Looking back at Shelby’s state championships

Published 8:55 pm Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Over the past two decades years, opponents of Shelby Academy have come to hate the color green, as the small private school on the outskirts of Montevallo emerged as a top-tier program in the Alabama Independent Schools Association.

But the legacy of the school may have come to an end now that the school’s board members have decided to shut the doors. An official vote will take place July 14.

“It was a shock,” said James Knowles, who started school at Shelby as a second-grader when it opened in 1970. “I hate it for the school. It’s your alma mater. To see it fall apart. It’s kind of tough.”

Knowles, now the girls’ basketball head coach at Calera High School, helped start Shelby Academy’s athletic success by coaching the girls’ basketball team to the school’s first state championship in 1992, serving as an assistant for the 1998 football championship and winning the first boys’ basketball title in 2002.

The name that is most known for Shelby Academy athletics is DeWayne Kervin, who coached the Raiders from 1979-2006 and served as head football coach, athletic director and headmaster most of that time.

“It’s disappointing to me because I spent 28 years there, 25 of them as the headmaster. It was a large part of my life,” Kervin said. “The school had some down times during the time I was there. Nothing that was urgent. Nothing like this last one.”

Looking back on the history of Shelby’s athletic department, numerous state titles have been won, but Kervin is most proud of the teams he built.

“We’re probably remembered for being better than we were. Our athletic image exceeded what we did, and sometimes that can be bad,” Kervin said. “Winning was not the main thing there. The memories of being part of a program that hopefully built some self-esteem and pride in the players is hopefully what stands out. It did to me.”

Shelby became a football dynasty in Kervin’s last decade as head coach, winning more than 80 games and advancing to the championship game five times, winning it all in 1998 and 2006.

Both games stand out to him. Not only was ’98 his first championship, but his oldest son, Jason, led the team at quarterback. The 2006 championship was Kervin’s last varsity game as coach, as he retired weeks before the 2007 season.

In addition to football, another dynasty was on the rise through the past decade on the baseball diamond. Shelby appeared in the state championship game from 2005-2008, winning it all in 2005.

While football and baseball have been perineal powers, basketball captured its third banner (boys’ and girls’) in February.

After Knowles won the girls’ title in 1992, he turned around a decade later to win the boys’ title in 2002. Helping him was assistant coach Kevin Smith, who led the Raiders back to the top five months ago.

Smith, also an alum of Shelby, spent the summer going to basketball team camps and preparing his team for another run at state. Now he’s looking for a job.

“It hurts because we’ve had such a tradition of success athletically and we’ve given a lot of kids, who may not have had a chance to play at other schools, to play and to play for championships.”

Knowles also points out the hidden talent that has come through the school over the years.

“We’ve had some really good athletes come through the school,” he said. “You had a lot of good kids that were D-II players that worked extremely hard.”

Over the years, Shelby Academy, considered an AISA Top 10 program by coaches, has also won state titles in softball, weightlifting and track and field.