ANNISTON — The bond Donoho head coach Sal Gardner developed with his players is quite a story.
Gardner retired after the 2014 season, which included the Falcons making the playoffs for the seventh time in his eight years as head coach. Donoho finished the season as the Class 1A, Area 12 runner-up and faced Falkville in the first round of the postseason, falling in two games.
He also is going out as The Anniston Star’s Calhoun County Class 1A-2A baseball coach of the year.
“I just loved being with the kids. We won several area championships and that was a big thing,” Gardener said. “It’s a team thing, and we just went out there and played as a team. They played with a lot of pride, as with anything they do, and with a lot of determination. What I do is try to teach them that if they play with pride, determination and have a great attitude, then you’ll go a long way.”
Gardner, who has been coaching since 1970, said his decision came with simply wanting to spend more time with his family.
“I wanted to be there for my grandson, who is 6-years-old,” he said. “He came up to me and said, ‘Papa, can you do me a favor? Will you coach me next year?’
“It’s just that I want to spend more time with him and my family.”
As for the season, Falcons star player Chris Carr said it was almost a season that literally wasn’t.
“We started off very young and almost didn’t make the number of players that you need for the regular season,” Carr said. “We had to go around asking students to come out and play. We got a few players to come out, most were seventh graders.
“We weren’t expecting much, and coach felt like it would be a rebuilding year. One of our main goals was just to make it to the playoffs, and we reached that goal.”
Sports Writer Brandon Miller: 256-235-3575. On Twitter @bmiller_star.