Members of the Cullman Area Chamber of Commerce got the chance to get to know the county’s two new high school football coaches Friday afternoon during the Chamber’s August Community Luncheon.
Hanceville High School’s Cody McCain and Cullman High School’s Matt Plunkett were the guest speakers at the event, and spoke about their previous coaching experience and their hopes for the futures of their respective programs.
McCain, a 2004 West Point graduate, furthered his education at Wallace State, Athens State and Arkansas State before taking his first job at Excel High School in Monroe County.
He spent his next four years at Pleasant Home as the offensive coordinator from 2010-11 and head coach from 2012-13.
During that stretch, he helped the Eagles win 19 games and reach the playoffs on three occasions.
He then took over a struggling Clements program in 2014 and won just two games in his first two seasons, but he led the Colts to eight wins over the next two seasons — their best two-year stretch since 2009-10.
After spending nearly 10 years away from Cullman County, McCain said he was glad to come back to coach the Hanceville Bulldogs.
“The Hanceville job is one that I’ve had my eye on for a long time,” he said. “Hanceville’s got so many things to offer.”
With 93 years of football history at the school and plenty of playoff appearances and all-state players in that history, coaching at Hanceville is a breath of fresh air after coaching at schools that haven’t had that kind of success in the past, McCain said.
“It is finally nice to coach at a place that has some good old days to talk about,” he said. “The program’s been on hard times lately, but we do feel like, with what we have coming back and the program that we have, that we can do some things.”
The Bulldogs kick off their season Friday night at home against Sumiton Christian, and McCain said he and the rest of the team are looking forward to a great season.
“I feel like the future is very bright at Hanceville,” he said. “I am very pleased with the way the kids have worked and the way they’ve practiced, and we’re looking forward to a great season.”
Plunkett, a 1999 Arab High School graduate, attended the University of North Alabama and the University of Alabama, where he was a student assistant coach for both football programs.
He went on to work as an assistant coach with Pittsburg State University (Kan.), Carson-Newman College (Tenn.) and Missouri Southern State University before coaching at Magnolia West High School in Texas
Plunkett took over at Gardendale in 2013 and led the Class 6A Rockets to a 37-22 record in five seasons before being hired this winter to take over as head coach of the Cullman Bearcats.
“It is an honor, to say the least, to be in Cullman, Alabama,” he said.
Plunkett said he loves coaching football and getting into the x’s and o’s of the game, but he also makes sure to recognize his priorities and the role that he plays in the lives of his players.
“I love it, and sometimes I do get consumed by it,” he said. “But I’ll tell you the two most important things right now is my relationships with Jesus Christ and my family, and knowing that those young men look up to me and count on me to be a difference maker.”
Plunkett said his coaching style can be hard-nosed, but he takes all of the pressure on himself, and does not put any on his players.
“I want those kids to have a smile on their faces and play hard, and they know that they’re going to get my very best every time those lights come on,” he said. “The last thing I tell them before we hit that field is, ‘Guys, if you match my intensity tonight, we’re going to be just fine.’”
The Bearcats begin their 2018 campaign Thursday night against Jasper, and Plunkett said he hopes next week will be the start of many successful seasons at Cullman.
“I’m just looking forward to some really special moments,” he said. “I hope I’m here for the rest of my career, that’s the goal.”