Matt Harris back at home in Walnut Grove

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Photo: Matt Harris was recently hired as head football coach at West End High School. Pictured, from left: Etowah County Schools Superintendent Dr. Alan Cosby, West End Principal Ron Daugherty, Etowah County Board of Education member Susan Spiker, Matt Harris. (Submitted photo) 

By Taylor B. Beck/For Sand Mountain Reporter

Matt Harris is finally where he’s always wanted to be – leading his alma mater’s football program.
The 1999 West End High graduate was recently hired as the school’s head football coach. Harris spent the 2023 season serving as offensive line coach with the Patriots under Derrick Sewell, who stepped down in early April to accept the same position at Gaston, where he previously was assistant football coach and head baseball coach.
“This is my dream job,” said Harris. “I’ve applied nearly every time it’s been open since I’ve been in coaching. I’ve wanted this since I started. Now it’s finally happened, and I plan on staying for a long time.”
The Patriots finished 5-6 in 2023 with a second straight state playoff appearance, falling to eventual Class 2A state champions Fyffe in the first round.
Harris was the head coach at Gaston from 2020-2022. He compiled a 5-25 record, with two games forfeited in 2020 due to COVID-19 concerns, before resigning just prior to the 2023 season.
Before he was hired at Gaston, Harris had assistant coaching stints at Sardis, Boaz and Locust Fork high schools. His first coaching job was as an assistant in Tennessee for two season.
Harris played for Randy Hallmark at West End during his freshman, sophomore and junior years and for Butch Dixon his senior year. From 1990-97, Hallmark’s Patriots went 64-26, won four region titles and reached the state playoffs six times. West End posted three straight undefeated regular seasons from 1993-1995, going 34-3 record during that span.
“The biggest thing Coach Hallmark taught me was the importance of being mentally tough and push yourself as far as you could,” said Harris. “He taught us that when things go wrong, you’ve just got to pick yourself up and keep doing your job.”
Harris hopes to garner the same type of success during his tenure as head coach, building on the foundation Sewell laid during his three-year stint.
“It’s been an easy transition being from here,” said Harris. “Our numbers are up. A lot of kids who had played in the past are coming out. I’m excited about what we might be able to do this year. Derrick has done a wonderful job of building up expectations, and he has assembled a great staff that I’ve been fortunate enough to inherit. It really makes the job easier.”
Harris also praised Sewell for his work to enhance the program’s facilities. Before his departure, Sewell helped oversee the remodel of the Patriots’ fieldhouse. Among the changes are new lockers, new flooring and freshly painted walls. The Patriots’ film room/team room has also been refurbished. Harris said that all of the work was completed in late April.
Heading into the summer and fall, Harris aims to see the Patriots make strides in the weight room and get stronger. He also wants the team to be able to install their offensive and defensive schemes over the summer, “so we can go right to work on game prep when fall practice starts,” he said. “And really, we want to figure out who our ‘guys’ are going to be and know how we’re going to use them.”
West End will host a fall jamboree with Holly Pond and J.B. Pennington on August 16.
Chris McCarthy contributed to this article.

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