College football is just around the corner but the kickoff of the high school football season is even closer. Each year, the signal to the end of summer practice and the beginning of fall camp is marked by the annual High School Media Days.
Here, coaches gather from around east Alabama to update the public on what has been happening with their respective teams throughout the offseason.
This year, Auburn High brought a new head coach to the podium in Keith Etheredge.
“We are glad to be here,” said Etheredge.
Etheredge has had his fair share of success as a football coach. He has spent most of his coaching career at Leeds, where he won 150 games and four state titles. He also had stops at Pell City, T.R. Miller and, most recently, in Oxford, where he went 25-3 and won the 2019 6A state championship.
According to Etheredge, his group has done well handling the coaching transition over the summer.
“They have done a great job of buying into what we are trying to do,” he said.
Players shared Etheredge's take, with an eye toward redemption.
“For me, the transition couldn’t have been smoother,” said Brad Harper, a senior linebacker for the Tigers. "This new group of coaches are empathetic to how we felt last year and we are all hungry to get back to the state championship and finish it the right way."
Last year’s state championship game ended in gut-wrenching fashion for the Tigers, and it was evident that season-ending loss will be a key motivator moving forward into this season.
The Tigers know that there are many steps that have to be taken to get back for another shot at a title.
“You can talk all you want about winning a championship,” said Drew Bobo, senior offensive lineman and son of Auburn offensive coordinator Mike Bobo. “But you have to do the little things it takes to get there.”
Another team that will be looking to improve off of last season will be the Lee-Scott Academy Warriors. Lee Scott went 2-7 last season but had solid wins over Springwood and Valiant Cross.
The Warriors are led by Buster Daniel, who is entering his second year as the Warriors' head coach.
“It was a quick go last year,” said Daniel. “Everybody wants to forget last year and that includes me. In my 27 years of coaching, I have never been through anything like that and don’t want to do that again.”
Daniel also said they went into the season with only two months of workouts but now that they have had a full year, Daniel said you can tell the difference.
“I can leave the room and go into my office and they won’t miss a beat and that says a lot," he said. "They weren’t satisfied with how we played last year and they want to see that turn around and that’s why they went to work while they did.”
“Summer has been great. We have been putting in a lot of work,” said senior Kade Wagoner.
Daniel also reiterated that it doesn’t matter how any teams performed last season because both state championship teams and teams with losing records graduate players, shift staffs, and reset for the new year.
“You will be able to tell the difference on the football field," he said.
For the players, this season means more than just winning on the field. For senior offensive and defensive lineman Jackson Earnhart, his goals include growing closer to his teammates during his final season with the Warriors.
“I think everybody is really excited to bond this year,” he said.
“We are all Warriors,” emphasized Daniel. “These guys have bought in. They understand the offense better, they understand the defense better this year. I’m really excited to see what they are gonna do.”