Taylor on board as new head coach at Sumter Academy

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 12, 2005

15 years ago, Bob Taylor took the field for the Sumter Academy football team as a graduating senior. Taylor will take the field again in 2005, but this time as head coach for an Eagles program in flux and in need of leadership.

It’s an challenge Taylor says he can’t wait to face.

“I’m glad to be home,” he said after a long practice session Wednesday afternoon. “We’ve got a long way to go, but we’ll get there.”

Despite Taylor’s obvious connection to the school, his road to its head coaching position has taken more turns than might have been expected. After serving as assistant coach on the Sumter Academy staff for several years, Taylor accepted the head coaching position at Lakeside Academy in 2002 before coming to Demopolis two years later to take over the head job at West Alabama Preparatory.

During the summer period of uncertainty at WAP regarding its football program, Taylor accepted an assistant coaching position at Marengo Academy. Taylor had been at Marengo for three days of the 2005 season when he was approached by the Sumter board with the news that previous Eagle head coach Cecil Wallace had been unexpectedly dismissed. The job was Taylor’s, he was told, if he wanted it.

“I’m really pleased they called. I’ve been offered the job before, but the timing wasn’t right,” Taylor says. “I felt like it was right this time, though. I don’t know why. It just felt right. Everything just fell into place.”

Taylor thanked the administration and staff at Marengo for being “gracious enough” to allow him to accept the Sumter position despite his previous commitment to the Longhorns program for 2005.

“I have a lot respect for them for that decision,” he says.

But with AISA practices already well underway across the state by the time he re-arrived at Sumter–his first Eagles practice was last Monday–Taylor faces an uphill battle to have his team ready for their first game, a road contest against Cornerstone August 26. But he does have some advantages, most notably his team’s work ethic and his own familiarity with the program and its players. Taylor laughs as he says he impressed one Sumter supporter by still being able to point out the location of the football field’s sprinkler-heads, and adds that Sumter’s seniors and juniors were already in school when he was coaching Sumter earlier in the decade.

“I don’t even have to get to know all the kids,” he says. “Things have changed a little bit, but there’s a lot of haven’t changed…I still know the people I need to talk to when things need to get done. Some things have changed. Some haven’t.”

One of the things that will change under Taylor’s regime is the Eagles’ offensive system. With a whole new series of plays and play-calls to learn, and a limited number of days to do it in, the Eagles have been putting in plenty of hours on the practice field this week.

“We’re installing a whole new system, their first new one in five years,” Taylor says. “We’ve got a long way to go right now. But they’re asking questions. They want to learn. That’s why we’ve been out here from 3 to 7 today…we’re going to get it right.”

The most important thing for Taylor to instill in his team, he says, is a sense of responsibility and self-respect in themselves and in the school they will represent on the gridiron this fall.

“It’s about restoring pride in our school and our program,” he says. “We’re seeing that now with the new field house, and the kids picking up trash on the fields… I’ve been real pleased so far. They’re all looking for how to get better. They’re learning how to work again.”