0813 Spain Park
Senior wide receiver Jourdan Walker (3) will look to help the offense reload after losing three-year starting quarterback Nick Mullens.
As Spain Park prepares for the 2013 season, some familiar faces are gone, and some new faces have taken their place. Head coach Chip Lindsey and quarterback Nick Mullens, two mainstays of the program in recent years, have moved on, while Shawn Raney and Mickey Forrest are ready to fill their shoes.
Lindsey accepted an off-the-field assistant job with Gus Malzahn at Auburn after three years of coaching the Jaguars. Mullens, who rewrote the Spain Park record book in his three years as a starter, graduated and will be playing at the University of Southern Mississippi. His 3,649 yards passing and 40 touchdowns with only seven interceptions last season will be hard to replace.
But the Jaguars aren’t reminiscing on seasons past. Raney is busy installing his coaching philosophies in preparation for the season opener on Aug. 30.
“For me as a head coach, I want to be good defensively and run the football,” Raney said. “That’s going to be our identity. I think with our personnel on defense, we have a chance to be pretty good.”
Raney is familiar with Spain Park, albeit as a rival coach. Previously, he served as Hoover’s defensive coordinator. However, Raney said his transition was easy, and he was “shocked” that no one was angry at him for switching sides of the rivalry.
“It was very simple to tell you the truth because it’s the same school system,” Raney said. “The paperwork and all that stuff – I didn’t have to do anything. Basically I just changed where I drove to school each day.”
Changing schools might have been easy, but helping the Jaguars form a new identity without Mullens at the helm might prove to be more difficult. Although the team returns six starters on each side of the ball, some key positions lack experience. Senior Mickey Forrest will be the starter at quarterback this season, coming in with little experience. Jourdan Walker should help with the transition, coming off a big junior season at wide receiver.
“Nick was kind of ‘that guy’ here for the last few years,” Raney said. “We have to set our own identity without him, which will be running the ball and playing defense. They’ve been known around here for slinging the ball and I don’t think we can do that now.”
The defense, which is Raney’s specialty, will be led by two seniors: Devin Pughsley on the defensive line and Austin Haight in the secondary.
The 2013 schedule looks a little different than normal without those pesky Hoover Bucs. Although they are off the schedule this year, Spain Park’s nemesis will be back next year. In its 11 years, Spain Park hasn’t beaten Hoover. If anyone can lead the team to that coveted victory, it’s probably Raney, who knows everything about the Bucs.
“To beat them, Hoover will have to be down, and we’ll have to have one of our best teams,” Raney said. “And then the game will have to go our way. There’s not a huge difference talent-wise. But there’s a big difference depth-wise.”
For now, though, beating Hoover can wait. If the Jaguars can repeat some of their success last year, a Region 4 championship could be within their grasp. Raney’s main objective before the season starts is to gain trust between the players and coaches.
“We’re trying to build trust right now, and I think it’s come a long way since I’ve been here,” Raney said. “It’s tough because they lost a guy they loved in Chip Lindsey. But my favorite thing is just being accepted in the school by the teachers and the other coaches and the kids. I really like the kids here.”
2012 Results: Finished 10-3 as Region 4 champions. Lost in the third round of the playoffs to Carver-Montgomery, ending the season ranked No. 5 in 6A.
Head Coach: Shawn Raney is entering his first season at Spain Park. Previously, he was a successful defensive coordinator at Hoover.
Key Losses: QB Nick Mullens, WR M.J. Brown, WR Cade Hoffman, WR Drake Grisham, DB Je’Niah Jackson, DL Jacob Chaffin, LB Jacob Wolkow.
Key Players: DL Devin Pughsley, QB Mickey Forrest, CB Austin Haight, WR Jourdan Walker.