SARDIS CITY — It appears the Sardis High School football staff is the place to look when schools are searching for a new head coach.
In 2017, Bubba Jennings departed Sardis to take over Douglas’ program, a tenure that lasted two seasons. He’s now an assistant coach at Boaz.
Dusty Darnell resigned from the Sardis staff in 2017 and returned to his alma mater, Crossville. One year later, he was promoted from assistant coach to head coach.
In May, Sardis assistant coach Matt Harris left to become head coach at Gaston. It’s his first head-football coaching role.
“It’s a lot easier on you keeping your staff intact from year to year, because everybody knows what’s going on,” Sardis head coach Gene Hill, who enters his 10th season at his alma mater, said.
“The other way you can look at it is it’s kind of a compliment to your program that people want your coaches. To me, that means you’ve got good people in place, and I feel like we have done that since we’ve been here.
“Most all those guys have went on and they’ve been successful. They were a big part of our program here, and we appreciate what they did for us. To get to move up and be a head coach and have that opportunity, you’ve got to be happy for them.
“Of course, we’d like to keep them all, but we want them to do what they want to do and their careers to be successful.”
Harris served as Sardis’ running game coordinator in 2019. Veteran assistant coach Clay Wright is passing game coordinator and coaches receivers.
“Coach Wright probably knows the passing game as good as anybody I’ve ever been around,” Hill said. “He’s been here as long or longer than I have. He does an excellent job with the receivers. I feel real comfortable in still having him here.”
Sardis graduate Ty Harris first worked for Hill when he was head coach at Etowah.
“On the defensive side, coach Ty Harris has been with me a long time,” Hill said. “He coaches D-line and does a good job. Me and him have been together so long we know what each other are thinking, and he’s a big help to me in that regard.”
Cory Franklin joined the Lions’ staff in 2019. He coaches quarterbacks and assists with coaching running backs.
“I anticipate Coach Franklin having some more duties in the running game now,” Hill said.
Derik Snell worked for the Lions as a nonfaculty coach last year. The Etowah County Board of Education hired him to teach history at Sardis High during its June 16 meeting.
“Derik Snell volunteered with us last year, which is good because we already know what we’re getting,” Hill said. “He’s a real good person, and he fits in well with the other coaches.”
Troy Elliott, who played for Hill at Etowah, moved from middle school head coach to varsity assistant coach in 2019.
“Coach Elliott was kind of our do-it-all coach last year,” Hill said. “He ran our scout team and he did some of our special teams.
“I’m pretty sure Coach Snell is going to be working with our offensive line, and we’re going to sit down and figure out do we want Troy working there, because that’s kind of his forte. We’re also going to have to find somebody to work with another position on defense.”
Hill coached linebackers and called the defense in 2019.
“I’d like to have another person on defense,” he said. “I don’t know if it will be a teaching slot or a volunteer coach. I’m kind of leaning toward we may bring somebody in, a volunteer coach. He could either be secondary or linebackers, and I could do the other.
“The thing I like about all these guys is they all relate well to kids, and they’re all high-energy people. It doesn’t seem like they dread going to practice or dread being here at workouts. They’re real high-energy people, and I think that rubs off on your kids. We’re real fortunate to have all those guys.”
Middle school staff
Matt Lofthus returns as head coach of the Sardis Middle School program. His staff features Dylan Bolding, Zach Gilliland and Jay Boatwright.
“Matt did an excellent job last year,” Hill said. “I’m real excited about him and what he’s doing down there. They had a lot of kids out, and they had a really good year.
“I’m really excited about Dylan. He came out and played for us a year or so, and he’s a good young coach who I think is going to be able to step up and take over a program here pretty soon.
“They have four guys, and I like to have that many because you don’t want kids standing around, especially at that level. You want them in small enough groups that they’re getting a lot of reps.”