MONTGOMERY -- Piedmont head football coach Steve Smith said Wednesday’s trip to the Alabama High School Athletic Association was similar to any trip to Montgomery.
“There’s not an easy way to get there from Piedmont,” he said. “It feels like one of the longest drives in the world to me. I know it’s only two and a half hours, but it seems like it’s all day.”
However, on Wednesday, with Smith driving his wife’s GMC Arcadia with senior captains Tyler Lusk, Dreek Thompson, Cody Daughtry and C.J. Savage piled in, there was never a dull moment as the Bulldogs headed down Highway 9 to Hwy 21 and on to east Montgomery.
“We were talking the whole time,” Savage said. “No one got any sleep, we were just laughing the entire time.”
The trip’s intent was the Champions Challenge press conference. Piedmont will face Dadeville on Aug. 23 at 5 p.m. at Montgomery’s Cramton Bowl.
After the long drive, which Daughtry said included a stop at Jack’s in Lineville, Piedmont’s coach and players got to the AHSAA just in time, with the press conference starting right after they took their seats.
While players kept straight faces -- aside from Daughtry and Thompson quietly joking that Smith always wears the same Piedmont polo-style shirt -- Smith made several jokes when he took the podium.
Dadeville head coach Richard White initiated the joking, opening with an apology that the Tigers did not have a helmet on stage. The longtime coach said he had one in the back of his truck, but the decision to bring his wife’s car was made at the last minute
Smith followed with an apology of his own.
“They gave us a choice as coaches to either wear a suit or your coach’s shirt,” he said. “I tried to think like I thought the other coaches would think. My wife even asked me this morning if I was sure I didn’t want to wear a suit. I said, ‘Ah, Rachel, these are football coaches. They’ll all wearing their coaching shirts.’ I didn’t call any of them to ask what they were wearing. I wanted to be myself.
“Then I get down here, and I’m the only one not in a suit, but it’s doesn’t bother me. It’s just the way we are.”
The senior captains all said the experience was exciting, with multiple players, including newly named starting quarterback Tyler Lusk, saying they can’t wait until next Saturday’s game.
“It’s very exciting to show all the coaches and everyone in the state how we can play and where we’re from,” Thompson said. “Coming from a small school, you don’t really get that much recognition and don’t get to show everyone on TV what you can do.”
Smith said the matchup with Dadeville is perfect, noting there’s not a more parallel team to the Bulldogs than White’s bunch.
Not only did both teams end the 2013 season in the quarterfinals with a one-point loss -- Madison Academy beat Piedmont 34-33 in overtime, and UMS-Wright beat Dadeville 35-34 -- but both current coaches have been nothing short of successful in the last half decade. Smith has led Piedmont to a 71-11 record over the last six seasons. White’s Dadeville teams have gone 66-9 over the same stretch.
“I think it’s pretty cool that the kids get to come down here and experience what this big game is all about,” Smith said. “For me, as a coach, it’s nice to be able to get on the stage with some of the other coaches that I have a tremendous amount of respect for.”
Following the press conference, the Bulldogs were interviewed, photographed and had lunch before heading back to Calhoun County around 12:30 p.m. Practice was scheduled to start at 5.
Sports Writer Brandon Miller: 256-235-3575. On Twitter @bmiller_star.