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J.J. HICKS: Etowah gets stability it needs with Noles


New Etowah football coach Drew Noles speaks Thursday at an Attalla City Schools Board of Education meeting. (Photo by Marc Golden | Gadsden Times)


COMMENTARY

When Etowah selected Boaz’s Drew Noles to replace Sam McCorkle as the school’s head football coach, a number of factors likely were involved in the decision.

Noles’ success (seven straight playoff appearances), his familiarity (the Pirates and Blue Devils are Class 5A, Region 7 rivals) and his willingness to adapt to his personnel (he won with a run-heavy attack a few years back with Drew Phillips and won last year with a spread offense).

The biggest thing, though, may have been the stability he will bring.

See, Etowah has been through a few rough patches when it comes to head coaches over the past few years, a far cry from how it used to be. From 1987 to 2009, the Blue Devis had just three coaches — Wyman Townsel, Raymond Farmer and Gene Hill. Then, in 2009, they had three coaches in two months.

After a 4-6 season in 2008, Hill resigned from the position on April 9, 2009, after seven seasons and four playoff appearances. The search for his replacement did not exactly go smoothly.

On May 28, 2009, former Benjamin Russell coach Mike McCombs was tabbed as Hill’s successor. Only seven days later, he submitted his resignation, reportedly over disagreements regarding what was promised in his contract.

After the McCombs fiasco, McCorkle, who was a finalist for the job after Hill stepped down, accepted the job on June 11, 2009.

Though he ran the program for four seasons and had success, including three postseason appearances, in this case success did not equal to stability.

Numerous rumors of looking at other jobs followed McCorkle through his tenure at Etowah, including his well-publicized interview for the head coaching job at Russellville in early 2011. He was one of four finalists for the job that went to Michael Jackson.

Then came McCorkle’s resignation, the second consecutive to come in controversial fashion for the man holding the reins of the Blue Devil program.

Upon resigning Jan. 10, McCorkle said that he was forced to step down from the job. Attalla City Schools Superintendant David Bowman denied that, saying the decision was McCorkle’s. Outgoing Etowah principal John Serafini backed up McCorkle’s side of the story, saying the coach was asked to resign by “people above me.”

McCorkle also asserted that he was not receiving much support from the school board.

With so much chaos swirling around such a high-profile job, it seems only natural that Bowman and Serafini, who is retiring and will be replaced by Jeff Colegrove on July 1, would seek somebody who could finally bring a sense of calm to the waters.

Cue Noles.

The new Etowah football leader graduated from Boaz and coached for 22 years at the school, 13 of those as the head coach.

During his time there, the level of success he achieved as both an assistant coach and the spearhead of the program surely meant that other schools noticed and became interested in his services ­— that is just the nature of the beast.

However, Noles stayed loyal. He kept the Pirates stable.

It might be easy to question Noles’ ability to bring stability, seeing as how he just left one job for another, until you consider this — in the coaching profession, 22 years at one place is a long, long time. It means that Noles brings a high level of loyalty to his employers.

To illustrate how difficult it was for Noles to leave his alma mater, even after over two decades, consider this quote from him: “I did not, in any way, look forward to meeting with our team (Thursday morning). In the entire process, that was something I was dreading. I hope that I’ve been more than a football coach on the field to them. They’ve been a huge part of my life and it’s been a blessing for our lives to have crossed paths. I told those young men in Boaz that I will continue to help them in any way I can. Also, I have friends (in Boaz) and I’m going to continue to be friends with those people.”

He also called it the toughest decision he’s ever made. Doesn’t sound like someone who would just up and change jobs every other year, does it?

Sure, his success at Boaz was a drawing point for Etowah. It was likely a drawing point for a number of other jobs that Noles surely received interest from during his time with the Pirates. Still, for 22 years he remained loyal to the Pirates, through good times and bad, through thick and thin.

Someone finally was able to entice Noles away from the place he spent most of his life. All that Etowah asks in return is that he not change, that he stay the same man and coach that he always has been.

That shouldn’t be a challenge for Noles. From now on, don’t expect to be hearing a whole lot about Etowah High School football coaching changes.

The Blue Devils have stability — again.



Times Sports Writer J.J. Hicks can be reached at jj.hicks@gadsdentimes.com.