By Jake Winfrey
The Cullman Times
Alan Scott’s first foray into the head coaching business was anything but a walk in the park.
When Scott took over the Vinemont football program back in 2011, he inherited a relatively young team that was coming off its first losing season — a 3-6 campaign — since 2003.
Things didn’t get much better the following year, either, as the Eagles staggered to a 2-7 finish, while allowing almost 40 points per contest on defense. The Red and White were also on the receiving end of blowout losses to county-rivals Fairview, Hanceville and Holly Pond.
What a difference a few months can make.
Vinemont bounced back in a big way in Year 2 under Scott, finishing 8-3 on the season and securing its first playoff appearance since 2009. The Eagles increased their scoring output by 11 points per game, while cutting down on opponents’ scoring opportunities on the defensive side of the ball.
Despite the quick turnaround, you won’t find Scott or any of his returning players talking about last year as if it was some sort of a fluke. There wasn’t an easy button, nor was there a magical 8-ball, either.
In fact, the third-year head man attributes two very basic reasons to his team’s bounceback campaign.
“I think it was simply experience and belief,” Scott said. “Their belief in the fact they could win was a big thing. We were mostly freshmen and sophomores my first year, but they played a lot more mature on the field last season.”
While many parents and fans might be unattuned to the goings-on of a football program during the offseason, the Eagle faithful saw, without question, a much-improved product on the field in 2012.
Vinemont reeled off four wins in its first five games before battling Hamilton, one of the top teams in Class 3A, in an epic matchup at Eagle Stadium.
Although the Red and White ultimately fell by a touchdown, it paved the way for the rest of the schedule as Scott’s squad won its final four regular season games to secure a playoff berth.
“Another big thing for us was having the right attitude,” Scott said. “We went into every game last year having the attitude of doing everything we could to win that game. We were very fortunate to come out on the good end of things.”
Senior athlete Tyler Boland echoed his coach’s words. The two-way player has been sidelined for the summer with an injury but hopes to return before the season ends.
“We had the mindset of winning last year,” he said. “I think that’s going to push us forward this season, even if we play teams that are technically more athletic that we are.
“We practice hard and play hard. For us, it’s going to be the fourth quarter stuff, the want to and the guts. That’s going to help us succeed.”
Belief and experience certainly have their place on a football team. Talk to Vinemont players, however, and the majority of them will agree that ramping up one particular exercise paid huge dividends for the team down the stretch.
That exercise you ask?
Running, running and more running.
Senior cornerback Dalton Harbison is likely to serve as one of Scott’s main contributors in the upcoming season, and he’d be the first to admit the team is where it is today because of its dedication to conditioning.
“All summer long, we ran,” he said. “Last year we were in shape, and this year we are in shape. That’s where it all got started for us. In the second half last year, other teams were tired and we weren’t. By the fourth quarter, we were outdoing everybody.”
The Eagles are going to need everything they get — and more — as they prepare to take on some very tough teams in a region that, according to Scott, “hasn’t gotten any easier.”
Vinemont’s tough schedule includes matchups against perennial contenders Hamilton and Hanceville, as well as some tough battles with up-and-coming programs such as Cordova, Danville and Good Hope.
“Our region is going to be considerably better across the board,” Scott said. “There are lots of teams bringing people and experience back with them. All we can do is control how hard we work, how hard we prepare and what our attitude is. After that, you’ve just got to let the chips fall and see what happens.”
One of the strong suits for Scott heading into the season is undoubtedly his defense. The unit returns several key starters and playmakers from last year’s much-improved unit.
“We’ve basically got everyone back,” he said. “We’re putting a lot on their shoulders and expecting them to perform. We feel confident they’re going to do just that.”
% Jake Winfrey can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 136 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.