The Panthers sat in the away locker room at Fyffe fresh off a 34-6 loss that put the team at 2-3 on the season. Head coach Jeff Smith simply told his players that if they wouldn’t give up, he wouldn’t either.
And that’s when it happened.
Wellborn went on to win its next six games, tie for first place in Class 2A, Region 6 and make the second round of the state playoffs. The season earned Smith The Anniston Star's Class 1A-2A Calhoun County coach of the year.
“From the first game until we played Fyffe for the second time (in the playoffs), this is the most improved football team that I have ever coached or been associated with,” Smith said. “From the first game to last, they went to work and improved every day. We were still getting better practicing in the second round.”
Wellborn was successful behind the leadership of its five seniors – Chantz Goodman, Robbie Tucker, Devron Taylor, Jaleel Burton and Drake Cebrain – but had help from plenty of other talent.
The Panthers faced Fyffe again in the second round, this time at home, and nearly topped the Red Devils, falling in the final minutes of the game.
Wellborn has made the playoffs all five years Smith has been the coach. The Panthers had back-to-back 1-9 seasons before Smith returned to his alma mater in 2009. He is 36-22 in five seasons at Wellborn.
Brandon Miller covers prep sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3575 or follow him on Twitter @bmiller_star