Inaugural Cullman County Schools Media Day held ahead of start of football season

Nick Griffin / The Cullman Tribune

Each high school in the Cullman County Schools system had players, coaches, band directors, band members, cheer coaches and cheer captains in front of a microphone Tuesday morning for the inaugural Cullman County Schools Media Day. See below for single group photos.

CULLMAN – Each high school in the Cullman County Schools system had players, coaches, band directors, band members, cheer coaches and cheer captains in front of a microphone Tuesday morning for the inaugural Cullman County Schools Media Day. Each school’s panel had its turn at the head of the Cullman County Board of Education boardroom to talk about the 2018 football season. The Good Hope Raiders kicked things off.

Good Hope Raiders

Head Coach Alan Scott, along with senior players Bailey Quick and Matt Hancock represented the Raiders football team; James McWhorter and Makala Cone represented the band, along with new director Melanie Gonzalez; and Cheer Coach Sydney Chappell was there with along with Cheer Captain Emma Brock.

Scott got things started by talking about the expectations for his team this season. Scott is looking forward to working with a big senior class that has spent a lot of time playing together and is ready to take the next step as a team.

“For our team this year, the expectations are high. You can’t always say that; I’ve been coaching for 20 years now and some seasons you look out there and it’s a struggle, you’re trying to find wins and things like that, but thankfully this season we’ve got a large group of seniors. This is the largest I’ve been around as far as numbers, we’ve got about 23 or 24 and those guys have really put in a lot of time,” Scott said. “Nothing’s easy in life and that’s what I’ve been preaching to them. They’ve gone through some of the toughest times that Good Hope has ever seen, and I pray for their sake that they can experience some of the good things that come along with sticking it out, staying with it, persevering and coming together as a team.”

Chappell was happy to report a very productive summer for her squad after taking over the job in the spring.

“It has been such an exciting year already as far as cheerleaders go. I started out as the coach in March with their tryouts and quickly realized how much talent I had not only as far as game day cheerleaders and being able to support our teams, but also on another level as far as competing,” Chappell said. “We went to camp at the University of Alabama this summer and came back with all kinds of awards. We got first place in our division out of eight squads at a really big and kind of notorious camp at Alabama. We also got first place in our rally routine cheer division and second place in our sideline dance so it’s going to be a very exciting year for us. This will be the first in many years that our squad competes. We’ll be at Super Regionals in Birmingham in November and hopefully qualifying for State. So, it’s looking to be a really good year for cheerleading.”

Gonzalez is entering her first year as Good Hope’s band director and has enjoyed getting acclimated to her new students and a new area.

“I’m originally from Connecticut and I was teaching out in California for the past 17 years, so it’s been a little bit of an adjustment coming here to Alabama, but I’ve enjoyed every moment of it. We had our band camp for two weeks and learned a whole lot and had a lot of fun so I’m excited about what my students are bringing,” Gonzalez said. “We are half middle school and half high school so the dynamics of having those different age groups going on has been a challenge but something I’ve really appreciated. My students work extremely hard and they are super dedicated. What we’re really excited about is trying to get some fun songs going during our football games. I’m so thankful to be here and I’m super excited for what we’re about to accomplish.”

West Point Warriors

The Warriors of West Point were the next team on Tuesday’s schedule and Head Coach Don Farley, along with senior players Brayden Martin and Michael Roberts, represented the football team. Varsity Cheer Coach Darlene Nuss was in attendance with senior cheerleaders Ailysa Barnett and Jaclyn Albright, and the Warrior Band was represented by Drum Majors Alex Wood and Kevin Wade.

“We’ve spent a lot of time talking about accountability, ownership and grit and trying to get our guys to understand what each of them means to keep continuing what we’ve had going for the last few years,” Farley said. “We’ve had great buy-in with our summer workouts and it’s exciting. We love football season, that’s why we’re here, to try and help these guys succeed. Our band, our trainers, our cheer team and of course our student body is really what makes everything special at West Point.”

Nuss is happy to have a captain on the squad this year that she’s known for many years and was also pleased to report a successful summer for the team.

“Cheerleading is pretty much a year-round thing. These girls work really hard and I’ve actually coached Jaclyn since she was in first grade I guess, so it’s good to have a captain you’ve known that long and we work well together,” Nuss said. “We went to cheer camp at UNA and won several awards. They got first place in their dance routine and they won the leadership award so that’s very exciting. We’re just excited for Thursday night to watch the team and hope we have a good year.”

Senior Wood has been really happy and proud to see the community’s support of the band program during the transition of a new director. This will be Bobby Patrick’s first year as director.

“The community has come together so much during this time end everyone is just lifting each other up. I’m really excited to work with the cheerleaders and the football team this fall because especially these last few years, we’ve all come together. I’ve never seen a school work this well together so I’m just really excited for this season. I’m excited to hear the band and see the cheerleaders and watch the football team play.”

