New coach embracing expectations in Attalla

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ETOWAH SENIORS. Pictured, front row, from left: Andrew Moore, J’Shun Patrick, Kamaree Finister, Garrett Ginns. Middle row, from left: Dax Causey, Mason Sholar, Omareon Finch, Brant Stringer, Chris Gooden, Brady Carver, Colton Peterson. Back row, from left: Da’Vonte Shannon, Josh Graham, Andrew Pierce, Caleb Freeman, Trace Thompson, Briggs Freeman. (Chris McCarthy/Messenger) 

By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor

Definition of a winning tradition: the last time Etowah had a losing season and missed the state playoffs was in 2010, when the team’s seniors were in kindergarten.
It’s safe to assume that none of the team’s current players remember when the Blue Devils were not competitive week in and week out.
First year head coach Matt Glover not only accepts but embraces the high expectations that goes with coaching high school football in Attalla.
“The [expectations] are high here, but why would you want to go to a place that has low expectations?” said Glover, who was selected as the AHSAA Class 5A Assistant Coach of the Year last season. “[Attalla] is a blue-collar community with hardworking people. In my 26 years of coaching, this is the closest I’ve seen to an Alabama/Auburn-type following at the high school level.
“You’re either a Blue Devil or you’re not; there’s no in-between. I want to treat this job like a 7A program, not a 4A program. We’re going to do everything to the best of our ability to give these kids every possibility to be successful.”
Glover noted that of the 60-plus players currently on the roster, not one will start on both offense and defense, a rarity in Class 4A.
“We’re trying to do as much as we can to get 11 guys on offense and 11 guys on defense. Some guys will see time on the other side of the ball, but as of right now, there are no two-way starters.”
Dating back to the 2016 season, Etowah is 37-2 in region play.
“We have to learn the little things to make the big things happen,” said Glover. “Effort, attitude and body language. If you have all three of those things, eventually you’ll be successful. I think most of these guys have bought into what we’re trying to get accomplished.”
Etowah lost some talent to graduation but returns more than a few standouts, including senior All-Region quarterback Trace Thompson, who threw for 1,390 yards and 17 touchdowns last season.
“Being a three-year starter, Trace has been there in a lot of [high] pressure situations [in] quarterfinal and semifinal games,” said Glover. “So that experience is huge. He and Andrew [Pierce] are doing a good job of leading the other guys.”
Thompson will have a pair of prime targets in Pierce and senior All-Region and All-State pick Omareon Finch. Finch had 33 receptions for 594 yards and 11 touchdowns, while Andrew Pierce caught 30 passes for 293 yards and four scores. He also had 307 rushing yards.
The team’s leading rusher returns in senior Briggs Freeman, who finished with 517 yards and three TDs. Senior Caleb Freeman will also see time in the backfield.
On defense, Pierce and Caleb Freeman were All-Region picks at safety and linebacker, respectively.
Glover had a specific goal in mind when filling out the Blue Devils’ non-region schedule.
“You’re not going to get any better playing teams that aren’t very good, and we’ll get to see where we’re at right off the bat with Springville,” said Glover. “(For non-region games), some coaches schedule wins. I want to schedule experience for the playoffs, and I think we did that with [Springville], Cullman and Southside.”
Etowah’s 4A, Region 6 slate includes Ashville, Fultondale, Good Hope, Oneonta, Hanceville and Cherokee County.
“This is a really unique and special place, and not everyone likes places like this one,” said Glover. “But I’m from a place this like one, where everybody knows everybody. We’re going to do everything in our power to do it the right way. It might not be wins or losses, but we’re going to put a product out on the field that this community can be proud of.”

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