This is an opinion piece.

Covering sports for The Reporter has afforded me the opportunity to write about terrific accomplishments by coaches, players and teams since I started here in 1988.

On Sept. 11, I covered the first 300-game winner in my career, as Fyffe head coach Paul Benefield became the eighth football coach in state history to achieve the milestone.

Coach Benefield took a 300-53 record into Friday night’s Class 3A, Region 7 game at Brindlee Mountain. He’s won a state-best 85 percent of his games in 29 seasons as a head coach — 24 at Fyffe and five at Sylvania.

Since 2010, the Red Devils are 131-9 — a .935 winning percentage. Those 131 wins include four 15-0 Class 2A state championship teams in 2014, 2016, 2018 and 2019.

The Big Red Machine’s accomplishments under Benefield are incredible. DeKalb County and Sand Mountain have never witnessed anything like it. There might be a similar stretch by another school in AHSAA history, but I’m not aware of it.

Coach Benefield’s teams are tough, physical and dominate the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. When the Red Devils block, they put defenders on the ground.

When I interviewed Coach Benefield in July to write a story for our Football Preview magazine, he shared a quote I believe summarizes the success of his program.

“We’re all quarterbacks back there, we’re all running backs and we all block,” he said. “We ought to just not even wear numbers on our backs. We wouldn’t if the referees didn’t make us, so that way Fyffe would be nameless out there, just a working machine. That’s the way we like it. No names on the back and no numbers.”

I’ve enjoyed getting to visit with Coach Benefield over the past couple of years as he neared the 300-win milestone. We’ve talked about football, but we’ve also talked about faith, family, food and the future of our state and nation.

I’m eager to see how the remainder of the season plays out for the Red Devils. My hope for them, and for all teams, is they won’t miss any games due to COVID-19.

Other media are anticipating a possible playoff game between defending Class 3A state champion Piedmont and Fyffe, which would be a must-see event if it occurs. I can assure you though that Coach Benefield and his Red Devils are focused only on Plainview, which is their next game on Oct. 2.

You don’t experience the success Coach Benefield and his teams have enjoyed by looking ahead.            

Shannon J. Allen is publisher and editor for The Reporter. He can be reached at shannon.allen@sandmountainreporter.com.

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