2016 Shelby County football Coach of the Year
By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor
NORTH SHELBY – One of the toughest things to do in this job is handling the power of choosing a Coach of the Year. It’s hard to turn any of these guys down because they all do such a great job of molding young men’s minds. The decision is a tough one and not one that was taken lightly this year.
There are several coaches that deserve recognition on this season and it starts with Andrew Zow at Calera. He continued the Eagles’ winning ways, leading them to eight wins and four loses as well as a birth in the second round of the playoffs in just his first year at the helm. Brandon Wilcox at Montevallo was also in the running for the award after leading his team to a 9-1 regular season and a second-round playoff appearance in his first season for the Bulldogs.
In the end, however, there’s only one guy who can take home the award of the top coach in the county and this year’s recipient is none other than Briarwood head coach Fred Yancey.
Yancey picked up several accolades during the trek of the 2016-17 football season, including his 250th win at the school. He also led the team to its first undefeated season in region play and first semifinal appearance since the 2011 season.
“I’m a competitor, I don’t make any bones about it,” Yancey said of his accomplishments. “I tell the parents and kids on the front end that we’re playing to win, we’re trying to win. When you don’t win there’s a right way to deal with that and when you do win there’s a right way to deal with that as well.”
Yancey said the commitment for such a successful season started about this time last year.
“What made this season so special was the commitment last winter to be as good as they possibly could be and to become a great team,” he said. “They prepared in spring and summer with the understanding that if they were going to be a great team they would have to work at a high level during that time.”
Yancey also said once the season started, they needed to commit to being competitors against other worthy competitors. That commitment was tested very early on in the season when the Lions traveled to Chelsea to face the Hornets in their season opener, a game they went on to lose 43-15.
“We preach both sides of the coin,” Yancey said. “We never talk about winning being what we demand, we talk about it being the goal. If you lose we always have a plan B because it’s how you handle a loss that defines your season.”
They couldn’t have responded to the loss any more impressively than they did. The Hornets only gave up more than 20 points once the rest of the season (21 to Shelby County) and averaged giving up a mere 10.4 points per game. They also reeled off 12 consecutive wins, which included going undefeated in region play, before falling one game short of a state championship appearance at the hands of a 14-8 loss to Wenonah in the semifinals.
“They went into that game with Chelsea knowing it would be a tough challenge and the season wouldn’t rise or fall on that one game,” Yancey said of his guys’ demeanor. “They had more goals waiting on them than just game one so I was proud of the fact that they responded so quickly.”
On Friday nights we saw the players gain more and more confidence, but it’s the behind the scenes preparations, by not just the players, but the coaching staff to get their guys ready to play that helped the season be so successful.
“The preparation during the week is probably my favorite thing about doing what I do,” Yancey said. “It is so much fun to work with the other coaches to come up with a plan that we think gives us the best chance to win, and then start putting that plan in place with the kids on Monday and then arrive at game time on Friday night knowing that our boys have bought in and are confident in executing the plan. All of that is pretty neat and I almost enjoy practices more than the games.”
He went on to say that’s when they get the opportunity to teach the guys and coach them beyond their “natural ability.”
Yancey made sure to thank his senior class saying, “I’m grateful to have gotten to coach such a great bunch of guys.” He then went on to mention just about every senior on the team and how big of a contributor they were for this bunch of guys and how they’ve motivated younger guys to work even harder.
“This season planted some deep seeds that grew into deep roots for the future,” Yancey said. “The younger kids are going to want to be the next William Grays, Will Baumbachs, Conner Hutsons; they’ll want to be those guys as they come through the pipe.”
Yancey said there is already a lot of excitement surrounding next year’s team and for good reason. Briarwood will return several of its top defenders including leading tackler Gabe Russell, leading safety Carson Donnelley, as well as top linebacker Mark Hand. On the offensive side they’ll get back their leading receiver in Carson Eddy and their leading rusher in JR Tran-Reno.
“The beauty of having a great season is it encourages those younger guys to do something that spectacular or even more,” Yancey said. “They’re already going to it in the weight room and doing the right things to get us ready for spring practice.”
Already preparing his guys for next year shows his determination and passion, which truly has rubbed off on his guys and shows why he is this the 2016 Shelby County Coach of the Year.