Coosa Christian coach Clifton faces former team Cedar Bluff


Coosa Christian coach Scott Clifton works with his team during preseason practice. (Photo by Eric T. Wright | Gadsden Times)


As the old saying goes, “All roads lead back home.”

In this case, it means Coosa Christian and coach Scott Clifton’s Class 1A, Region 7 matchup Friday against Cedar Bluff in The Gadsden Times’ Game of the Week.

Clifton was an assistant coach under Jonathan McWhorter for the Tigers for seven years. At different times, he led the offense, defense and special teams while helping lead Cedar Bluff to numerous winning seasons and playoff appearances.

Then, the time came when he was offered, and accepted, the head job with the Conquerors.

Now, just three games into his first season replacing Van Owens, Clifton will find himself across the sideline against McWhorter and the program he called home for so long.

“I have a lot of respect for those kids, and we accomplished a lot of things while I was there,” Clifton said. “I coached a lot of those kids and it can be difficult because you coached them, but at the same time, they knew I had dreams and aspirations of becoming a head coach. Each one of them shook my hand and congratulated me.

“I’m paid to do a job here at Coosa Christian and I’m going to do that job.”

Clifton’s tenure with the Tigers means that he has some knowledge to impart to his team about its opponent. As for how much he anticipates that will help Coosa in Friday’s tilt, Clifton doesn’t believe it will be a huge factor.

“There’s some (Cedar Bluff) players I know and some that they’ve added,” he said. “If our team doesn’t come out and execute the way they need to, then my knowledge of their personnel doesn’t matter. It comes down to execution, what we need to do to win the ballgame.”

Coosa is off to an 0-2 start under its new leader. It lost to Collinsville 34-0 in the opener before dropping a 42-14 decision to Donoho last week. Both were region games.

Each of the Conquerors’ first four games in 2013 will have been against teams that made the playoffs last season, including the Tigers. Such a rough slate hardly is the way a new coach would prefer to start the year.

Despite the losses, Clifton has gleaned some positives out of the negatives.

“We’ve made strides,” he said. “We would like to be 2-0, but it hasn’t worked out the way we had intended. The players are learning from their mistakes. When they can take what we teach them on the practice field and execute the game plan we have set, we will be fine. We’re just trying to get over that hump.”

Ben Mills has rushed for 143 yards to lead Coosa through the first two games. Johnny Grizzard has passed for 34 yards, rushed for 49 yards and accounted for both of the team’s touchdowns so far this season. His passing score went to Randy Washington.

Mills also leads the team in tackles with 16. Seth Williamson and Jace Mills each have 12 tackles to tie for second on the team.

As for Cedar Bluff, it is in an unfamiliar spot. The Tigers lost their first two games as well, having fallen to Gaylesville (the first defeat for Cedar Bluff to the Trojans in 17 years) and Valley Head. The defending region champions find themselves 0-2 to begin a year for the first time since 2000, when current Piedmont coach Steve Smith led the team.

In last week’s 48-27 loss to Valley Head, quarterback Dalton Cosby was taken off the field on a stretcher and taken to an area hospital. Fortunately, he was not seriously hurt and it appears that he will take the field for Cedar Bluff against the Conquerors.

With Cosby out there, McWhorter will be able to present a multitude of difficulties for Coosa. Cosby, who threw for 260 yards and two scores before leaving last week’s game with the injury, can look to Devante Dixon or D.J. Chapman, who each caught long touchdown passes in Week 2, or he can put the ball in the hands of running back D’Shawn Fife, who rushed for more than 1,300 yards in 2012.

Additionally, Cedar Bluff will be looking to counter the frustration of rare back-to-back losses.

“They’re always going to have good quarterbacks,” Clifton said. “They’re always going to score points. You have to stop them from making big plays. You have to have the ball bounce your way a couple of times. If we can control the clock, keep moving the chains and not shoot ourselves in the foot, keep ourselves in it until the fourth quarter, we have a pretty good chance of winning.”