A look back
January 4: Williams resigns as Greenville head football coach
Just a few weeks before Greenville High Principal Dr. Kathy Murphy was to make a recommendation to the Butler County Board of Education to retain Mike Williams as head football coach and athletic director, Williams tendered his resignation Friday morning.
After leading Greenville to a 1-9 season in his return to high school coaching for the first time in almost 20 years, Williams said Friday that he has accepted a coaching position at Division I-AA University of Tennessee-Martin.
Williams will serve as assistant head football coach in charge of running backs and special teams under newly hired head football coach Jason Simpson.
Williams returns to the college ranks almost six years after serving as head football coach at Jacksonville State for two and a half seasons. Ironically, Williams will have the opportunity to coach against his former team, which is now within the same conference (Ohio Valley) as UT-Martin.
“I'm sure I'll get a standing ovation when I return there,” he joked.
Before coming to Jacksonville State, Williams served as an assistant for six years at Southern Mississippi.
Even after Williams submitted his resignation less than two weeks before the Butler County Board of Education's scheduled meeting,
Murphy said that she “remains hopeful” to make a recommendation for a new head football coach and athletic director at Greenville by the January board meeting.
“Coach Williams did an outstanding job for us as interim head football
coach,” Murphy said in a statement released to the Advocate. “He brought much needed discipline and structure to our football program. Mike Williams is a man of integrity, and I wish him the best as he moves to a new position.”
Williams said his decision was based strictly on the fact that he wanted to get back into coaching at the collegiate level.
“It was something that I have missed,” Williams said. “The challenge of college football is much greater, and I enjoy those challenges.”
Williams said he's feels that he's leaving the Greenville football program in much better shape than when he took on the job on an interim basis just five weeks before the season started.
“I think the program has been left in great shape,” he said. “The kids have responded positively to what we've been trying to accomplish, and I believe they will continue to do that.”
Williams said that assistant coaches Matt Coghlan and David Hartman will continue to work with the players during morning and afternoon sessions of weight training until a new football coach is hired.
Williams met with his players and the coaches Thursday afternoon to deliver the news before submitting his resignation Friday morning.
“Part of the meeting yesterday was to encourage them to continue forward and stay focused,” Williams said. “Coaching is a big part of the program, but the program is going to be successful because of the players. I wanted them to be aware that every day they miss, that there's a Rehobeth or somebody getting a step ahead of them.”
January 28: Vincent hired as the new Greenville High football coach
Without a hint of reservation, the Butler County Board of Education unanimously approved the hiring of former Spain Park High offensive coordinator Bryant Vincent to become Greenville High's new head football coach and athletic director during a special-called meeting on Tuesday.
Vincent, who will be the Tigers' third coach in less than a year, takes over for interim coach Mike Williams. Williams resigned and removed his name for consideration for the position two weeks ago when he was hired to become assistant head football coach at Division I-AA University of Tennessee-Martin.
“I hope this town is ready for the things to come,” he told those attending the meeting Tuesday. “We are going to put Greenville on the map. We will rebuild this program to where it needs to be.”
Vincent takes over a football program that has won just two games in the last two seasons and has not been to the playoffs in three years.
Vincent, 30, said that he hopes to be on campus fulltime by Feb. 6.
“It's going to be tough between now and then. Š These kids need me,” he said. “It's time to get down here and get to work.”
The first item of business for the Tiger football team will be to introduce the players to Vincent's weight-training regimen, which he patterned from Louisiana State University's football program. And then Vincent said that he is shooting for the start of spring practice around the last week of April.
“Where we are right now with that is trying to find a spring game,” he said. “Someone who will come to Greenville. I've already been on the phone trying to find (an opponent).”
Should Vincent find an opponent, he said that he's looking for a spring game to be played around the second or third week of May.
Last week Vincent said that he would like to see a majority of the current coaching staff stay on board, while he may recommend the hiring of some more coaches on his staff. Some of these coaches, like Matt Coughlan, are working with their third head coach in less than a year.
“I think we are a lot better of than we were,” the Tigers defensive coordinator said. “We've got plenty of time to get things moving in the right direction. We have a young guy who is obviously very motivated, and I think he'll be with us until we get this thing done where it's supposed to be.”
