Photo by Chris McCarthy/Messenger
By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
Derrick Sewell is back in town.
The former Gaston High School head baseball coach and assistant football coach was hired as West End head football coach at the Etowah County Schools Board of Education meeting last Tuesday (March 2) in Gadsden.
Sewell spent the past three seasons as head football coach at Ragland, where he guided the Class 1A Purple Devils from 2-8 record in 2019 to a 9-3 mark and a state playoff victory last season. Not counting a forfeit win over Gaylesville in Week 2, Sewell’s 2020 Ragland team defeated the opposition by an average score of 33-7.
After leaving Gaston in 2014, Sewell assisted in football and baseball at Pleasant Valley before going to Ragland. He replaces Kyle Davis, who went 26-46 in seven years at West End.
Sewell said he was “overwhelmed” to be back teaching and coaching in Etowah County.
“Maybe not recently, and that’s nothing against Coach Davis, but there’s a longtime tradition of winning football here, and we want to get back to that. For me personally, I’m a better coach for going through a couple of tough years at Ragland before we kind of broke through last season. I’ve watched a lot of film [of West End football] and talked to a lot the coaches in the region, and the consensus seems to be that we’re ripe for getting back in the state playoffs now. I’m not making any promises, but we will put in the work to get ourselves in that position.”
Sewell’s wife Hollie teaches English at Hokes Bluff Middle School. The couple live in Southside with sons Taylor and Jackson and attend Harvestfield Church in Rainbow City.
“Having the same holidays off and similar schedules is huge,” he said. “That was a big factor in our decision.”
WEHS Principal Butch Dixon was one of Sewell’s predecessors as West End football coach. From 1998 to 2002, Dixon guided the Patriots to an overall record of 37-8 and four state playoff appearances. Dixon’s 2001 squad was the last West End team to win a region title.
“This is a really big hire for us, because I think we’re getting a star on the rise in Derrick,” said Dixon. “He’s shown at Ragland that he knows how to build a football program. He’s got a good presence about him and he checked a lot of our boxes, so I really think he’ll be a good fit for us. He’s a good, strong young football coach who has a bright future, and we’d like that future to be at West End when it’s all said and done.”
Sewell pointed to extensive time in the field house as the starting point for a competitive football team.
“It all starts in the weight room,” he said. “Not only physical strength but I think mental strength and as well as trust is gained in there. We want to get to the point where we are a physical team that can run the ball and stop the run. That’s a little different than what’s it been here in the past, but with me and my philosophy, I think that’s where it begins. The first thing we’ve got to do is learn how to work hard. There’s going to be some people who can do that and some who can’t, but that’s going to be our standard.”
Sewell is also excited to coach at a school that draws students from two communities.
“I’m looking forward to getting to know the dynamics of Altoona and Walnut Grove, but I think at any point, people from both places will say that West End is the thing that unites them, and I want to make them proud of our program and our school.”