While the feat may not seem like much, this past season was only the fifth time in school history Jacksonville has gone to the football postseason, and Smith is the fourth coach to lead the Golden Eagles there. After two seasons Smith also sits 11th in most wins at Jacksonville out of 25 coaches. He is also The Anniston Star’s Calhoun County Class 4A-6A coach of the year.
The turnaround all started in 2012. Even though Jacksonville’s season ended that year after Week 10, the foundation was set as the team finished 5-5.
“Coming off of last year, we had a great group of seniors that kind of set the tone and did things the way we wanted them done,” Smith said. “This year’s seniors coming in learned a lot from last year and we always talk about taking what we learn and move forward and taking the next step.”
Jacksonville posted an 8-4 mark this past season. The Golden Eagles made the playoffs for the first time since 2009, and in advancing to the second round, they won a playoff game for the first time since 1999. Smith said the trip to the playoffs was mostly fueled by “hunger,” which came as the result of disappointment at the way last season ended. The Golden Eagles began 2012 with a 5-1 mark but lost the final four contests.
This season, when the time came to win or go home in Week 9 against rival Alexandria, Jacksonville answered the call and won in double-overtime 24-23 to make the postseason as the second seed in Class 4A, Region 5.
“We’re sitting there tied with four other teams with our backs at the wall and we made plays when we had to,” Smith said. “The crazy thing is if we lost we would have missed the playoffs because of tiebreakers.”
Although the season ended when the Golden Eagles faced eventual 4A state champion Oneonta in the second round, Smith said he hopes this season is just one of many to come.
“Hopefully, the tone has been set for next year’s senior class and the future senior classes to come,” he said. “Hopefully, they know the expectations that we have for our football program.”
Brandon Miller covers prep sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3575 or follow him on Twitter @bmiller_star