2018 Hanceville High School football team and coaches (Nick Griffin for The Tribune)
HANCEVILLE – Last season was a disappointing one for the Hanceville Bulldogs and this year’s team is hungry to hit the field and put 2017 in the rearview. With only five seniors graduating from last year’s roster, there will be a lot of players with a lot of game experience on the field for the Bulldogs this season. One of the new faces on the sidelines in Hanceville this fall will be head coach Cody McCain.
McCain made the move from Clements High School in April because he couldn’t pass up the chance to coach at a program with so much history so close to home.
“I grew up in and graduated high school at West Point in 2004, and after college I was in south Alabama for five years working and coaching at some schools down there and came to Clements four years ago, so in total it’s been nine years in teaching, coaching, education and all that and really for the past few years I’ve had a real strong desire to get back to Cullman County and back closer to home,” McCain said. “I always had a lot of respect for the Hanceville program; there’s a lot of history and tradition there over the course of 93 years of football that have been played there, and they have like a 60 percent winning percentage over the history of the program, so like I said, I just felt it was the best place in the county to coach football.”
McCain is pleased how his first offseason in Hanceville has gone and has seen his group of kids really respond to the challenge.
“We’ve had a really good offseason with our kids. We’ve been going at 7 a.m. for three days a week since the first week of June and we had over 90 percent attendance for the summer. We have 40 guys on the roster and the deal was that if out of the 26 possible workouts over the summer they made 20 or more, they would get their names on the back of their jersey,” McCain said. “I’d be really surprised if we have more than just a couple guys without their names on their jerseys, so we had really great attendance in the offseason. The kids have come in and worked really hard, done everything we’ve asked them to do; they’ve lifted well, they’ve ran well, and we’ve been able to install more of our offense and defense than what we were able to do in the 10 days we had in the spring.”
One of the silver linings for the Bulldogs last season was their youth. Only a handful from last year’s roster were lost to graduation, so McCain will have a veteran team to work with in his first season.
“The positive thing is I believe there were only five seniors on the team last year so there wasn’t a whole lot to replace. I would say probably the biggest shoes to fill would be Brendan Flanigan. He was a receiver, a return man and he played defense. Then another one is Alex Campbell, who chose not to play this year. He played quarterback, some receiver and played in the secondary as well, so I would say those two guys are probably the two toughest to replace. I believe I have 15 or 16 seniors coming up for this year’s team, so a lot of these guys have been starting for at least two years and some have been playing since they were freshman so that’s a lot of experience coming back. Everyone was new to me, but I’ve really been impressed by what I’ve seen so far.”
Hanceville averaged just 14 points per game last season so getting things turned around on that side of the ball is a priority for McCain and his staff. Fortunately, the Bulldogs have a lot of talent and experience back on the field including a player that was lost to an injury last season.
“We’ve got R.J. Evans and Romael Simmons coming back who have been a big part of the backfield for the last couple of years. R.J. will kind of work primarily at tailback for us and Romael will play some tailback and some slot and we’ll move him around the field a little bit. Really, I think having Fred Ellis back, who missed all of last season with a torn ACL… Fred might be the best athlete on the team,” McCain said. “Having a guy like that coming back for us, he’ll actually play quarterback for us, is going to be huge. So, we’ve got those three guys along with our receivers. Antonio Bautista is back, and he’s played for a couple years, and then up front we have four of our five offensive linemen returning from last year. We’ve got Tristin Cornelius, Will Akin, Logan McKee and Colin Long who all started last year on the offensive line, so having all those guys back is really big. We should have nine starters back on offense and that’s huge for us.”
Coming off of a disappointing season, Hanceville has been waiting to get back on the field and right the ship for nearly a year. As a result, McCain has seen his team work hard so that when the lights come on, they’ll be able to surprise people.
“Last season was 1-9 for the guys and they feel like they’re a lot better team than that, and I think we are a lot better team than that, so they’ve shown a real strong desire and a lot of hunger to work hard and play hard. I think we’ll have a team that plays really hard on the field and also has some talent, so I think we’re looking for a lot of positive things,” McCain said. “We want to improve on our win/loss record and we want a shot at the playoffs and those things that all teams are working for, but at the same time we know that we have our work cut out for us in the schedule this year. I think we have a really competitive region this year and some competitive non-region games, so we’ll have to come to play every week. For me, just coming back into the county and coming back into some of these rivalries with Fairview, Vinemont, Holly Pond and Good Hope is going to be exciting for us.”
2018 Hanceville football schedule
Aug. 24 v. Sumiton Christian
Aug.31 at Fairview
Sept. 7 v. J.B. Pennington
Sept. 14 v. Holly Pond
Sept. 21 at Vinemont
Sept. 28 v. Curry
Oct. 5 at Midfield
Oct. 19 v. Fultondale
Oct. 26 at Locust Fork
Nov. 2 at Good Hope
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