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Coaches Corner#039; deemed a success

During what has become an annual event on Tuesday, the Greenville Kiwanis Club hosted "Coaches' Corner" during their luncheon meeting at the Greenville Area YMCA.

"This gives us an opportunity to bring all the high school varsity head football coaches together and allow them to freely preview how they feel their teams will be this year," said Allen Stephenson, emcee for the annual event. "It also gives the community an opportunity to meet with the coaches in a relaxed atmosphere, and ask them questions about the teams, schedules, and each coach's forecast for the season."

The luncheon, co-sponsored by the Greenville Area Chamber of Commerce, had a record number of people in attendance this year, and extra tables were required to accommodate the numbers.

With only one of Butler County's five schools returning with a veteran head coach, that being Coach "Speed" Sampley, at the helm for three years at Fort Dale Academy, the atmosphere was extremely inquisitive, to say the least.

Sampley, whose school record for the last two years is an impressive 14 wins, nine losses, said his team is steadily preparing for their first game of the season, when they host Pike Liberal Arts on Aug. 24.

"We have 80 players in the football program this year," Sampley said. "Although we have six starters returning to the team this year, we have a young team, and so several tenth graders are going to have to start."

Sampley said that although originally apprehensive about a building constructed in a clay bank, his school's new athletic field house facility was nearly completed, and he invited all to come and see it.

"Our field house has turned out really nice, and I am proud of it," Sampley said.

Next up in the "hot seat" was McKenzie's new head coach, Shane Smothers.

"This is my first year as head coach for a school," Smothers said. "I was at Russellville last year, and was coaching at Parrish in 1998 when we were defeated by Brantley at the State Championships."

Smothers said that when he was allowed to practice his team the first time, he started them out at 12:01 a.m.

"We held a midnight madness' practice," Smothers said. "Lasting for about four hours, we had the entire team on the field for practice at midnight on the first day n they loved it n it was something new and exciting to them."

Smothers said he even had several parents in attendance for the first session.

"We had about 20 parents there n when we broke up at around 4 a.m. n and we were back out at practice after a 6 a.m. breakfast, practicing most of the day n the team is really eager to play," he said.

Next up, Charles Oswald, head coach for Greenville Academy took the podium.

Coming to the Tornados from South Sumpter (Fla.) High School, Oswald was a product of the Greenville school system, having graduated from Greenville High in 1959.

"We first met as a team on July 30," Oswald said. "I think we should do well, because the team only graduated four seniors this year," he said. But like Sampley, Oswald said youth is going to impact his team.

"Although we have a primarily young team, the boys have worked out all summer long, and are very strong n from all indications they have made much improvement over last year," Oswald said.

After Oswald, Alvin Briggs, Greenville's new head coach and athletic director, spoke to the crowd.

"Coach Briggs comes to Greenville as a returning Tiger," Stephenson said. "He was a letterman for four years at GHS, then he went on to Auburn University, where he again went into the record books with impressive statistics.

"Alvin was the first player in Auburn history to play on two Southeastern Conference (SEC) Championship teams, in both 1983 and 1987," Stephenson said. "Following his play on the plains, Alvin went on to Dallas to play for the Cowboys before taking an assistant coaching position at the University of North Alabama (UNA), where he twice took his team to National Champion status."

Briggs said while his initial goal is right before him with football season two weeks away, he intends to concentrate on all areas of athletics at Greenville High.

"There is no reason why Greenville should not be successful in all its athletic programs," Briggs said. "And that is what I intend to build upon."

Briggs said he was felt destined to come back to Greenville, but was pleased also with where he had been.

"I was satisfied that I was able to play at the levels I did, both at Auburn and in the National Football League (NFL) during the legendary Coach Landry's final year with the Dallas Cowboys n now I want to help others realize their potential, and recognize their dreams," Briggs said. "We are holding scrimmage games on both Friday and Saturday night (Aug. 17 and 18), and I invite the fans to come out and watch our team," Briggs said.

Finally, the newest head coach in Butler County took his turn to speak.

Rico White, new head coach for the Georgiana Panthers, started with his team only last Monday, having been hired late following the vacancy created when Keith York took a position at Hillcrest-Evergreen High School.

"The one thing I have noticed, is that my team has an excellent attitude," White said. "They are willing to work hard to achieve their goals, and right now, that is our first game of the year, when we play at home against McKenzie on Aug. 31."

White brought two new coaches in with him.

"Coach Danny Day joined us as defensive coordinator, after coaching for 30 years at Aliceville High School," White said. "And we also have James Rutherford, coming from Choctaw County High School. Coach Rutherford, after coaching three years, took Choctaw County to an impressive 10-2 season record last year."

White said he also has Mike Campbell returning to the Panthers this year.

"Coach Campbell is super," he said. "Until this week, he was the only one there with the boys."

Following the program, all five coaches remained to speak to the crowd "one-on-one" and answer any questions asked of them.