A tough decision

Keith Etheredge spent 10 seasons as Leeds' head coach, two at Pell City and one at T.R. Miller in Brewton.

OXFORD — Keith Etheredge makes no bones about his goals for Oxford High School’s football program.

“My goal is to go 15-0,” he said Friday.

The Oxford City Schools Board of Education voted to approve Etheredge’s hiring as the program’s 25th head football coach, following in footsteps of Jack Grizzard, Bill Burgess, Robert Herring, Josh Niblett, John Grass and, most recently, Ryan Herring.

Ryan Herring resigned April 11 to take the same job at Pierce County (Ga.) High School.

Etheredge comes to Oxford from T.R. Miller and brings one of the top names among current Alabama high school football coaches. The 46-year-old Jacksonville State graduate is 125-49 in 14 seasons.

He spent 10 of those years at Leeds, leading the Green Wave to state 3A state titles in 2008 and 2010 and 4A titles in 2014 and 2015.

He coached at Pell City 2016-17 and T.R. Miller the past three seasons, going 18-15.

Through Etheredge has made multiple career moves recently, he said he hopes to make Oxford a long-term proposition.

“We are putting roots in Oxford,” he said. “This is going to be our home.”

Etheredge and his wife Allison have a son, Camden, who is a high school freshman and daughter, McKenzie, a sixth-grader.

Etheredge did his student-teaching in Oxford in 2000, teaching at Oxford Elementary School. He worked with former Oxford football assistant Darrell Cline and then-head basketball coach Larry Davidson, now the school’s athletics director and a member of the Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame.

Etheredge’s first full-time teaching and coaching job came at Erwin, where he started as an assistant in basketball then head coach the following year.

“I learned a lot from Coach Davidson,” he said. “I learned how to run a program, how to do the things the right way.”

After three years as a head basketball coach at Erwin, he returned to Leeds, his alma mater, in 2004 as an assistant football coach. He became head coach in 2006.

Etheredge brings a state-championship pedigree.

“I just picked up that it’s not just about football,” he said. “It’s about building young men and character and the confidence that they’ve got to have to be champions

“It’s about community. Kids tend to play a lot harder when they play for a purpose. When community, school, everything is connected, I feel like they play a lot harder and give them a lot more. Treat them right and love them, and they run through a brick wall for you.”

Oxford won 5A titles in 1988, 1989 and 1993. The Yellow Jackets made the quarterfinals three times and semifinals once since moving up to 6A in 2006, including quarterfinal runs the past two seasons.

Both times, Oxford lost to Clay-Chalkville, which went on to lose in the semifinals to eventual state champion Pinson Valley, quarterbacked by 2018 Mr. Football Bo Nix.

The most recent realignment, effective for the current school year, placed Oxford in the same region with Pinson Valley and Clay-Chalkville. Oxford went 10-3, with all three losses coming against those two schools, but won the rest of its games by an average of 38 points.

“I think it’s just getting to that point where they believe in themselves, where they know this is where they’re supposed to be,” he said. “Coach Herring did a great job when he was here. I guarantee you he instilled character and class in the guys.

“When I was at Pell City, we competed against Oxford. They were tough, hard-nosed and physical, and I think that’s one of the greatest compliments you can give a coach.”

Etheredge has had experience coaching former Oxford players, including linebacker K.J. Britt in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game.

Asked what attracted him to Oxford, he said, “What didn’t?”

“It’s a great city, great community, great school system,” he said. “The administration there is top-notch. They have a tradition, winning tradition and great facilities.

“I feel like I can come in and develop great relationship with the kids.”

Sports Writer Joe Medley: 256-235-3576. On Twitter: @jmedley_star.