By Rubin E. Grant
The curtain came down on Sean Calhoun’s first season as Vestavia Hills’ head football coach last Thursday.
The Rebels shut out Shades Valley 17-0 at the Mounties’ Frank Nix Stadium to close their 2021 season with three consecutive victories.
Calhoun completed his first season following legendary Rebels coach Buddy Anderson with the same 4-6 record Anderson had in his 43rd and final season, in 2020.
The challenging first season flew by quickly for Calhoun.
“It seems like I just got here in January and now the season is over,” he said. “It has been a learning experience, definitely. With me as head coach, it was challenging, getting everything in order and taking over the program.
“We definitely could have won a couple more games, but I have loved every minute of it, progressing professionally, spiritually, mentally and physically. It covered every emotion.”
Calhoun said he didn’t feel any pressure following a legendary coach.
“When the season starts, all that stuff goes out the window,” he said. “It’s time to do what you do and not concern yourself with whoever came before you. But you do want to put a good product on the field and uphold all the tradition Buddy established and the foundation he laid, but at the same time, you want to carve out your own ground.”
Calhoun had minimal communication with Anderson during the season.
“I might see him some on Thursdays, but he let me do my own thing,” Calhoun said.
Calhoun said there were highs and lows throughout the season as the Rebels failed to advance to the state playoffs.
“The biggest joy has been being around the kids and this coaching staff,” he said. “Wins are fantastic. The ultimate reason you play sports is to win. The win against Shades Valley was a great way for these seniors to go out.”
Finding Their Footing
The Rebels stumbled out of the gate, losing their first four games and six of their first seven before finishing with victories against Spain Park (37-6), Gadsden (21-14 in overtime) and Shades Valley.
“The biggest disappointment is two-fold: not making the playoffs, plus I don’t have more time with this senior class,” Calhoun said. “I really like this senior group, seeing them become better football players and better people. You’re with the kids every single day and after that last game you don’t see them as much.”
Vestavia Hills competed in Class 7A, Region 3, regarded as the toughest region in the state, featuring powerhouses Hoover (10-0), Thompson (9-1) and Hewitt-Trussville (8-2). The Rebels lost to each of them while finishing 3-4 in the region.
Calhoun appreciated the competition.
“It pushes you as a coach to be your best,” he said. “You have to do your homework to be prepared when you show up on Friday night. You have to get the kids prepared and believe in what you’re doing because you’re going up against good football teams.
“At the end of the day, they might have better players than you – you see that at every level of sports – and they might make one or two more better plays than you and that could be the difference in the game. I learned a lot from playing in this region and I am better for it.”
Calhoun already is looking ahead to next season.
“I definitely think we’re laying down something to build on here,” he said. “We’re nowhere near where I want us to be, but I like the direction we’re going, and I can see the progress we’ve made.
“We’re going to get there and have the kind of program we would like to have. This senior class has laid an awesome foundation. We’re going to continue to work hard every day to get better because that’s the only thing I know to do.”