New Patriots’ coach will stress hard work

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 16, 2001

Sports Writer

There will be a new face on the sidelines this fall on 231-South in Troy for the first time since 1978 when former Lowndes Academy mentor Mack Williams becomes the new head football coach of Pike Liberal Arts School effective June 1.

Williams will take over for former PLAS head coach DeWight Ward, who is retiring at the end of this school year following a successful 23-year run at the Alabama Independent Association School. Ward ended his coaching career in grand style on Oct. 27, 2000 with a convincing road victory over arch rival Dixie Academy.

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A Clayton native and a 1977 graduate of Dixie, Williams did one year of student teaching under Ward at PLAS in 1982 before getting his degree from Troy State University in 1983.

After working in sales for three years from 1983-85, Williams earned his first coaching job at his alma mater in 1986 at the Louisville school. For 12 years at Dixie Academy, Williams led the Rebels to the AISA Playoffs 11 times including a pair of state championships in 1995 and ’96 along with a runner-up appearance in 1988.

In 1999, Williams moved to the Lowndesboro-Hayneville area taking over the head coaching duties at Lowndes Academy taking the Rebels to the AISA 3A State Semifinals in 1999 before losing in the first round last season to Southern Academy (6-3).

Williams, who has an overall record of 116 wins and 47 losses, said the opportunity to return to the Wiregrass and take a prestigious head coaching job such as PLAS was one of several reasons why accepted the

post in mid-February after being interviewed by the PLAS School Board.

"The biggest thing was that Troy always intrigued me," Williams said. "But I never thought I could be the coach behind Coach

Ward. I thought one day of it being a job I would love to take. I grew up in Barbour County only 36 miles away from Troy and I was looking for a place to call home, plus having a young family with a boy in the fourth grade this fall and a girl turning four in November. I wanted a good AISA school for them to grow up in."

After visiting the school last month, Williams said he was very impressed with all the facets about PLAS.

"The school had a big impact because it’s a good academic school with a good sports program," Williams said. "Pike has always been in 3A and played a tough schedule. But that excited me along with the chance to win a state championship. When the opportunity knocked, I opened the door."

Despite his obligation to finish out the school year at Lowndes, Williams said he hopes to get more familiar with the Patriots starting in May.

"I met with the Pike Liberal kids a few weeks back even though I’m obligated now at Lowndes Academy," Williams said. "I was pleased with the response of the players. We’ll be having an in-house football camp on May 14 (with no jamboree) after baseball season. In the summer, we will have a weight training and conditioning program. I’m hoping to get to know the kids and having them used to my program so everything won’t be foreign to them (in the fall)."

While he’s impressed with the newly improved facilities at PLAS, Williams said it will still take lots of hard work to get the Patriots back to the postseason for the first time since 1997.

"The kids have got to work hard and believe they can win by putting their heart and soul into it," Williams said. "We’ve got to work hard and let the chips fall where they may. We’ve got to push and scrap by doing the best we can to win. I’m scared of failure. It’s a big range in 3A and the competition is tough. "

Despite the Patriots combining for just seven win over the last three years, Williams said he’s optimistic PLAS can handle the demanding slate with 15 seniors returning this fall. The Patriots open up the 2001 season with AISA 3A runner-up Fort Dale Academy

on Friday, August 24 in Greenville.

"The schedule they have is tough, but everyone else puts their pants on the same way I do," Williams said. "Anytime you go out on Friday nights, both teams have a chance to win. I look at it as a challenge. Our kids will work hard and get into the weight room. If we do the little things well, good things will happen."

As far as overall football philosophies are concerned, Williams said the Patriots are going to use a multiple offense with an emphasis on having a balanced attack. Defensively, Williams said the Patriots will use several 40 and 50 sets.

Williams said having increased numbers are a big key if the Patriots are going to turn things around in 2001.

"I’m going to tell them in order to be successful every kid in the Troy area needs to come out (for football)," Williams said. "I’m going to tell them to play for the team and let the chips fall where they may."