By Jake Winfrey
The Cullman Times
WEST POINT —
It’s been a whirlwind summer for Don Farley and the West Point football program.
Farley, who’s been in the Warriors’ system for 15 years, most recently as their defensive coordinator, was suddenly thrust into the limelight following the arrest and subsequent resignation of former head coach A.J. Lamar.
With a new man at the helm, the Maroon and White also implemented a minor change on offense, switching from the triple-option attack to the more versatile pistol formation.
To top it all off, West Point recently lost one of its best skill players in Jordan McKenzie to a season-ending ACL injury.
Some teams might take all that into account and chalk up their upcoming campaign as a lost cause.
The Warriors, however, aren’t that kind of team.
You won’t hear any excuses or see any finger pointing from Farley’s squad as they prepare to take the field on Friday at Brewer. Rather, you’ll likely see a team whose resolve far outweighs the hand they’ve been dealt so far this year.
Above all else, Farley believes he’s got one of the best group of seniors any coach — especially one getting his feet wet — could ask for.
“All of them are good, quality kids,” he said. “They’ve been really great leaders for us during this stretch. Both on the field and in the classroom. They’ve got a lot of heart and fire in them to succeed this year.”
Kids like Chandler Nelson, Tristan Dubberly, Zack Tilley and Bryant Farley have all been instrumental for the Warriors so far this offseason.
Coach Farley also called on others such as Joseph Slatton, Ryan Wallace and Josh Gray as seniors who’ve really stepped up and led by example.
One of the most vocal players — senior or not — has without a doubt been Nelson, the Maroon and White’s biggest and baddest player on the offensive line.
Nelson, who’s already generating interest from several schools around the country, said although getting his name out there is important, it doesn’t hold a candle to his ultimate goal of breaking into the postseason.
“Yeah, as a senior, I want to make the playoffs,” Nelson said. “All that other stuff will fall into place if we come out and do the right things. I expect out of my team what I expect out of myself each game — and that’s a lot.”
West Point returns 26 combined seniors and juniors this season, which is one of the highest marks in the county. Nelson is confident those numbers can only help as the Warriors look to return to playoff glory for the first time since 2008.
“Absolutely it’s a strength,” he said. “We’re going to be all right. The team will look to us as leaders, and they should. It all starts with us.”
Another senior eager to get back on the field is Dubberly, who returns as one of the Maroon and White’s top playmakers from a season ago.
The two-way athlete will dabble in some running back duties, as well as play a bit of receiver out in space. He’ll also contribute in the secondary and on special teams.
Dubberly said he believes the Warriors can use their speed to cause a ruckus on opposing teams’ defenses. He also thinks this new offensive philosophy will be better suited to his playmaking abilities.
“I’m going to be more involved,” he said. “It gives me more chances to get the ball in my hands and try to make some plays for my team.”
Like Nelson, Dubberly is adamant about making the playoffs in his final year with West Point, despite being in a difficult region and winning just three games last year.
“I’m just hoping we can rally around each other and make a push,” Dubberly said. “That’d be a big thing for me. I think we can make it there. I really do.”
The Warriors may have a long road back to the playoffs, but one thing is certain — they’ve got the right man for the job in Farley.
Every single player on the West Point squad has rallied around their new coach and seemingly made the unexpected transition as smooth as possible.
With that in mind, the first-year head coach has high hopes for his team as they prepare for the gauntlet that is Class 5A football.
“We are hoping for the playoffs,” Farley said. “We want to win big games and be a player in the playoff picture. We are preaching positive, and the kids are buying into it. They believe in us, and we believe in them.”
It goes without the saying the Warriors will be in for the fight of their lives when they enter region play this fall.
With teams like Cullman, Hartselle, Muscle Shoals and Russellville, West Point will have its hands full if it hopes to make this season one worth remembering.
“When you have good teams like them, you tend to pick up your game and step it up to another level,” Dubberly said. “Because it’s going to be those tough games that decide whether or not you make it to the playoffs.
% Jake Winfrey can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 136 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.