EDITORIAL: Ten coaches Demopolis should consider

Tom Causey's departure for Class 6A Pelham earlier this month leaves a void atop the Demopolis High football program.

Tom Causey’s departure for Class 6A Pelham High earlier this month leaves a void atop the Demopolis High School football program.

With the dust now settled upon Tom Causey’s departure and the holidays moving ever so rapidly into the rearview mirror, the talk can once again pick back up as to who will be the next head football coach at Demopolis High School.

While the search is being handled quietly and privately by Demopolis High principal Dr. Tony Speegle, there are no shortage of names that have been rumored to be connected to the position.

What can be said for certain is that the opening is absolutely an attractive job. Positioned in an imminently winnable Class 5A region, the Tigers look to bring back a load of talent off a team that went 8-3 and won a region crown in 2014.

Moreover, the Tigers boast two state championships in a 10-year span. The work of former coaches Causey and Doug Goodwin have elevated the program to unprecedented heights, making the job a viable possibility for a number of well-established coaches.

That said, Speegle should have no shortage of strong candidates from which to pick.

While there are any number of variables that will play into the selection of the next coach, certain qualities must be at the forefront of the hire. Namely, character must be of the utmost importance.

Regardless of offensive style, defensive philosophy, ability to market players to college programs or the like, character had been a key element of the program under Causey. The recently-departed coach emphasized it strongly through what amounted to character education sessions. As such, there were dozens of previously-troubled players during the Causey tenure who contributed to the program who otherwise likely would not have. Moreover, several of those went on to collegiate playing opportunities.

In an area of the state where industry is scant and employment opportunities seem to be dwindling, athletics present a very real, very important circumstance-altering potential for local student athletes. Getting some of those players to overcome their environments and succeed in spite of them requires a man of high character to place a high emphasis on character. So, character is probably at the forefront of this selection.

With that in mind and the reality that Demopolis will have any number of strong candidates at its disposal, what follows is a list of candidates who should receive consideration for the coaching vacancy. Note that this list is not reporting coaches that are interested in or will be considered for the job. It is merely a conjectured list from a writer who has covered the program since 2008.

Matt Geohagan – He is the first name on this list because he is the current interim coach and has put his time in as the Tigers’ defensive coordinator. Geohagan is in his second stint with the Tigers after having served on Doug Goodwin’s staffs in Demopolis and at Russellville. Geohagan returned of his own volition for the 2010 season and has honed his craft in preparation for his first head gig. Causey also provided Geohagan plenty of opportunities to learn the ins and outs of running a program over the last two seasons. Geohagan is ready to be somebody’s head coach right now. And he will be just that sooner rather than later. His character, football acumen, commitment to Demopolis and relationship to the players already in the program merit him strong consideration for the Demopolis job.

pic - lukerStacy Luker – His name will certainly get plenty of run around local “water coolers.” Luker built a reputation for excellence through his stays at Washington County, Thomasville and Sweet Water. His decision to retire from coaching in Alabama a year ago and take over the Neshoba Central program was the talk of high school football circles statewide. Whether or not he’d be interested in returning to Marengo County (where he still lives) to take over Demopolis is anyone’s guess. But the facts are that, as of right now, his oldest son is on the staff at Demopolis. And Luker’s newborn grandchild currently calls Demopolis home. Those are strong pulls for a man as family-oriented as Luker. The character aspect has never been in question with Luker, nor has his ability to run a program. The only question marks in regard to Luker at Demopolis are probably whether he would want the job and whether the Wing-T offense will work consistently at the 5A level.

Jack Hankins – Speaking of the Wing-T offense, Jack Hankins has almost made a habit of beating Demopolis. During his Thomasville tenure, Hankins is 5-4 against Demopolis with a couple of blowout wins on his resume. Hankins is 124-39 in his 13-season career with all of those games coming at Thomasville. Whether the interest would be there on the part of Hankins or Demopolis is up for debate, but Hankins has been rumored to be up for numerous jobs around the state since winning a state championship in 2010.

Larry Weems – If you don’t pay attention to what goes on in the high school football world on the other side of the Alabama-Mississippi line, you probably don’t know much about Larry Weems. Here is a quick crib sheet. He is in his early 60s. He won a couple of state title as an assistant at Meridian, built a power as the head man at Pearl and then returned to be the head coach of Meridian in 2006. Since then, Weems has added to his resume with a wide open offense that has seen quarterbacks like Tyler Russell sign with Mississippi State. Weems won his first state title as a head coach in 2008 and has become a thorn in the side of the otherwise unflappable South Panola juggernaut. The questions are whether Weems can translate that success to Alabama and how he would slot into a teaching role in the Demopolis system. Other than that, there are not many questions to be asked. Weems can flat out coach. He runs an offense that puts fans in the seats and points on the board. And he has shown a penchant for getting players signed to the next level.