The support Vincent has been given starts right at the top of the ladder within the mayor's office of the city of Greenville.
“I'm very impressed with the person, not necessarily the coach, but the person, and I think that's what you got to start with,” said Greenville Mayor Dexter McLendon who attended Tuesday's reception for Vincent. “His passion for the game is real strong, and I think we'll outcoach and outwork a lot of people this next fall.”
February 8: Fort Dale Lady Eagles ease past Monroe for area tournament title
It wasn't supposed to be this easy. Or was it?
The Alabama Independent School Association's No. 2-ranked Fort Dale Academy Lady Eagles rolled through their area unscathed and untested to claim the regular season area championship.
So would it be nothing but a formality for Fort Dale (23-3) to earn a spot in the AISA Regional tournament at Huntingdon College later this week?
Fort Dale easily dispatched Hooper Academy in the semifinals and then just rolled to a convincing 58-26 victory over Monroe Academy to add another area tournament title trophy to an already full girls basketball trophy case at Fort Dale.
“We had already beaten these teams twice already, so we talked about how hard it is to beat a team three times in a season,” Lady Eagles coach Reggie Mantooth said. “But I didn't think they would come this easy. It's a great accomplishment for our girls.”
The game was over really before it every could begin.
Fort Dale took a commanding 20-4 lead after the first period thanks to tournament most valuable player Frances Watts pouring in 12 of her 14 points in the period, including three 3-pointers.
“We wanted to come out early and get them down early, and that's what we were able to do,” Mantooth said. “We were ready to play tonight, and it showed earlier today during our walkthrough.”
The Lady Eagles, who will face Lee-Scott Academy in the AISA Regional Tournament, just kept pouring it on in the second before taking a comfortable 35-8 lead at intermission.
All Monroe Academy coach Ricky Raines could do was just sit and watch his team struggle from the opening tap.
“I was proud that my girls were able to just hang in there with them,” Raines said. “Most teams they have played couldn't even do that.”
With the tournament title in hand by intermission, Mantooth began to freely substitute to give his younger players more time on the court before cruising to a 32-point victory.
Morgan Pouncey and Maryanne Hancock were also named to the All-Tournament team.
February 15: McKenzie Lady Tigers capture area tournament title
It's all about having fun.
And right now, the McKenzie Lady Tigers are having a ball.
McKenzie fought off an early deficit to regain its lead and hold onto it for the remainder of the game to win the Class 1A, Area 3 tournament championship by posting its second win over J.F. Shields in the school's history Saturday night.
The Lady Tigers (19-7) advance to the 1A sub-regionals to host Frisco City, which lost to McIntosh, 102-50, at 7 p.m. Thursday.
“We are just having fun now,” McKenzie coach Cindy Lowe said. “We reached our goal by winning the area and beating J.F. Shields, Florala and Pleasant Home.”
Success is something new for McKenzie girls basketball. Before this season, the Lady Tigers had never had a winning basketball season. Last season was their best in school history when it reached the .500 mark.
So with every win, it just means a new entry in the McKenzie girls basketball history book.
“I had a former player of mine see me one day and she was so excited that we beat Pleasant Home,” Lowe said. “What these girls are doing and have done right now, I think means more to my former players than it does them. My former players understand how bad it was to lose to those teams all the time.”
J.F. Shields raced out to an early first-period lead before Lowe could even make a double-take at the scoreboard.
After a quick timeout, McKenzie settled down, regrouped and took the lead away from the Lady Panthers and never relinquished it for the remainder of the game.
McKenzie took a narrow 22-20 lead after the first eight minutes and then pushed ahead for a 41-33 advantage at intermission.
“We expected them to pressure us more and play more of a man-to-man defense all night, but we never saw it,” Lowe said. “They just laid back, and we took it to them.”
LaSha Pitts poured in 12 of her 20 points in the first half to lead the Lady Tigers.
Then Amber Rudolph came alive in the second half for McKenzie and netted 10 of her 17 points in the second half.
J.F. Shields made another comeback attempt in the third period by outscoring the Lady Tigers 16-12 to cut the deficit to four points. But McKenzie bounced right back to outscore the Lady Panthers 20-16 in the fourth to salt the victory away.
