GUEST COLUMN: Middle school football program creates successful high school program

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 2, 2007

DEMOPOLIS &8212; Mention 6A football in the state of Alabama and the one word response is similar from most coaches and fans of high school football: Hoover.

But trying to follow the Hoover model to build a successful program simply isn&8217;t realistic for most school districts when you consider Hoover has one of the highest funded school systems in the state.

However, under Coach Bill Clark, Prattville High School has built one of the most envied programs in the state, second only to Hoover. Moreover, it might surprise you to know that Prattville High School is one of 14 schools in the Autauga County School System, a system that received an &8220;F&8221; on its State Board of Education School Report Card in 2004-05 for locally collected revenue for public schools.

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So lack of funding is not an excuse for not developing quality programs and providing first rate facilities for the benefit of our students.

Since arriving at Prattville in 1999, here is some of what Coach Clark has accomplished:

-Prattville High School (77-10) 7 Year Record

-Region 4 Champions 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005

-Prattville High School Undefeated Regular Seasons 2001, 2003, 2004, 2005

-Prattville High School Quarter-Finals 2001, 2003, 2005

-Prattville High School Semi-Finals 2002

-Prattville High School 13-1 2nd State 2004,

-6A Coach of the Year 2004

But the accomplishments do not end on the field. Prattville has done a lot off the field, and Coach Clark will be the first to share credit with the administration, assistant coaches and the community. The stadium is currently being renovated.

New artificial turf was installed for the 2005 season. The plan is for the work to be completed in three phases. There will be a good bit of cosmetic work, new sidewalks, landscaping and irrigation. There also will be improvements such as more seating and additional bathrooms and better dressing room for the teams.

Football was first played at Pratt Park in 1947. The stadium was built in 1957 and has a capacity of about 7,000. The home stands will hold about 4,000, and the visitors&8217; side and bleachers at the end zones will hold about 2,500. At important games, the capacity with standing room only will reach about 10,000

The Lions field house has offensive and defensive suites equipped with projection screen video playback equipment. Coaches&8217; offices are also equipped with video playback equipment for individual game video review. The facility also has a video production suite for creation of highlight and game videos. The building also has study areas so that athletes may receive academic assistance.

These are all notable accomplishments, but one of the things you won&8217;t hear much about is Prattville&8217;s Junior High School Football Program, and in talking with Coach Clark on Monday I can tell you he takes a great deal of pride in what he has been able to accomplish with that program.

In fact Coach Clark attributed the long term success of the varsity program to a well organized and well run middle school program.

According to Coach Clark, all of the football programs (7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th grades, and Varsity) are funded through one budget.

&8220;We purchase all the equipment for our feeder programs but we also collect all the revenue from their home games.

We spend more than we take in but we feel like it is an investment in the future.&8221;

Coach Clark also believes in strength training for the 7th and 8th graders and the school system is building them their own weight training facility.

Demopolis head coach Doug Goodwin has done a magnificent job in building the high school program, and I don&8217;t list the accomplishments of him and his staff because they are well known. But I believe his long term goals are higher than state championships.

There is no doubt Coach Goodwin wants to see an improvement in our facilities and our programs all the way down to the middle school level to ensure that our kids enjoy the best possible

athletic experience and have an opportunity to compete at the next level if they desire.

But I can tell you from first hand experience, a head coach or athletic director cannot achieve that level of success without the support of the administration and the entire community.

Last night, Demopolis Middle School played host to the Prattville 8th grade team. I know coaches Leroy Harris, Bradley and Williams did everything they knew how to do to prepare our kids for the game and our kids played with just as much heart and enthusiasm as any football team at any level.

They won 6-0.

But have we as a community done everything we can to give our kids the same advantage as their opponents?