In between, he had 11 years as an assistant at Handley. He was on Handley’s staff when the Tigers went 15-0 and won the Class 3A title in 2011.
Fordham now emerges from that chute ready to take on the head-coaching role again, for a program that’s known success and wants it back.
“I hope I won’t make as many mistakes as I made early on when I was a young head coach,” Fordham said.
Wadley fans have brought their hopes to Fordham and his staff of volunteer assistants, including former Auburn University and Wadley receiver Terrell Zachery. The Bulldogs have endured three losing seasons since Randy Sparks won 120 games from 1995-2009.
Wadley finished 4-6 and in a three-way tie for fourth in Class 1A, Region 4 in 2012 and missed the playoffs.
Fordham went 30-33 in six seasons as a head coach, three at Chambers Academy and three at Beulah. His last season as a head coach was 2001.
The Randolph County native came back home for his stay as an assistant at Handley. The one-time Wadley assistant became the school’s head coach in July, after Darrell Roach resigned.
Fordham said he sees an opportunity for resurgence at Wadley. He likes the talent he saw coming up the ranks in recreation-league ball.
“I sort of knew what was coming right here, right now and what’s coming, as well,” he said. “My youngest son, we had played them in rec league for a lot of years, and they were beating the daylights out of us.
“I knew there was going to be an opportunity for good things.”
Wadley has up-and-coming talent, led by running back Kamaury Avery. Just a sophomore, he saw regular action as an eighth-grader and averaged 118 yards a game last season.
At 6-foot-0, 225 pounds, Avery seems well suited for the offensive change Fordham will bring. The Bulldogs will go from being a spread team to a multiple-I formation, power team.
Wadley also will return Chandler McClain, who transferred from Handley after playing for Handley’s title team in 2011. He’ll play running back, strong safety and wide receiver.
“He’s going to be the kid that can go everywhere and anywhere,” Fordham said.
Wadley also returns Glen Depriest at guard and defensive end, Bradley Melton at center and defensive end and wide receiver/defensive back Devin Freeman.
At quarterback, there’s Caleb Calhoun, a part-time starter in 2012.
“They played him a lot at the end of last year,” Fordham said.
Wadley will also have another Fordham. Junior fullback/linebacker John David Fordham came over from Handley, with his dad.
The Fordhams come to a program what won four region titles from 2000-05 and hopes to challenge region powers Loachapoka and Notasulga for another.
“There’s some talent that’s there that shows up early every single day,” Ken Fordham said. “We practice every day at 4 o’clock, and they’re already in here working out, and they’re already in here getting their stuff ready.”
His new players sense that he’s just as eager.
“We work out more,” McClain said. “He gets us in shape better than last year. We weren’t ready last year.”
Ken Fordham is plenty ready to take the lead whistle again.
“I guess, when you pray about things, things happen,” he said. “That played a big part into it. It felt right to do it, and I hope it’s going to be right to do it.”
Sports columnist Joe Medley: 256-235-3576, firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @jmedley_star.
Wadley at a glance.
Head coach: Ken Fordham (30-33 in six seasons as head coach at Beulah, Chambers Academy; entering first season at Wadley and first season as a head coach since 2001; was assistant at Handley).
Last year’s record: 4-6, tied for fourth in Class 1A, Region 4. Did not make the state playoffs.
Outlook: After three mediocre seasons, Bulldog backers are ready for a return to the success they enjoyed under Randy Sparks, who went 120-58 from 1995-2009. They’ve turned to Fordham, who has six years of experience as a head coach and spent 11 years as an assistant at Handley. He was on Handley’s staff when the Tigers won the 3A title in 2011. The sense is that Wadley has a good group of players coming up from rec-league ranks, and the Bulldogs are close to resurgence.
Aug. 29, vs. Horseshoe Bend
Sept. 6, vs. Verbena
Sept. 13, at Fayetteville
Sept. 20, vs. Talladega County Central
Sept. 27, at Gaston
Oct. 4, at Saint Jude
Oct. 11, vs. Winterboro
Oct. 18, at Loachapoka
Oct. 25, at Notasulga
Nov. 1, vs. Beulah