’s giving some of our kids an opportunity to get involved and compete and wear ‘Etowah’ across their chests,” said Noles. “I think we have to compete and be a factor right away.”

Russ Pilkington, who teaches social science at EHS, is the head coach. He also is an assistant coach for the football team.

“I don’t have much experience coaching soccer, but I’m excited about it and I’m looking forward to learning from Coach Dunlap,” he said.

Volunteer coach Danny Dunlap was also impressed by the number of players coming out for the sport.

“I was pleased with the level of skill that was out there. If we can build a team around that kind of experience and talent, we’ll be fine. I want our kids to learn the skills and have fun with the game, but be a student first and foremost. We’ve got young men and women for the most part who aren’t playing another sport, and now they’ll be a part of something. There’s something special about competing for your school.”

The idea for an Etowah High soccer team was hatched about a year ago when Dunlap was playing a round of golf with Attalla City Schools Superintendent David Bowman.

“I asked him about the possibility to get a soccer program going, and a few weeks later he said that we might be able to get something going,” said Dunlap, who is the president of Sip Inc of Delaware in Gadsden. “Pretty soon after that I met with [then EHS principal] Jeff Colgrove and [current EHS principal] Ryan Barkley and Drew Noles, and they all were excited about it. [City of Attalla] Mayor Larry Means and his group helped us set up the field for the spring so there’s been a whole lot of support from the beginning from both the school and community.”

Noles ran the spring league while Dunlap began the process of evaluating the 39 players that made it through the workouts. Dunlap said that of those players, only four will be involved in another extra-curricular activity this school year. 

“Numbers won’t be an issue, especially on the boys side,” he said. “We have several young men and ladies that can play, along with several good athletes that will give us some depth. We’re going to work hard while we’ll develop both team and individual goals. Fitness is going to be a challenge for us, because you’ve got to be in shape if you’re playing twice a week.”

The Blue Devils will most likely compete in Class 5A, Area 12 along with Boaz, Cherokee County, Crossville, Guntersville and Jacksonville. 

“Hopefully we’ll be able to schedule some of the other high schools in the area and generate some local rivalries,” he said. “We’ll be getting together when school starts up next week and getting organized. We’ll set up fall workouts for the kids who aren’t involved with another sport or activity, then have a few days of evaluations later on in the fall.”

Toward that end, Dunlap is hoping that he doesn’t have to trim the rosters.

“We may or may not have to cut some players,” he said. “I hope we don’t, the main reason being that you don’t know at what point in time that eighth or ninth grader is going to develop. 

“But you can only play so many people in a game in order to keep the flow and consistency going and be competitive.”

A native of Atlanta, Dunlap played soccer in high school and competed in club soccer while attending Georgia Tech. He moved to Lancaster County, Pa., where he coached youth soccer for 22 years and led one of his teams to a state championship. He also started a girls soccer program at the local junior high school. 

Dunlap played rec soccer until the age of 50. 

“I had to stop at a certain point because I was always getting injured while trying to keep up with the kids,” he said with a laugh. 

Dunlap and his wife bought a house in Southside five years ago and moved to the area three years ago. 

“I always wanted to move back to the South, and the Lord put this area in our hearts,” he said. “I really appreciate what Coach Noles has done to get this started. He’s a quality guy who you can tell really cares about the kids. He has a high standard of doing things well and doing things the right way, and I think he’s taken that attitude with all of his coaches and all of his programs.”

Soccer is not the only sport started by Etowah over the past several months. The school added cross country and fishing last year and will introduce bowling this season. Noles said that tennis and wrestling programs might also be established down the road. 

“We really wanted to increase things we’re offering,” he said.

In EHS football news, the 2014 Blue Devils received a Fellowship of Christian Athletes/TV-24 Sportsmanship Award on Wednesday (July 29) at Jacksonville State. The annual award is voted on by game officials and opposing coaches.

“That’s something we’re very proud of,” said Noles. “The class that our guys play with is something we really stress, so winning that award was definitely one of our goals.” 

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