Wade will also be a drum major for West Point this year and he’s ready to see the band’s hard work translate to Friday nights.

“This is my first year as a drum major, too, and I feel like we’ve both put in hard work,” Wade said. “The whole band has put in hard work and I’m ready to put it in more work and see what the program can do.”

Fairview Aggies

Next up, for Fairview High School: Caleb Cornett and Jesslyn Draper made the trip with Band Director Nathan Kilgo. Senior football players Dayne Black and Oakley Mullican sat with their head coach, George Redding, and cheerleaders Larissa Leathers and Meagan Miller completed the Aggies panel.

Redding kicked things off for the Fairview panel by touching on one of the biggest challenges he and his staff have faced this summer and so far this fall.

“We have a smaller roster this year. We’ve got a 32-man roster so we’re a young group, but it’s been a hard-working group that’s shown tremendous chemistry,” Redding said. “That’s one thing we’ve talked about is you can’t just replace good chemistry. You can get a group together of some unbelievably talented young men, but if they’re not working with each other and loving on each other, things aren’t going to work out. This group here has had a tremendous summer, just preparing themselves, and our focus has been trying to get our young guys up to speed. They need to help us right now so getting them where they need to be has kind of been on the forefront.”

Kilgo is dealing with a bit of a numbers crunch as well, but he’s optimistic that the group he’s working with this year can have a lot of success.

“Our band has been working extremely hard since the beginning of July. Our numbers are down a little bit; we have 77 on our roster, but we’ve got a great group of seniors and upperclassmen and some really promising middle school students involved. We’re just looking forward to supporting our team and our community and hopefully entertaining some crowds this year.”

Leathers said that the team’s biggest focus this year is just improving as a squad.

“I think one of our main goals as a cheer team this year is definitely to just better ourselves and our squad,” Leathers said. “We just need to get better and better with our stunts and motions and cheers and just do the best that we can.”

Vinemont Eagles

Next up on the panel were the Vinemont Eagles. Anissa Vargas, Isaac Driver and Director Skylar King were there to represent the band; senior Brilee Wasilewski and Captain Bailey Preiss represented the cheerleaders, and the football team was represented by players Hudson Wood and Mitch Ford and Head Coach Stephen Robinson.

Robinson started off by reiterating some of his goals for the team and for the program as a whole.

“We are really trying to change a lot of things at Vinemont High School. We’ve changed jerseys and we haven’t changed our colors, but we’ve added grey pants and that’s gone over well with some and not so well with others, but my response to them is that I didn’t come to Vinemont to be like everybody else,” said Robinson. “I didn’t come to Vinemont to do what Vinemont has done over the last forever. I love Coach (Mark) Smothers, I played for him and he’s taught me a ton, but my goal and our goal as a staff is to be better and take that to the next level. That’s what we want to do and what we’ve tried to do with every aspect of our program.”

King is pleased with how the preseason preparation has gone for his group this year and wants to see that continue throughout the season.

“I’m starting my fifth year here at Vinemont and I’ve really had a great opportunity to work with our students and help change what our expectation is in the band program. This year we’ve been kind of focusing on the theme of commitment and connection. Obviously being committed to whatever we’re trying to improve upon, but also working on connecting with one another,” King said. “I even feel like we’ve seen that with our student body at Vinemont as a whole and we’ve really been committed to excellence in the classroom. I think we have a great relationship with our cheerleaders and our football team, so I really appreciate them supporting us and hope they can see us supporting them as well.”

Vinemont’s Varsity Cheerleading Sponsor Shannon Bridges talked about how far she has seen the squad come in the short time she has spent with the cheerleaders and said she is excited to see what is in store for them this year.

“This is my second year to have the cheer squad at Vinemont High School and they have done a phenomenal job. We went to camp last year for the first time and it was a big eye-opening event. We went to the University of Alabama and they did really well. They got gold ribbons the whole time they were at camp and this year we stepped it up a notch,” Bridges said. “We went to Auburn University and got all gold ribbons, placed third in the rally routine and placed third in the chant competition, so for this to be their second year going to camp and to place in the competition was phenomenal. They’re a good squad, they love what they do, and they love to promote school spirit, so they’re very motivated for this season.”

Hanceville Bulldogs

Hanceville High School’s panel made its way to the front of the room next with band representatives Taylor Gable, Johnathon Schramm and Director Jesse James. Along with them were football players Fred Ellis and RJ Evans sitting with Bulldogs Head Coach Cody McCain and filling out Hanceville’s panel were senior Cheer Captains Tess Brown and Sadie Eddy.

McCain began Hanceville’s session by talking about the experience that he’ll have to work with on his first Bulldogs team.