Mark Heaton – After just one season (8-3 in 2014) at Russellville, it remains to be seen whether or not Heaton would be interested in taking an interview for another job. But somebody has dropped the ball if they don’t at least call and ask him if he is interested. Heaton has strong hometown ties and is regarded in coaching circles as a man of faith and high character. He is young, charismatic and a man of conviction. He is 52-27 after two seasons each at J.U. Blacksher, Escambia County and Haleyville and one season at Russellville. He is the kind of coach you call and make him tell you “no.”

Linden head coach calls out players' names for drills during preseason practice.

Linden head coach calls out players’ names for drills during preseason practice.

Andro Williams – It surprises a lot of people that Williams is still at Linden High School. But those people don’t know Andro Williams and how committed he is to the players in his program. It is a safe bet that he will take another job one day and he has had plenty of opportunities already. Citronelle, Wilcox, Valley and others have come calling over the years but none have been able to lure him away from Linden. Williams has compiled an 87-19 record in eight seasons at Linden while turning the Patriots into one of the real powers of Class 1A. His teams have outscored opponents 4,255 to 1,147 over that time. Of those losses, four have come against 2A teams, one against a 4A team, two against 5A teams and one against a 6A team. Eight of those setbacks have come in the second round of the 1A playoffs or later. That means Williams has lost to a 1A team in the regular season only three times. His offense of choice is very similar to that Luker and Hankins, but he may well be the best defensive mind in Alabama high school football. He has earned real consideration for a job like Demopolis.

Patrick Plott – Tom Causey had Plott as an assistant for the 2010 season and was well aware of exactly what he was losing when Plott left for Pickens County in 2011. Plott is 86-27 in his career as a head coach including seven double-digit win seasons at three different schools. He was 26-9 in three seasons at Aliceville. He was 48-7 across four seasons over two stints at Pickens County and went 15-0 in 2013 to win the Class 1A state championship. He went 2-8 in his lone season at Class 4A Bullock County in 2009 but made the most of his first year in Class 5A when he led Greenville to a 10-3 record in 2014. Anyone who has ever met Plott has no questions about his character. The questions are whether he would be interested in the job and if he could win at Demopolis. I’d be willing to bet the answer to both of those is a strong affirmative.

Adam Winegarden – Alright, perhaps this one is a reach. After all, Winegarden just led his team to an 11-1 season at Fairhope. Winegarden’s resume is strong. He is 49-11 in five seasons as a head coach. He went 21-3 in two years at Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa and is 28-8 in three seasons at Fairhope. There is little evidence that he would want to go from a 7A job down to a Class 5A job, but he is another coach that merits a phone call.

Sam Adams – Speaking of Hillcrest coaches, Sam Adams made quite the impression in his first season at Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa in 2014. And while it is easy to look at the Hillcrest talent and dismiss Adams’ ability, it would be foolish to discount the intangible differences evidenced by his team this season. They were far more disciplined than their 2012 and 2013 predecessors. In a short time, Adams turned the Patriots into a real contender in Class 6A. And perhaps the offer to compete in a region that doesn’t include Clay-Chalkville would be enticing for the young head coach.

Ryan Lolley – He has only been a head coach for two years, but the safe money says that Ryan Lolley will be at a big program pretty soon. He took his Gordo squad to 7-4 in his debut season and followed that up with a 13-1 effort in 2014 that ended with a narrow 32-28 loss at Dale County in the semi-finals of the 3A playoffs.

I’m simply a guy who writes about these things for a living, but those are 10 strong candidates I would consider. Granted, there are several others out there who would make for good coaching options. There are proven coaches like Scott Rials (Satsuma and Elba), up-and-coming coaches like Charles Moodey Jr. (Aliceville), Ashley Kilcrease (Brantley) and Chris Wilson (Washington County), and small school legends like Brent Hubbert (Maplesville).

Whatever Dr. Tony Speegle’s choice – and the board of education has assured everyone that it is indeed his choice – there is no shortage of really good coaches who could probably be persuaded rather easily to show strong interest in the Demopolis job.