Carrena Davison led McKenzie with a game-high 22 points.
McKenzie now turns its attention to Area 1 runner-up Frisco City. The Lady Whippets have used their outside shooting to reach the sub-regional, while packing in a tight zone defense.
“We are going to have to work on our zone offense and hope to get the ball inside to have a chance,” Lowe said.
April 1: Brown returns to alma mater as head football coach at McKenzie
Miles Brown never even entertained the thought of being a head football coach. He had served as an interim head coach before and that was as close to running his own football program that Brown wanted.
That all changed when the citizens and supporters of McKenzie School reached out and asked that he return to his alma mater to rebuild a struggling football program.
Brown answered the community's plea, and Thursday night the Butler County Board of Education approved Superintendent Mike Looney's recommendation to bring one of McKenzie's own back home.
“My heart has always been with McKenzie,” Brown said. “It was an opportunity, and I couldn't close a door on my heart.”
Brown takes over for interim head football coach Timothy Moorer, who stepped in when David Kirkland resigned as head coach midway through the season last year. Brown, who still lives in McKenzie, served as offensive coordinator at Pleasant Home for the last three seasons.
If there is anyone who believes that Brown can be successful at McKenzie it is new Greenville head football coach Bryant Vincent, who was also trying to recruit Brown to join his football staff.
“He's extremely organized and a hard worker,” Vincent said. “He's a student of the game. It was a no-brainer to try to hire him.”
While McKenzie has seen a whirlwind of turnover at the head football coaching position, Brown said that he hopes the day of consistent turnover at the Class 1A school is over.
“I'm there as long as they want me to be there,” he said. “I want to bring stability to the program and establish pride. I want those school colors to mean something.”
In fact Brown got to work on stressing the school's colors over the last couple of weeks by repainting the field house and making other improvements to the fieldhouse.
“I have a lot of love for that school,” he added. “I hope I can spread that love over to the boys, and they, in turn, can bring pride back to the school.”
Greg Griffin, vice president for the McKenzie Quarterback Club, said that he was impressed with Brown's enthusiasm and determination to succeed.
“I am extremely pleased with the hiring of Coach Brown and excited about the future of our football program,” Griffin said. “(He) is a devoted family man and dedicated and caring educator and coach.”
Before his three-year stint at Pleasant Home, Brown served as interim coach at Sweet Water High in 2001 before current head coach Stacy Luker took over the program.
Vincent said that he expects tremendous support from the McKenzie community now that it has one of their own to lead the football program.
“He's always loved McKenzie,” Vincent said. “He has a lot of pride in that school, and to me, that says a lot about what kind of person he is. The community now needs to get behind him and support him and those kids whether it be through the good times or the bad.”
April 29: Ennis resigns as Georgiana head football coach
After leading the Georgiana Panthers to a 4-6 season in his first year as head coach, Greg Ennis submitted his letter of resignation to Principal Keith York Monday.
Ennis said he has a job offer from another school, but would not disclose where it is because the school board had not yet approved his hiring.
Ennis said he felt it was in the best interests of everybody for him to move on.
“I don't think either of us was real happy,” said Ennis of the situation between him and the school district. “There was no indication made to me that I was doing a bad job, I just feel like the people of Georgiana deserve a little bit more than what they're getting here.”
Ennis indicated he was frustrated with what he perceived as the school system's slow response to the athletic and other facilities at Georgiana High School.
“We still don't have running water or plumbing in the field house and every time you do anything to fix it, it gets stopped abruptly,” he said. “There's nowhere for a child to take a shower at Georgiana High School and there's nobody trying to do anything about it any more.”
Ennis also said the bleacher and football field renovations have ceased and that he is frustrated that he's continually been told that work would resume and it hasn't.
Mike Looney, Superintendent of Education for the Butler County School system said he agrees improvements and repairs need to be made at Georgiana High, just as they do throughout the rest of the system, and he and the board are working diligently to complete them, but it will take time.
“We all understand that Georgiana has significant facilities needs,” Looney said. “Complications relating to the stadium renovation delayed progress, but is back on schedule. The bleacher project is expected to be complete in time for next season.
