Tigers focused on season

Talladega’s Peter Witworth (51), D’Corian Wilson (5), head coach Shannon Felder and Nigel Scales (3) spoke to the media on Thursday afternoon during the 2019 Talladega County Coaches Association High School Football Media Day.

What a week it has been for the Talladega High School football program. 

Last week, the coach left the Tigers for a position that he ultimately didn’t get, then, having yet to turn in an official resignation here, was relieved of his coaching duties at Talladega the next day. 

On Tuesday, Shannon Felder was hired as the Tigers new head coach. 

On Thursday at the eighth annual Talladega County Media Day, the players had a chance to share how they handled the firing and hiring of their old and new coach.  

“The last few weeks have been crazy, for real,” Talladega quarterback Nigel Scales said. “This situation, the coaches have been through stuff and we have been through stuff.

“We are learning new stuff. We have to try to forget some stuff and put some new stuff in. It has been a task, but we are handling it very good right now. “

Former coach Ted Darby changed the culture at Talladega in his two seasons at the helm. 

Darby led the Tigers to the playoffs in consecutive seasons, a feat that hadn’t happened in since 1994-95.

Darby’s motto was “Losing is not an option.” Even though Darby is no longer with the team, the mentality he instilled in the players remains.

“You still have to have the same mindset,” senior D’Corian Wilson said. “It doesn’t matter what is going on on the outside. We are still going to be the only ones playing on Friday nights. It doesn’t matter what is going on with the coaching staff, we have to focus on what we have to do so we can get it done.”

The players appreciate what Darby was able to do for them during his tenure, but now they are ready to move on and focus on playing for Felder.

“I feel like the situation with Coach Darby has to be in our rearview,” Scales said. “We have to keep going with Coach Felder. 

“Our determination level has gone up to another level. Everybody is hungry in the weight room. We are working very well in the weight room. We are working very well on the practice field. We maxed out this week, and everybody had great maxes. 

“Our determination is very well. We are ready for this thing to get going. We are going to be alright.”

Talladega’s coaches and players have the tough task of learning a new offense and defense in less than a month.

Felder plans to install as much of his system as his players can learn before Talladega opens the season Aug. 30 against Munford. Felder plans for his longtime assistant coach, Paul Furlough, to help him install the offense.

Wilson said it is going to be vital for the team to really pay attention to what the coaches are teaching because they have a short period of time to learn the new system.

 “We just need to lock in and focus every day that we go to practice,” Wilson said. “Every day, we need to focus on learning the new system so that we will be ready for the first game.”

Last season, Talladega finished 5-6 and fell to Headland in the first round of the Class 4A playoffs.

Felder credits Darby for changing the mindset and turning the program around. 

On Wednesday, Felder had a chance to meet with the team for the first time. During the meeting, he made it clear to the players what they were going to have to do if they wanted to continue to build off their success from the past two seasons.

“These guys have made the playoffs two years in a row,” Felder said. “I asked them, ‘Are you satisfied with what you have done? You had a good season last year; you won five games (and) you made the playoffs. Do we want to be the team that wins five games again this year and make the playoffs, or do we want to be hungrier this year?’

“‘If that’s what we want to do, we have to work harder than we did last year. We have to be more focused than we were last year and be more determined to take that next step.’”