By Blake Ells
Fred Yancey has been coaching football for almost 50 years; his first team was in 1969, right after college.
Being named Over the Mountain Journal Coach of the Year is certainly not the first time the Briarwood Christian legend has been recognized for his leadership, but the accolades never get old.
“It means that we’ve had a great season,” said Yancey. “As coaches, we’re at the mercy of 16-year-old boys and how good they play football. When I get an honor like this, it means that the group I just coached did a terrific job.”
Each team he’s led over the past half century has its own character, and Yancey can recall each of them, from the state championship winners of yesteryear to the runners-up of 2017.
“If you point to a year, I can tell you the highs and some of the disappointments of any of those years,” said Yancey. “This was the smartest team I’ve ever coached. I think out of our senior class, 13 out of 19 of these boys are on the honor society. A slew of juniors and sophomores are very good students, also. This was a bumper crop of smart young men who are really serious about doing things the right way and having a special season.”
There’s a fraternity of coaches Over the Mountain, even if they don’t all compete in the same region or classification. Yancey and Buddy Anderson are the elder statesmen, but they both still learn from and rely on their younger peers.
“They’re all friends,” said Yancey. “I lean on them from time to time. We have a lot in common, and they give me good wisdom and advice. I’ve learned every year from coaches that I rub shoulders with, and the coaches in this group are no exception.”
The Old Ways
The young dogs don’t have many new tricks, though. New tricks don’t really exist in football, Yancey assured.
“I don’t think there are any new tricks,” said Yancey. “It’s really a matter of learning which tricks would be good for this particular team. We tweak every year with our eye on getting this particular bunch the best stuff we can. And sometimes, we go back to some real old stuff, because we know that if this group can handle it, it would be really tough to defend or a great thing to do.”
Technology and equipment have changed, but the old ideas are tried and true. Yancey said teams are reverting to old tackling practices.
“We’re teaching kids how to tackle now better than we have in my coaching life,” said Yancey. “And the way we’re teaching them how to tackle now is how I was taught in eighth grade – shoulder tackling, tackling on the legs, that type of thing. It’s a safety factor and we really believe that it’s more of a sure tackle. At some point in the ‘70s, we went to more of a face-up, club-em, hit em with your head, try to knock em out tackling high. But I think we’ve come back to the better way and a safer way.”
The Lions have a lot returning and they’ll begin preparing for 2018 in May. It will be Yancey’s 49th season as a football coach.
2017 All-OTM High School Football Team
Quarterback: Hamp Sisson, Mountain Brook
Running Backs: D’aire Johnson, Spain Park; Larry McCammon, Hoover; J.R. Tran-Reno, Briarwood.
Offensive Line: Will Carothers, Mountain Brook; Jacob Feenker, Oak Mountain; Michael Maye, Hoover; Jayme Simmons, Spain Park; Anderson Tomlin, Mountain Brook; Cydrick Walker, John Carroll.
Tight End: Clay Stearns, Mountain Brook.
Wide Receivers: Tyshawn Buckner, Homewood; Wilson Higgins, Mountain Brook; Shedrick Jackson, Hoover; George Pickens, Hoover.
Place Kicker: Barret Pickering, Hoover.
Defensive Line: Joe Bird, Mountain Brook; Rob Cook, Spain Park; Blake Hester, Spain Park; Antoine McGhee, Homewood; Cedric Toosen, Spain Park.
Linebackers: Nick Belt, Mountain Brook; Mark Hand, Briarwood; Isaiah Hubbard, Hoover; Gabriel Russell, Briarwood; Colton Yeager, Mountain Brook.
Defensive Backs: Will Brooks, Vestavia; Chase Brown, Hoover; C.D. Daniels, Homewood; Jonathan Hess, Vestavia; Zach Nelson, Oak Mountain; Andrew Sherod, Briarwood; Kris Wilkens, Homewood.
Punter: Will Reichard, Hoover.
Members of the OTMJ All-OTM Team are selected by votes cast by the head football coaches at Briarwood, Homewood, Hoover, John Carroll, Mountain Brook, Oak Mountain, Spain Park and Vestavia.