While the bleacher project will address some of the facilities issues, much remains to be done to bring Georgiana High School up to standard.
“The simple truth is that some of our buildings are old, damaged, and termite infested beyond repair.”
Ennis agreed that what needs to be done at Georgiana High is a daunting project.
“It's not like this place got this way overnight. I'm sure everyone who is concerned has taken a tour of the school and if they haven't that's their fault,” he said.
Looney said the district is already in the process of searching for Ennis' replacement.
“The process of finding a highly qualified replacement for Coach Ennis is already underway,” he said. “We are working to find a coach that is skilled on the field and one of strong character that will provide the guidance our boys need. I am confident that we will find a high caliber coach.”
April 29: Fort Dale girls win second straight state tennis title
After winning the Alabama Independent Schools Association girls state tennis championships last year, head coach Johnny Mack Brown set his sights on winning four in a row. Well, after year two, he and his Lady Eagles are halfway there after winning their second state title Tuesday, splitting the championship with Lee-Scott Academy. Both teams ended up with 16 points each.
“It's an unusual feeling that I've never had before, but I'll take it,” said a smiling Brown after the trophy presentation. “We had so many chances to win it outright.”
Lee-Scott and Fort Dale battled in several head-to-head matches over the two-day tournament at Lagoon Park and in the end it came down the girl's doubles matches for the outright title. Lee-Scott had to win both doubles matches to split the title and they pulled it off winning 6-4, 6-3 over Tuscaloosa Academy in the girl's number one match and beating the Lady Eagles' team of Kayla Butts and Elizabeth Dunklin 6-3, 6-2 in the girls' number two match.
“They did what they had to do to win,” said Lee-Scott head coach Kathy Barrett, who is in her second year of coaching the Lady Warriors. Fort Dale has a fantastic tennis program and they're always strong.”
Brown said it was obvious Lee-Scott and Fort Dale were the two strongest girls teams on the court.
“We only lost one set to another team, so these teams were definitely the best teams out here,” he said.
For FDA, in girl's no. two singles play, Whitney Jacks won the state title with a 6-4, 6-4 win over Morgan's Carrie Glover. In girl's no. three play, Kayla Butts lost in the final match 6-2, 7-5 to Lee-Scott's Austill Barrett. In girl's no. four play, Elizabeth Dunklin won the title with a 6-4, 6-4 win over Lee-Scott's Amory Scott.
In girl's no. five play Renee Scott was a 6-1, 6-0 winner of Springwood's Hannah Smith. Fort Dale's no. one singles team of Janie Mullins and Whitney Jacks dropped their second round match to Tuscaloosa's team of Hannah Notaro and Sina Kuhn 7-5, 7-5.
Next year's version of the Lady Eagles should contend again for the state title, especially with Lee-Scott graduating three seniors and Fort Dale bringing back four girls who were freshmen this year.
After cruising through her early matches 6-0, 6-0 and 6-0, 6-2, Fort Dale's lone senior, Janie Mullins, lost her number one singles championship match to Lee-Scott's Hannah Fisher 2-6, 6-3, 6-4, but said the second straight team championship is great, even if they have to share the title with the Warriors.
“I can't complain,” said the soft spoken Mullins. “It feels really great, but it would feel better if we would have won it outright.”
Mullins said during her years playing competitive tennis for the Lady Eagles that effort was what mattered most.
“I always thought to myself to play my best and no matter whether I won or lost, the outcome wouldn't matter,” she said.
And her advice to those returning to try from three in a row?
“Give it your all and even if you start losing, fight back.”
June 7: Mixon promoted as Georgiana head football coach
Donald Ray Mixon was approved Monday night by the Butler County Board of Education to be the next head football coach at Georgiana High School.
“I'm excited (about this opportunity) and I'm ready to get started,” Mixon said.
Mike Looney, Butler County Board of Education Superintendent, said Mixon came highly recommended from both outgoing Georgiana principal Keith York and the new principal Joseph Dean. Looney also said the Board was enthusiastic about the new approval.
