There have been plenty of good, even great head football coaches on the Alabama high school market this offseason.
Stacy Luker left Demopolis to head to Clarke County. Bo Culver headed to Deshler from region champions Haleyville. Patrick Nix took his success and son/quarterback from Scottsboro to Pinson Valley. Rick Cauley left Murphy to put out the proverbial fire at Gulf Shores. LaRon White and Rico Jackson left Class 2A for bigger gigs at Sparkman and Escambia County. State champion Don Jacobs was fired from Oneonta only to wind up replacing Nix in Scottsboro. Brian Blackmon left Opelika for a college football job with Auburn. Dale Jeffreys and Jerry Hood have retired after a combined 33 years as head coaches in AHSAA.
One of the latest to be looking elsewhere is former Gadsden City head coach Matt Scott. Scott resigned from Gadsden City on March 16 after four seasons with the Titans. Scott led Gadsden City to two semifinal appearances in Class 7A since the new classification was introduced in 2014. The Titans also won a region title in 2014 under Scott. Gadsden City is Scott’s second head coaching stop in Alabama.
Scott began his head coaching career in 2009 with Hueytown after spending time as the offensive coordinator for Spain Park. It was an attractive job with then-sophomore quarterback Jameis Winston at the helm. Winston was already getting praise from college football coaches for his size and ability shown during his freshman year.
The first season was a disappointment but also a transition. Hueytown lost three of their first four games including a 20-7 decision to Minor that was played on a field in such poor condition that Scott refused to watch the tape from the game. The Gophers won four of their last six, but a 3-4 region record kept them out of the playoffs. Reclassification for 2010 put Hueytown in Class 5A, where Scott felt the Gophers belonged. Hueytown responded immediately with a 9-1 regular season, wins over McAdory, Fairfield, and Pelham, and a quarterfinal appearance before losing 28-0 on the road to Spanish Fort. Winston established himself by being named to the All-State First Team and to the Super 12 as a junior.
2011 was seen as the year for Hueytown to do something not before accomplished: win a state championship. They came in ranked #2 in the preseason poll. Scott, Winston, and the Gophers blew through the season with a 10-0 record and the school’s first ever #1 ranking. They averaged 44.9 points on offense and allowed just 10.9 points a game on defense. Winston continued to wow with around 3,500 yards of total offense and 44 touchdowns. Still, Winston wasn’t enough to overcome one of the best defenses in 2011 regardless of classification. Hueytown fell 20-7 in the semifinals to a Vigor squad that gave up an average of 7.8 points a game and held the likes of McAdory and Spanish Fort scoreless with eventual Arkansas signees Darius Philon and JaMichael Winston on the defensive line. The next season was a foreseeable setback with the loss of Winston and a move back to Class 6A. Hueytown managed a modest 6-4 record before falling to Vestavia Hills in the first round of the playoffs. Two months after the season ended, Scott took an opportunity to head to Gadsden. He left Hueytown with a 35-13 record and matched the Gophers’ closest run to the state championship.
When Scott arrived at Gadsden City, he inherited a team that had posted back-to-back 6-4 regular seasons and fallen behind Clay-Chalkville and Oxford. Joe Billingsley had led the new program from their start in 2006 after combining three schools in Gadsden. The Titans had made one semifinal in seven years with Billingsley. Scott’s first season with the Titans was a steadying of the ship as Gadsden City went 5-5 and lost to Bessemer City in the first round. The highlight of the year was a 24-21 win over Clay-Chalkville to give the Cougars their only blemish in the regular season.
The second season in the Matt Scott regime would be a breakout for Gadsden City in the new Class 7A. The Titans finished the regular season 8-2 with a region title and wins over Bob Jones, Oxford, and James Clemens. They would avenge one of their regular season losses with a first round win over Hewitt-Trussville then beat Oak Mountain before falling to Hoover in the semifinals. Gadsden City rose to as high as #3 in the rankings that year and were hoping to continue that fortune with a returning roster that included third-year starting quarterback Ahmad DeRamus, receiver Denzel Mooney, and offensive lineman Jamahl Jelks. Dreams didn’t come to fruition as the Titans went 5-5 and missed the playoffs in a region seen as weaker among the state’s highest classifications.
With DeRamus, Mooney, and Jelks gone, Gadsden City turned to running back Damon Williams and lineman Toryque Bateman to take charge for the 2016 campaign, a season that was seen with little promise, at best a fourth-place finish behind Bob Jones, Hewitt-Trussville, and James Clemens. Things didn’t look any better after the Titans started 0-4 with losses to Spain Park, Oxford, Hewitt, and Clemens. Following a split of the next two games, Gadsden went on a four-game winning streak including a 46-41 upset of Bob Jones. Their 5-5 season and 5-2 region record was enough to finish third in Region 4.
Gadsden started the playoffs with a 15-7 upset of Mountain Brook to set up a date with Hewitt-Trussville in the quarterfinals. With 6:54 left in the game, Hewitt looked to be on their way to a win up 28-16 and setting up for a 34-yard field goal to extend the lead to 15. Instead, Gadsden City blocked the field goal then drove in three plays for a touchdown to cut the score to 28-23. On the ensuing kickoff, Hewitt fumbled the kickoff and gave Gadsden the ball at the 27. On fourth-and-12 from the 15, Ryan Sparks threw up a loft to Jaelyn Fleming, but the ball was behind the receiver. Fleming reached back and over the defender to snag the ball for the game-winning touchdown with 3:10 left. Hewitt would be stopped on a fourth down attempt in Gadsden City territory to close the game and advance to the semifinals. Gadsden’s journey hit a road block once again in the form of Hoover, but the season was seen as a success because of the playoff run. Scott was even awarded Class 7A Coach of the Year by the Alabama Sports Writers Association.
Last Thursday, Scott submitted his resignation letter. It’s a surprise considering there’s been little indication of Scott being unwanted in Gadsden, but Scott has said that he has a few possibilities he’s considering for his future. Among the schools still available for head coaching jobs in the AHSAA are 7A rivals Murphy and McGill-Toolen, 6A Carver-Montgomery, and small school powers Oneonta, Tanner, Aliceville, and Linden. Scott will be a big catch for someone whether it’s as a head coach or as an assistant as he transitions. Where he’ll end up is anybody’s guess.