By Chris McCarthy/Editor
Mike Sheffield has come down from the mountain to help out a friend in need.
A Gadsden resident who lives in the Noccalula Falls area, Sheffield was named head football coach at Coosa Christian this past spring.
Sheffield has been at the school since last October, when he began teaching math after then-head coach Jason Touart resigned due to health reasons. Sheffield had been an assistant football, basketball and baseball coach at Victory Christian Academy in Pell City for the past three years.
“ I’ve had to commute to Birmingham and Pell City for a lot of years, so it will be nice to have such a short commute,” said Sheffield. “I’m not even through with my Coke when I get here in the morning.”
The fact that this will be his first foray as a head football coach doesn’t faze Sheffield.
“I’ve been working with the kids since March and I teach a lot of them in the classroom, so I’m pretty familiar with most of the players,” he said.
Numbers are always an issue at a small Class 1A program, especially for a private school that saw its student population bumped up 35 percent when the AHSAA reclassified last year. Coosa’s current 81 students are now considered as 130 students for athletic purposes.
“I’d hoped that we’d have better numbers than we do right now, and I’m disappointed that a couple of the boys aren’t out here,” said Sheffield. “The program didn’t get into this situation overnight and we won’t get out of it overnight. But if we can keep some continuity, we’ll be all right.”
A 1972 graduate of Ashville High School, Sheffield played football under former Etowah and Coosa Christian football coach Raymond Farmer. A standout three-sport athlete for the Bulldogs, Sheffield was inducted into the St. Clair County Sports Hall of Fame in 2012.
Still, Sheffield noted that his proudest Achievement at AHS is non-sports related.
“I was class salutatorian in 1972, and that’s helped me more than any of my athletic awards.”
Sheffield played football for a year and a half on scholarship at Jacksonville State University under an impressive list of coaches, including Charley Pell, Jim Fuller, Joe Kines and Cotton Clark.
“I had a ball playing football, but after a while I wanted to just focus on the academics,” said Sheffield. “Looking back, I wished I had kept playing.”
Sheffield worked in hospital administration at UAB for 30 years before retiring. Soon after that, Farmer recruited Sheffield as an assistant coach at VCA.
Sheffield recently tried to enlist Farmer as an assistant coach, to no avail.
“He said he’d only give me one morning a week,” said Sheffield with a laugh. “He has a grandson at Etowah this season and wants to watch him play. But he did come over last week and helped with the linemen.”
Sheffield goals for the 2015 season include every player on the roster gaining 10 pounds by September 1, every player increasing his bench press by 15 percent, every player reducing his time on the 40-yard dash by two-tenths of a second and have 30 players dress out.
Coosa must one again navigate the treacherous Class 1A, Region landscape, one that includes Cedar Bluff and Spring Garden, who were ranked sixth and seventh, respectively, in the Alabama Sports Writers Association’s preseason football poll released earlier this month.
The Conquerors open the season on Aug. 28 with a home game against Winterboro.
“I want to win some area games,” said Sheffield. “If we don’t get anybody hurt, our biggest advantage is our size. We have kids on the line that are 238, 303, 285 and 219 pounds. Those are some big boys for 1A ball. I think we can surprise a few folks along the way.”
Sheffield noted that this year’s slogan is ‘Protect the Team.’
“What I’m looking for is that these kids don’t quit the team, they do what they need to do in order to become a better athlete, they pick their teammate up when he’s down and they don’t put up with anyone bad-mouthing the team. We’re going to play by the rules but we’re going to have each other’s backs.”