WAP to field varsity, JV football teams this fall

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 28, 2005

First came the news that West Alabama Prepatory, despite speculation that the school might not be able to remain open for the 2005-2006 school year, would indeed open its doors as scheduled. The school has now decided, as of this week, that it will also field football teams at both the varsity and junior varsity level.

That news will be music to the ears of WAP’s players and supporters, many of whom have been uncertain in recent weeks about the program’s future. WAP’s Board of Directors has also taken the first practical step towards putting a team on the field by appointing coaches for each team. Marshall Murphy has been named interim head coach of the varsity squad and Tommy Yelverton will coach the WAP JV team.

Murphy, the pastor at Demopolis’s First Christian Church, says his commitment to his church precludes him from being considered for the permanent head coaching position. But until WAP is able to hire someone to replace previous head coach Bob Taylor, Murphy is thrilled to be making a difference for the students at WAP.

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“This is my first time coaching. I played high school football for four years and walked on at the University of Georgia, and I’ve loved the game ever since,” he says. “I thought this was a really great opportunity to do some ministry, to show these kids that you can be a Christian and still know how to have fun.”

Murphy said the decision to keep the varsity football program intact was buoyed by the program’s ardent support from the parents of WAP students. It’s a decision, Murphy says, that has gone over extremely well with WAP’s juniors and seniors, who feared the program may not have survived.

“The parents got together with the board and they said that the athletic program was one of the most important aspects of the school,” Murphy says. “The high school boys are thrilled. They thought they might not be able to play their senior years. Our season is dedicated to them. Everybody’s excited… It’s a very instrumental time for the school and I hope we’ll have some football success and the school will have a successful year.”

Whether WAP’s varsity team can find that success on the scoreboard may largely depend on how many players Murphy can find to fill out his roster. While he says the JV team will likely have sufficient players to compete, Murphy admits that the size of his team is a concern of his. Still, he is confident that in the long run the roster will not be a major issue.

“I think as the days come closer to the opening of school, people will realize we are going to have a football team and the numbers will grow,” he says. “I am concerned about putting eighth graders on the field, but if push comes to shove we might not have a choice.”

In the end, Murphy says, the players enjoying their time on the field matters more than earning the victory anyway.

“We want these kids to have a blast. We hope when it’s over they won’t look back at the wins and losses but at the fun they’ve had,” he says. “It’s apparent from the numbers we won’t be a powerhouse, but it’s still a great opportunity to have some fun and play the great game of football.”

That first opportunity will come at midnight Wednesday, when the calendar turns to July 28 and WAP and other AISA schools are allowed to practice. Murphy has arranged for a midnight practice session as an exciting way to kick off what will hopefully become a memorable 2005 campaign for the WAP Titans.

“We just thought it would be a great way to start the season,” Murphy says.