Brunner steps down as Jasper head coach

Coach led Vikings to region title in 2015

By JOHNATHAN BENTLEY, Eagle Sports Editor
Posted 11/16/17

For the first time in more than a decade Jasper High School is in the market for a new head football coach.

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Brunner steps down as Jasper head coach

Coach led Vikings to region title in 2015

Posted

For the first time in more than a decade Jasper High School is in the market for a new head football coach.

Heath Brunner stepped down from his post on Thursday after five years as the Jasper head football coach.

“The board, the athletic department, our system and Heath — it was a mutual decision,” Jasper City Schools Athletic Director Jonathan Jordan said. “Coach Brunner has done unbelievable things for the kids and the community. You can’t even quantify what he’s done for the program. He’s a man of great character.”

Brunner took over as the Vikings’ head coach in Week 2 of the 2013 season. Former coach John Holladay resigned after an altercation with a Cullman High School coach following a season-opening loss to the Bearcats.

Despite being banned from the playoffs by the Alabama High School Athletic Association, Brunner led the Vikings to an 8-1 record the rest of the way. The interim tag was removed before the 2014 season.

Brunner guided the Vikings to the region title in 2015, but Jasper struggled over the last two years, going 4-6 in 2016 and 3-7 this season — the Vikings’ first back-to-back losing seasons since the early 1990s.

“When he took over, this program was in as bad a shape as it could possibly be in. We were looking at AHSAA sanctions. He came in and turned all that around. He definitely left the program in a better situation than he found it,” Jordan added. “In the last couple of years, the results aren’t what he wanted. They aren’t what anybody wanted. There’s a lot of factors in that.”

This season, Jasper faced a daunting task in Class 6A, Region 6. Region foe Pinson Valley (10-0) finished the season ranked third while Clay-Chalkville (8-2) was ranked ninth. The Vikings also played a non-region road game at No. 1 Austin (10-0) to open the season.

Along with a tough schedule, Jasper was hit hard by injuries and suspensions. By the end of the season, Brunner was down to his third-string quarterback in games against Minor and Dora. The ailments weren’t relegated to the quarterback position. Jasper also lost a pair of linebackers and its top receiver as the season headed down the home stretch.

The Vikings dropped their final four games, getting outscored 155-48 in that span. The season ended with a 30-7 home loss to Dora.

Brunner, who will remain at Jasper as a teacher, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“Coach Brunner has done a lot for this school and the community. He’s a great man,” Jasper Principal Dr. Bart Reeves said. “At the end of the day, if changes have to be made, then of course they have to be made. That’s the situation we are in right now. Still, you are affecting people and livlihoods and such, and that’s tough.”

Jordan said the head coaching job will be posted.

“It has to be posted a few weeks, then we will begin the process,” Jordan added.