0714 Shades Mountain football
Shades Mountain Christian’s Billy Parker (44) is a standout on offense and defense.
Every team needs “that kid,” a player who displays heart, leadership or other intangibles — not only under the Friday night lights but also during the sweltering heat of August practices.
“Billy Parker is a hard worker and he’s dependable. The kids really rally around him. He’s kind of a quiet leader and sometimes that’s the best kind. Everybody gravitates toward him.”
-Coach Dickey Wright
Wright way: Eagles should be better in second season of new coaching regime
Shades Mountain Christian School remains in Class 1A, but the Eagles move from Region 6 to Region 5 this season. It’s a far-flung region, with Victory Christian of Pell City, Appalachian, Donoho, Ragland and other east Alabama schools, but that’s the reality of a 1A school in the metro Birmingham area. There just aren’t many of them, especially ones that play football.
Veteran coach Dickey Wright enters his second season guiding the Eagles, who went 2-7 last season on the field. He’s got about 30 players out for football. Most of his better players have to go both ways, but that’s the boat most of his opponents will be in too. Twenty to 24 will play on a given night.
Wright, who was head coach at Homewood for five seasons when the Patriots were in Class 6A and took them to the playoffs, said he actually is enjoying Class 1A football.
“It’s been really fun. It’s a challenge, but these kids have been great. They show up, they work hard. They’re like little sponges. Everything we throw at them they soak it up right away.
“It’s been a long, long time since I coached both sides of the ball, and that’s been fun too.”
After a season with Wright in place and with some key returning players, the Eagles should be better. Staying healthy and focused even if rough times come is critical to improving on their record from a year ago, but the Eagles could be a dark horse to sneak into the playoffs.
“If we do what we’re supposed to do, we’ll be right there among them. Our kids have to learn how to win, that’s what we’re trying to instill right now. If the playoffs come great, but that’s not our focus right now.”
A lot of 7A schools would kill to have a 6-foot-4, 240-pound quarterback. The Eagles have that in Harrison Boozer, who is moving from tight end. A standout pitcher in baseball, Boozer may take some time to develop, but he could be a huge weapon. “He’s worked hard to get better.”
The Eagles bring seven back on offense, and the key guy is running back Billy Parker, who can also play some receiver. Austin Patterson returns as a starter at running back as well. All of the wide receivers are back, Billy Rowell being one of them. Sam Reichle is also back after starting at wide receiver.
Another big body that big schools wouldn’t mind having belongs to Jaylin Kemp (6-2, 290), the returning starter at right tackle. He will anchor the offensive line.
Kemp will also play on the defensive line, and Parker and Patterson will be keys at linebacker along with senior Kyle Nichols, who was ineligible last year but whom Wright said has great promise. Rowell and David Dickinson return in the secondary. “Dickinson had a real good year for us at corner, and both Parker and Patterson had outstanding years at linebacker.”
Wright said the defense has the edge right now in being season-ready, but Boozer hasn’t gotten as much passing work in as he participates in baseball showcases during the summer.
“Really, we’ve got to get better on both sides of the ball,” Wright said. “We started turning the corner a little bit last year and we think that’ll continue.”
Cody Pausic and Boozer return as kicker and punter, respectively. Parker, Patterson, Rowell will be among the return men. This should be a fairly solid area for the Eagles.