Jack Rutledge (left) John Copeland (middle) Wayne Brantley (right)
John Copleand was our Defensive Coordinator at Tuscaloosa Academy


“Courage is not the absence of fear, it is the overcoming of fear” 

“No man is worth his salt who is not ready at all times to risk his well being , to risk his body, to risk his life, in a great cause.” -Theodore Roosevelt

Well, I am sure you want to know about how the team turned out in 2007. We only won two games but it was one of the most fun and most rewarding seasons of my career. We had gone from 16 players the previous year to 23 players. I had contacted every boy in the school and asked them to try football. It paid off with the additions to the team. We were not that talented, but we had heart, toughness, character, and we loved each other. In our first game we played Southern Academy. They were stacked, they had size, speed, and numbers, and they had won three straight state championships. They were “bigger and stronger” than we were for sure. But, we approached that game with courage. When you are overmatched you have to find ways to gain small victories. Turn the game into a series of smaller battles that you can win. One of those areas was special teams. I had been studying Southern on film all summer and I knew we could run a kick-off back against them. I also believed we could get a surprise on-side kick. We prepared well and both happened. Christian Menard returned a kick-off 90 yards for a TD, Taylor Conant recovered a surprise on-side kick, and Jeremiah Tullidge hooked up with Tyler Shirley for a TD pass in the first half to keep it close. I am not usually a believer in “moral victories”, but that game was an exception. We lost the game, but I felt like we won the small battles and our team was “bought in” from that point forward! We were going to attack the season with courage!

From my study of Nehemiah chapter 4 that season I learned that there are 4 ways to play with courage and defeat your opponent: 

“Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes”. Nehemiah 4:14

Leadership is an absolute must on a team. Tuscaloosa Academy had a really cool tradition that I totally embraced when I arrived in 2007. The Captain’s Dinner. Team captains would be elected during pre-season practice and a banquet would be held for the team, cheerleaders, and parents to honor the elected captains. It was an awesome thing! I took full advantage of it to promote the qualities of a Knight and what a team captain should be. The banquet was also a great opportunity to get in front of the parents and brag on the team before our first game and get everyone excited! Over the years the expectations, qualifications, and role of the team captains grew and I expanded it even more once I left TA for Landmark in 2011. I would strongly encourage you to have “permanent” team captains. Here are some thoughts on team captains that you should consider for your team:

Our first win was in game three over Edgewood Academy, 38-21. Edgewood had beaten TA 48-0 the season before. We were very physical and ran the ball right at them, we controlled the clock and frustrated their high powered offense. Shane Gilliland had a long run for a TD after catching a screen pass and Jeremiah Tullidge made several great plays on zone reads. Garrett McGiffert was all over the field on defense! It was a sweet win! Our second win came over Lee-Scott Academy 14-12 in game eight. Lee-Scott had beaten TA 38-7 in 2006. We blocked an extra point and a game winning field goal attempt on the last play of the game. A big thanks to Doug Randle and Omari Horne for getting a great push and making the play! It was a memorable night for sure. I have always read that it takes three to five years to change a culture. I firmly believed we were well on our way, maybe even a little ahead of schedule!

Celebrating a Big Knights Win!
II Timothy 1:7 says, “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline”

Our players were learning how to attack practices and games! They were playing like their hair was on fire! 

David is a great example of how to attack your enemy! I Samuel 17:34-51 teaches us several things about the way David attacked Goliath. 

The success of a program is measured by a lot more than wins and losses and it is definitely measured by more than one season. A program is measured by how hard your players play, by the grit and toughness that they show, by how much improvement occurs on the field, by how much they love each other, by the class that they show on and off of the field, by the improvement that they make as human beings and how they serve others. A program is measured by eternal victories, not just by temporary victories made on a Friday night. We only won two games that season, but we were knocking it out of the park in all of the other areas. God blessed us in a lot of ways. During that 2007 season I boldly proclaimed to anyone that would listen and every chance that I got that TA would become the best football program in the state of Alabama and that we would win a state championship in football in the near future.

Ashton McLeod #21 He was the model Knight!

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