By Robb Corker/Staff Correspondent
Sardis High School’s new head football coach Chris Stephenson (pictured above) seeks to inspire the Lions and community with his history of winning.
“I’ve never had a losing season, and I don’t intend to start at Sardis,” he said. “I want everybody at every game. If it’s standing room only, that’s what I want.”
Stephenson’s goals for the program are myriad. In addition to making the state playoffs and winning a playoff game, increasing college recruiting at Sardis is among his short-term goals. Stephenson’s track record of having coached 27 collegiate-level players in the last four years points to his ability to accomplish that goal.
“[I want to] get the colleges back looking at players from Sardis,” he said. “I’ve already sent out a few thousand e-mails to college coaches across the country and a couple in Canada. We’re going get that turned around really quick.”
Stephenson, an alumnus of and former assistant football coach at Vestavia Hills, wants to foster stability in Sardis’s football program through success and cultivating a relationship with the community.
`“My goal is to be successful in the [varsity’s] first season. Then, it’s important to go to the peewee games and middle school games and JV games. As the the face of the program, I’m going to say, ‘Hey, I’m going to be your coach when you get here.’”
While the personnel and playbook may change, the foundation of Stephenson’s success through the years remains the same.
“I’m not saying I’ll run the same offense or the same defense but it’s the same program. It’s discipline; it’s the respect; it’s the faith, family and football. At Sardis, it’s going to be a whole lot easier because they’ve already got a lot of that in place. Let’s just turn it up a notch and see if we can take it to the next level.”
Stephenson was quick to praise former longtime Sardis head football coach Gene Hill for the success and longevity of his career. Hill went 51-64 from 2011 to 2021. He guided the Lions to the state playoffs five times and won two region titles. Sardis’ last winning season came in 2017 at 7-4. “[Hill] was here 11 years. If I’m here 11 years, I’ll be 70 years old, and I hope I’m here that long. [Hill] is a good person who did some very good things. and if I can do that, then that’s half the battle right there. We’ve just got to pick it up to the next level.”
Stephenson, who cited Alabama’s football culture as a draw for him to coach in the state, was complimentary of the players’ love and knowledge of the game.
“It’s one of those areas that you could pluck four or five from every high school and put together an all-star team that could go down and thump Thompson,” he said. “The kids here have that passion. The knowledge here is immense because they care. They watch Alabama, they watch Auburn, they watch Jacksonville [State].”
The Lions play in a jamboree against J.B. Pennington High School on August 12 before kicking off the regular season test against Kate Duncan Smith DAR on August 19.