PELL CITY -- Victory Christian and Pell City were two of eight schools that participated in the St. Clair County Football Media Day at Buffalo Wild Wings on Thursday afternoon.
The Lions were represented by a new head coach, Bruce Breland, who previously served as offensive coordinator under recently-resigned head coach Mike Holliday.
Breland has held head coaching jobs at Coosa Valley Academy, Bessemer Academy, Fultondale, Shelby County, Woodlawn and Alma Bryant in his career. He has compiled an 88-109 record in his 19 years leading football programs.
“I think it’s great,” Breland said. “My last stop, I had 105 players. Now, I have 25 players.
“The thing that I’m excited about with them is they are all great young men character-wise at a great school. They support us very well, and I couldn’t be any happier where I am … Being able to come back and coach again is just a blessing to me.”
Victory Christian put together one of its best seasons in 2015 and won its first home playoff game in school history (a 33-19 victory over Woodville in the first round of the Class 1A playoffs).
For the past three seasons, the Lions have been on the cusp of a playoff berth, but a 5-13 record in region play during that span has kept an otherwise competitive program on the fringe.
Breland said his goal is to build a true program where year-in and year-out, the team is more competitive and not having to rely on “the good group” of players to rise through the system.
“That’s what we’re striving for is to be able to build that program, starting with the younger guys,” he said. “I think it starts in the weight room and it starts at the junior high level.
“We’re going to get there … Everyone wants it now, but that’s unrealistic. We want it as fast as possible.”
Pell City head coach Wayne Lee said his team is looking to build on a season where it bookended two pairs of victories around a six-game losing streak, with five of those games against region opponents. The Panthers finished fifth in 6A, Region 6.
“I think the big difference this year is everybody, me included, the players included, we kind of know more about what we’re stepping into,” he said. “We knew the region last year and what it was about, but now after being in it a year, you really understand what it’s about.
“Working towards that, I think we’ll be a lot better off this year than we were last year.”
Lee said he didn’t want to discuss the looming Week 3 matchup between Pell City and Oxford, which hired former Panthers head coach Keith Etheredge last month, but Lee acknowledged those developments give the rivalry game a bit more juice.
Another former Panthers head coach, Brooks Dampeer, attended the media day sporting maroon and white as the new St. Clair County head coach.
Dampeer takes over a program that finished 2-8 in 5A, Region 5, and faces a steep climb in a region that features defending 5A champion Central Clay County and perennial postseason squads Mortimer Jordan and Sylacauga.
John Hughes, a teacher at Moody High School, coordinated the media event, a brainchild of Hughes and Moody head coach Adam Wallace.
“Traditionally, St. Clair County, when it comes to the media, is kind of a black hole, meaning that the television and print media of Birmingham really do not cover our area,” Hughes said. “We do get great coverage from The Daily Home and the St. Clair Times, and the (St. Clair) News-Aegis does what it can, as well as the local radio station, 94.1 The River.
“But by and large, all the schools in metro-Birmingham had a media day to go to, and we did not because the bigger media market did not come to us.”
Hughes said the advent of social media and streaming services prompted the planning of the first St. Clair County Football Media Day, which was held at Moody High School last year.
He added the event is a great way to bring high school coaches and athletes in contact with media outlets so representatives from those outlets can conduct interviews for any products they produce, such as football magazines.