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Commentary With Saks’ Coach Freeney

First-year Saks coach Alphonso Freeney talks during Wednesday’s preseason interview. (Photo by Joe Medley)
First-year Saks coach Alphonso Freeney talks during Wednesday’s preseason interview. (Photo by Joe Medley)

Saks, AL – First-year Saks coach Freeney’s infectious belief just might be the Wildcats’ wild card for keeping the good times rolling


Joe Medley

Alphonso Freeney knows a thing or two about the power of belief.

It took a lot of believing for him and his Jacksonville State University teammates to match Ole Miss score for score and beat the Rebels in overtime in 2010, and it took believing to coach Pasco (Fla.) High School from winless to 9-2 in one season.

He believes he can keep the Wildcats’ winning ways going after 100-game winner Jonathan Miller moved on to Piedmont.

“We have some really good teams that are going to compete for the region championship, and we’re going to be one of those teams,” Freeney said. “If these kids do what they’re supposed to do, not only the kids but the coaches, as well … if we do our job, and they do they’re job, we’re going to make a run at this thing.”

Saks finished third in Class 3A, Region 4 a year ago. If Freeney’s right, the Wildcats will progress from 2022, not digress.

It’s easy to doubt, especially after quarterback Gavin Doss transferred to Anniston.

Then again, Sean Parnell’s little brother followed his career path from Ohatchee to Saks. Just a freshman, Jamorris Young looks and carries himself like a senior, Freeney said.

When Freeney sees a hopeful future, immediate and distant, it’s hard to doubt him.

Saks fans can be forgiven for remembering scores like 52-44 and believing in ceilings. Freeney remembers 49-48 in double overtime and smiles.

JSU’s 2010 victory at Ole Miss lives on in memories and wall art in the Gamecocks’ stadium club, and count Freeney always glad to relive it.

He remembers JSU’s 31-10 halftime deficit, calm in the locker room and then-JSU coach Jack Crowe’s relative confidence and the implied belief.

“He just said, ‘We’re going to chip away at it,” Freeney said.

Pasco’s turnaround in Freeney’s first season as a head coach followed the same script. No magic Xs and Os, just belief.

“What I can take from that is, believe in your kids,” he said. “That’s all that was at Pasco. … There’s only so many X-and-Os you can do, when it comes to football, but when you focus on the kid as an individual, and you focus on them to be better husbands and fathers and those kinds of things, all the other stuff is going to fall in line.

“I think I’m just going to take that from what we did at Pasco. We were very basic when it came to Xs and Os, but we just made our kids understand that they’re not average, that they were great, and that’s the same thing that we’re doing now.”

Saks last went winless in 1990 and hasn’t had a losing season since 2010. It won’t take as much convincing as it did at Pasco.

Freeney gives the impression he can almost talk it into existence. His confidence just might be all the Wildcats need.

Wildcat facts

Things to know about Saks football heading into the 2023 season:

—Alphonso Freeney enters his first season as the Wildcats’ head football coach. Last season, he led Pasco (Fla.) High School to a 9-2 record a year after the team went winless.

—Saks finished 7-4 in 2022 and 4-2 (third) in Class 3A, Region 4. The Wildcats lost to Trinity in the first round of the playoffs.

—Key graduation losses from 2022 include eight All-Calhoun County players: OL J.J. Waters, DL Ramond Pearson, LB Keondre Johnson, ATH Jakari Streeter, WR Trent Hopkins, ATH Owen Petty, ATH Dee Elston and OL Tyreic Foster.

—The following All-Calhoun County picks return: senior RB Dorrien Walker, junior WR/DB Jacori Avery, senior LB Mykeese Gaffney and junior DL/OL Mason Stevens.

— Player to watch: All-County QB Gavin Doss moved to Anniston, but Saks’ QB of the future steps in. Jamorris Young followed older brother Sean Parnell’s career path, transferring from Ohatchee to Saks, and looks likely to start as a freshman. Basketball standouts Christian Hall and Christian Smith are out for football, Hall at LB Smith at S/WR. WR/DB LaJuan Curry will bring 4.3 speed from the basepaths, and RB/WR Nick Mixson is back after missing last season with injury.

— Freeney’s Saks staff will include former Cleburne County High School standout Rocky Hayes, who went on to play for Arkansas State University.

— The second year of the current reclassification cycle means a home-away reverse of the 2022 schedule. Highlights include a non-region Calhoun County showdown at Ohatchee to open the season and a midseason non-region game at Class 2A state runner up B.B. Comer. Region games include two against county rivals: Oct. 13 at Weaver and Wellborn at home on Oct. 27.

First-year Saks coach Alphonso Freeney talks during Wednesday’s preseason interview. (Photo by Joe Medley)
First-year Saks coach Alphonso Freeney talks during Wednesday’s preseason interview. (Photo by Joe Medley)


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