“We’re really looking forward to the season getting started. We’re at the point now after four weeks of practice and summer workouts and everything, our guys are tired of hitting each other and they’re ready to hit someone else. We’ve got about 38 players on the roster which is comparable to schools our size and we’ve got a good senior class of about 14 seniors,” McCain said. “We only lost five seniors from the previous year, so we’ve got a lot of experience returning and a lot of these guys that are on the team have played a lot of football in their careers. We feel like we’ve got an experienced team and our guys are hungry to rebound after a disappointing season last year.”

James is entering his first year as a Bulldog just like McCain, so he’s had to work through some adjustments, but now he’s just excited to see what this group can do this season.

“We have been working pretty hard since the beginning of June when we got all the leadership together and tried to get this year going right. My first year has been a little bit of a change, but we’re making it work the best we can,” James said. “We had a really great camp working on everything on getting the show on board, and just meeting with these guys has been great. We have really good kids coming back and our rookies this year have been outstanding. We’ve just had a really fun time with good leadership and we’re looking forward to a great season.”

Hanceville’s senior Cheer Captains Eddy and Brown are looking forward to Friday nights this fall, but they also have their minds on upcoming competitions.

“Last year we competed and did really good, but this year we have multiple competitions and it’s going to be hard, but I believe in our girls,” Eddy said. “Some of them are new but they just have to keep fighting for what they want.”

Holly Pond Broncos

Next up were the Holly Pond Broncos. Head Coach Mike Bates represented the football team along with seniors Jeremiah Holmes and Isaac Schwaiger. Drum Major Leah Tarvin was also on-hand with Band Director Evan Curtis, and senior Cheer Captain Jacey Wise completed the panel for the Broncos.

Bates started by talking about his team and his expectations for the Broncos this year.

“We’re coming off of very good back-to-back seasons for us, so we’ve got a little momentum we hope. We’ve got a lot of guys back that played the last couple years, so we’ve got some experience coming back, but at the same time every year is a new experience,” Bates said. “Schedules change, people get hurt, people move on, people move in, so there’s things that happen that affect every team every year. I’ve got a lot of confidence in these guys. I think they know what it takes it to win and to compete, and that’s the main thing we want to be is competitive.”

Curtis feels like the band can take advantage of a lot of work that was put in a year ago in order to deliver the best show possible this season.

“Last year we took huge strides forward, so this year is going to be kind of a big year where we get to reap the benefits of that,” Curtis said. “We got started a little bit earlier than we did last year at the beginning of June and that really made a huge difference going into band camp. We were able to get the whole show finished and learned in band camp so we’re really excited to get on the field and show it to everyone.”

Wise has been working toward her new leadership role for a long time and she’s excited to see her squad hit the field this fall.

“I’ve always wanted to be a cheer captain and this year I’m finally getting to do it,” Wise said. “We’ve been working really hard on our stunts and routines and I’m just excited for us to get out on the football field.”

Cold Springs Eagles

Up last was the panel from Cold Springs High School. Senior players Francisco Ayala and Calvin McNabb joined Head Coach Rod Elliott; Band Director William Johnson was in attendance with Color Guard Captain Treasure Tubbs and Drum Major Natalie Davis and completing the Eagles panel were senior cheerleaders Mallory Ballenger and Taylor Teems.

Elliott touched on things with his team regarding style of play and personnel, but what he really wanted to hammer home was how he feels about this group of kids he has and the Cold Springs community.

“One of the most enjoyable things I get to do in my life is stand in front of people and talk about the special kids I get to work with on a daily basis. Our kids at Cold Springs are special, they’re more special than the other kids, I’m just telling you, they are,” Elliott said. “I get up and go to work with them every day. Our school is a special place and the reason it’s special is because of all the people involved. We all work as a unified team, and I’m just so thankful for our cheerleaders and our band as we get ready to start the season. The atmosphere that they provide at our games is second to none and we appreciate that.”

Johnson agreed with a lot of what Elliott said and added that the standard for success in his band program isn’t defined by scores; it’s defined by effort and consistent improvement.

“Coach Elliott pretty much said it all right there. We have a great community, a great school, great faculty, a great student body and a great support staff. It’s great to be a Cold Springs Eagle and our kids are important to us,” Johnson said. “Our focus is our kids and that’s what makes it worth coming to work every day to see them progress every day and get better and better. What we want to do is try and set a standard that every time we go out there, we get better and better every single time.”

Both senior cheer captains for the Eagles were on the panel, Ballenger and Teems. Teems said that taking on the captain role has been a dream for both of them and they’re ready to lead the squad this fall.

“We’ve dreamed about being cheer captains since we were little girls, and we’re proud to say that we finally made that come true,” Teems smiled. “We’ve been working so hard; cheer really is a year-round sport. We have tryouts in March and we’ve worked on band dances, we’ve been working on signs and just trying to build up the Friday night atmosphere we have. So, we’ve just been working really hard and we’re excited for this season.”

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