Hanceville’s football program enters the Ryan Brewer era this fall, and the Haleyville native is a firm believer in establishing a strong and exciting culture.
“One of our goals is to build a culture where the players believe in each other and what we’re doing,” he said. “It extends far beyond the X’s and O’s on the field. If you build a strong culture, success on Friday nights should follow. June 15 was the first day I met with the players, and the most important thing has been building relationships to help cultivate the expected culture. Each player has done a great job of buying in. They’ve done everything we’ve asked them to do.”
Brewer, 41, inherited the post earlier this summer after serving as the wide receivers coach at Orange Beach for two seasons. Prior to that, Brewer was the offensive coordinator at Haleyville (2017-18) and Russellville (2014-16), in addition to a six-season head coaching stint at Helena Middle School.
As Brewer works to lay his foundation, one motto he has incorporated throughout the program this summer is C.O.M.P.E.T.E., a slogan that stands for Commitment, Opportunity, Mastery, Perseverance, Effort, Trained Discipline and Enthusiasm.
“Those are the core values of our program. As you’re working out or practicing, you should be thinking about one of those words,” Brewer said. “Those values will help our players become better on the field and also better husbands, fathers and citizens to whatever community they’re in.”
Brewer praised assistant coaches Wayne Davidson, Braxton Pitts and Dakota Holloway for their efforts in helping him make a smooth transition to Hanceville.
“My family is here and ready to be invested in this community,” he said. “It’s a great place for us. All three of my boys play ball, and my wife is teaching here as well. We’re thankful God has sent us to Hanceville, Alabama.”
On the field, Brewer has been impressed with the Bulldogs’ offensive versatility, beginning with junior Zach Campbell, who’s transitioning from running back to quarterback.
“Zach Campbell is a tremendous athlete and is surrounded by an athletic family,” Brewer said. “He’s a joy to coach, and he can beat you in different ways. Versatile quarterbacks like Zach are hard for defenses to prepare for.”
Brosnan Ward and Preston McClerren should share carries in the backfield for Hanceville, and L.J. Smith will bounce between receiver and tailback. Hartselle transfer J.T. Davis has a chance to be among the leaders at wide receiver.
Hanceville’s offensive line features Kelson Moore and Marvin Gonzalez, both of whom have two years of varsity experience up front.
“With versatility comes variety, so I think our offense can stay balanced and mix things up when needed,” Brewer said. “We have multiple guys we can move around to different spots, and that’s an asset.”
Campbell, Ward and others will attempt to improve an offense that averaged 20.9 points per game during last year’s 2-8 campaign. The Bulldogs were limited to 14 points or less in five games.
Hanceville has experience returning at all three levels of the defense.
Brewer expects McClerren and Smith to serve as anchors at linebacker.
“Preston is one of the more vocal leaders on the team, and that’s great to have at linebacker,” Brewer said. “L.J. is one of our staples on defense. He’s all over the field.”
Moore is a stalwart on the defensive line, while Ward has shifted to the secondary after playing linebacker last season.
“Our defense should also be versatile, and that’s exciting,” Brewer said. “I love how we fly to the football in practice, and that must be our mindset during the games. We can’t afford to take a play off. We’ve got to get off our blocks and fly to the football on every snap.”
As a unit, Hanceville’s defense will seek to improve upon its 36.1 points per game surrendered last season. The Bulldogs yielded 30 or more points in nine games in 2020.
Hanceville hasn’t earned a playoff berth since 2013, and the Bulldogs are navigating through a Class 4A schedule for only the second time since 1995.
Hanceville’s home and season opener is Aug. 20 against Vinemont, where it will seek to snap a four-game losing streak to the Eagles.
Region 6 features 10th-ranked and defending region champ Etowah, which advanced to the 4A semifinals last fall. Region foes Good Hope and Oneonta each advanced to the second round of the playoffs a season ago.
“There’s no doubt it’s a tough region. The playoff success our region had demonstrates that,” Brewer said. “We have to focus on ourselves and our first opponent right now. That has to be our mindset. Rome wasn’t built in a day. The players have to trust me, and I have to lean on them. That will help determine our success down the road.”
Hanceville’s non-region schedule is rounded out by Locust Fork, Section and Elkmont.