“Last year was a difficult year,” said Paul Kulick, who is entering his 10th year as head coach. “We were rebuilding with a very young team and had a lot of struggles, but through the hardships we learned a lot. We grew and are now moving forward.”
Kulick, who led ASD to seven winning seasons as coach, said his team won’t have a large roster this year, with only about 18 to 20 players. However, experience should be a plus, as Kulick said he has nine starters back on offense and eight on defense.
“We’re, of course, a small 1A school, and our players often play both offense and defense as many schools do in our division,” he said. “While this could be a disadvantage, our student-athletes embrace the challenge and want to be on the field from the beginning of the game to the end.”
Kulick said he thinks a lot of the team’s problems last season stemmed from injuries to an already-thin roster.
“We had a lot of injuries and that reduced the number of our players,” Kulick said. “We had to move them around to different positions and so we struggled with that last year. I know we’re a very young team. Before we just used ninth through 12th graders, but now we’ve expanded to seventh and eighth graders also. So, we’ve disbanded the junior varsity team and just have the one varsity team.”
Kulick estimated the roster will be thin again this season, but has seen more commitment from his players.
“Last spring, we had the weightlifting program and they did a great job,” Kulick said. “A lot of kids came after school and were working out. I was very impressed with their hard work. I’m sure that they’re going to do better. I expect this year we’ll be better than last year.”
The schedule for the team in the upcoming season should prove to be challenging.
“We’re going to play eight different schools, four hearing schools and four deaf schools,” Kulick said. “The hearing schools are Fayetteville, Victory Christian, Jacksonville Christian Academy and Tharptown. That will be tough.
“The four deaf schools we play are Florida, Indiana, Mississippi and Tennessee. It’s almost like the SEC. We play against different states. It is a tough schedule. That’s why we reduced the number of games we’re playing to just eight -- so we can keep healthy and we have some open dates so the players have more time to gear up for the next game.”
State schools for the deaf compete against each other to see who will emerge as their national champion.
“We don’t really have playoffs, so we’d like to win a national championship,” Kulick said. “The hearing schools have a state championship, but deaf schools don’t have that. When we play with other deaf schools, we see who is the best deaf school in the nation, so that makes us feel good. That’s a really nice aspect and that really motivates the boys to play harder.”
Kulick wants to see each player strive to improve so the overall team can improve.
“The goals for our ASD Silent Warrior football program include an emphasis on team and individual improvement,” Kulick said. “The Silent Warriors couldn’t get much going offensively last year, scoring just 10 points a game after a three-year stretch of putting up good offensive numbers.”
The Silent Warriors open the season at home against Tennessee School for the Deaf on Sept. 7.
Alabama School for the Deaf at a glance
Head coach: Paul Kulick (47-37 in nine seasons as head coach at Alabama School for the Deaf).
Last year’s record: 1-8. Not a member of an AHSAA region.
Outlook: After averaging 44 points a game in 2011, ASD dropped to 12 a game last season. Youth and injuries took their toll on the squad, but the Silent Warriors gained plenty of experience in that season. Nine starters are back on offense, and eight return on defense, which help push the program back to the level it has enjoyed in recent years, as they posted winning records in seven of the previous eight seasons.
Aug. 30, at Victory Christian
Sept. 7, vs. Tennessee School for the Deaf
Sept. 14, vs. Indiana School for the Deaf
Sept. 20, Open
Sept. 27, vs. Fayetteville
Oct. 4, Open
Oct. 12, vs. Mississippi School for the Deaf
Oct. 19, vs. Florida School for the Deaf
Oct. 25, at Jacksonville Christian
Nov. 1, at Tharptown