Quarterback Mikey Rogers (3), right guard Rowell Henderson (64), Jaylin Kemp (56) and Philip Badewa (55).
Private schools in Birmingham have seen traditional success with their football programs. John Carroll Catholic and Briarwood Christian Schools have both won state championships.
While Shades Mountain Christian School probably will never be as large as those schools, new head coach Dickey Wright says the Eagles can be just as successful at the 1A level.
“Shades Mountain could be a 1A goldmine,” said the 60-year-old Wright. “There’s a need for that private 1A school around here. Our school mission is appealing to a lot of people that want their kids to go to a private Christian school. The problem is they’re a real young program that hasn’t had a lot of success. That is and will be a challenge.”
Wright was hired after he retired from the Homewood School System. He coached there from 2006-2010, compiling a record of 25-27 as head coach with one playoff appearance. Now, Wright will be working part-time as the Shades Mountain head coach. He will not be teaching classes; just coaching and trying to build a foundation for the fledgling program.
“I was looking for something part-time to kind of fill that void because I can’t play golf 24 hours a day,” Wright said. “I’m not looking at a certain number of wins. I’m just trying to see if we can go in there and establish consistency and work ethic. If we can do that, I think we can win their fair share of ball games.”
Wright will be working with three part-time assistants, two of which are volunteers. And the team is short on numbers, meaning most players will play both on offense and defense. Quite a change from the large coaching staff he had at Homewood.
“We’re excited about what we see,” Wright said. “Part of what that school can bring to the table is an opportunity for a kid in a small, Christian environment not only to get a good education but also participate in team athletics. If our program can turn the corner and start being successful, I think more kids will come out and play.”
One of Wright’s goals as head coach is to establish consistency across all the athletic programs at Shades Mountain, starting with implementing weight training. Wright came in and stressed the emphasis on strength training, and suddenly all the athletes in the school, from football players to cheerleaders, were on strength training programs.
“We had to tell the kids what a Shades Mountain football player looks like and get them in the right frame of mind where they’ll understand the importance of a consistent work ethic,” Wright said. “Will that equate to wins? Who knows. But we have to start there.”
Although the senior class has been through multiple coaching changes and several years of winning very few games, Wright said some of them are stepping up as leaders of the team.
Senior Phillip Badewa will anchor the offensive and defensive line for the Eagles, alongside fellow senior Daniel Lindsay and junior Jaylon Kemp. Senior quarterback Mikey Rogers had a good spring, according to Wright, and will direct the offense this fall. Junior Billy Parker, who is one of the most versatile players on the team, will spend time at running back, tight end and linebacker. Fellow linebacker Harrison Boozer is one of the standout sophomores.
“Our biggest strength will be our size,” Wright said. “We have pretty good size across the board. We have some linemen bigger than some kids that we had at Homewood which I was pretty shocked by. We need to make sure we use that to our advantage on offense and defense.”
As high school football season rolls around this fall, all the attention in Birmingham will be on schools like Hoover and Vestavia Hills that annually compete for the 6A crown. But for Shades Mountain Christian School and new head coach Dickey Wright, the focus is on setting a foundation that will last for years to come.
“I’ve told our guys that we have to go out there and earn it,” Wright said. “No one’s going to wrap our wins in a package and hand them to us. It’s like building a house, we have to start on the foundation and work our way up. Hopefully we can get the house built and equip it with some nice things inside.”