“Mr. York, along with Mr. Dean, both felt extremely comfortable with the recommendation of coach Mixon,” Looney said. “He brings stability to the program and he is great with the kids.”
Dean, who will begin his first year at Georgiana High, agreed.
“I'm confident it will be an easy transition since he has served in this capacity all spring,” Dean said. “The players are comfortable with coach Mixon and I'm trying to put some stability back into the program.”
“I'm going to bring stability to the program and excitement and intensity to the practices and the games,” Mixon said. “We will have a lot of energy.”
Both Dean and Looney also described Mixon as a young, energetic coach who is willing to make a commitment to both his players and the community.
“Coach Mixon is well known in the community and the people here respect him,” Looney said.
If it is up to Mixon, he will be at Georgiana a long time.
“Coaches come and go and we want coaches who want to be here and who want to stay,” Mixon said.
Mixon wasted no time getting started by starting summer workouts Tuesday.
Mixon will begin his fifth year at Georgiana High and replaces Gregg Ennis, who resigned to take the head football coach position at Opp following a 4-6 record last season at the helm of the Panthers.
n July 27: Greenville Dixie Youth team advances to State Tournament
The Greenville Dixie Youth All-Star team will take the field this weekend in the State Tournament in Montgomery as the only All-Star team left playing from the city.
After finishing second to Luverne in the Sub-District Tournament, the Greenville Dixie Youth All-Stars swept its way through the District Tournament to claim the championship by defeating Luverne in the final game Wednesday night, 1-0.
Skylar McKeown and Stephen Till combined to throw a no-hitter in the championship game while only allowing five batters to reach base.
Greenville didn't have a huge night at the plate either, only scattering three hits, but it got the only run it needed when it counted.
Hunter Armstrong got the fourth inning started by reaching base on an error and eventually scored on a couple of passed balls.
At the plate for Greenville, Cody Tesmer, Briar Kirby and McKeown each scattered a single while Armstrong scored the only run.
For Luverne, no batter had a hit or a walk, although Lewis reached base when he was hit by a pitch in the third inning.
McKeown earned the win with five strikeouts and Till picked up the save also with five strikeouts. Sexton picked up the loss for Luverne.
As District Champions, Greenville will now advance to the State Tournament in Montgomery. Opening ceremonies will take place July 28 with the opening games taking place July 29.
The team will take part in opening ceremonies Friday by visiting Old Alabama Town at 4:30 p.m., and the will tour the Montgomery Biscuits' Riverwalk Stadium at 6 p.m.
“I think the boys are more excited about (visiting Riverwalk) than they are the tournament,” head coach Chuck Armstrong said jokingly.
The tournament, which will take place at Thompson Park, will consist of 12 teams from every corner of the state.
Two of the teams Armstrong said should be strong in the tournament are AUM and Montgomery American.
“They both have a history of winning World Series' and they play good baseball,” Armstrong said.
Greenville opens the double-loss elimination tournament with Moulton at 6 p.m. Saturday.
“We are going to have to wake our bats up because pitching has pulled us through this far,” Armstrong said.
Gregg Fuller, Greenville Parks and Recreation Athletic Director, agreed with Armstrong and said three things must happen for Greenville to take the state championship.
“Their hitting has to come around, pitching has to hold up and they must get more innings from all their pitchers,” Fuller said. “In the bigger tournaments, you have to go deeper into the pitching rotation.”
Jerome Harris, Greenville Parks and Recreation Director, said this Greenville team has a chance to do something no other Greenville Dixie Youth team has ever done: win a state championship.
“We've been playing Dixie Youth baseball here in Greenville for 50-55 years and have never had a team make it to the state,” Harris said. “I'm very proud of what the kids have achieved because didn't (anybody) expect us to do what we have done.”
The City of Greenville is so proud of its state-bound Dixie Youth All-Star that the city will hold a cookout for the team Thursday at 6:30 at the baseball fields, Harris said. Harris is also hoping to have Mayor Dexter McLendon come out and speak to the players.
No matter if the team loses or wins the State Tournament, Armstrong said the coaches, parents and community should be proud of what this team has accomplished.
“We're extremely proud of them,” Armstrong said. “We're in unchartered waters now where the kids have a chance to make history in Greenville.”