Cullman's Matt Plunkett talks at the Cullman Rotary Club meeting on Thursday.

To say Matt Plunkett is ready for the 2018 season to begin would be an understatement.

The first-year Cullman football coach spoke for about 20 minutes and touched on a variety of topics during Thursday's Cullman Rotary Club meeting at St. John's Evangelical Protestant Church.

Plunkett, who took over the program back in January, garnered a 37-22 record during his five-year stint at Gardendale, which included five victories in four postseason appearances.

With his attention fully focused on building the Bearcats into a perennial Class 6A contender, Plunkett spoke excitedly about the upcoming campaign, his plans for future scheduling, must-win bouts, what fans can expect on Friday nights and a host of other matters.

See below for the highlights:

On the hiring process ...

"They don't really have a lot of turnover. I'm the fourth head coach in 35 years. I just didn't think they'd offer me the job. I thought I needed to prove a little bit more at Gardendale and needed to have some more longevity. And so it was not really on my radar, just being honest with you. But on Jan. 1, I got the opportunity to come interview. On Jan. 3, they offered me the job. And let me tell you something, it's been a godsend for me and my family."

On his (and fan) expectations ...

"For me, it's about building young men. I don't think about wins and losses. I think about building great young men. Wins and losses take care of themselves. When you guys walk out of stadiums on Friday nights after watching our guys play, my goal is you say, 'That's the classiest and the most disciplined football team you've ever seen play.' That's what makes me happy. Now we're going to be physical, and I expect our players to execute, and I expect our players to have an edge about them. But you create that edge between January and August, and that's when you prepare to win football games. This team has done that."

On what he's seen so far ... 

"I'm so proud of these young men who showed up to work, because it was not easy what they went through this summer. I knew we were going to get a hardworking group. I know this is a blue-collar town that has great people and hardworking people. There's a lot of pride and tradition here. That motivates me. For me, building Cullman into a top 10 Class 6A program is the next challenge. That's not going to be easy. There's a certain blueprint we have to follow to make that happen."

On future foes ...

"We're going to schedule some really tough opponents in 2020. I know that's two years away but, when I put together a schedule, we're going to schedule tough Birmingham metro teams. Something I'm trying to do is schedule a game in Texas. I want to take our team to Texas and open up the 2020 season. That's something Hoover has done. They are kind of that signature school in this state. We're going to play 7A schools like James Clemens and Bob Jones. Our players have to learn what it takes to play at that top 10 level. I want our kids taking pride in representing the city of Cullman. We need to make sure we play above our heads every Friday night. That's my job."

On the upcoming campaign ...

"We're really young, but I think we're going to win some games. We'll have a chance to win every game. I believe that. My goal with this team is that with one minute left in the game, we're either trying to put it away or trying to win it. That would be my goal. They have that ability. We're going to play whistle to whistle and get after it."

On must-win games ...

"Our first two region games are Decatur and Columbia. And those two games, from a region standpoint, are must-win games for this team. We need to be 2-0 in the region, because our next three games are the biggest region games of the year. We play Athens at home, then we play Muscle Shoals at home. The third game is going on the road against Hartselle, and it's time to beat those guys. It's going to be good high school football. For this team to host a playoff game, though, we've got to beat Decatur and Columbia."

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