Vikings go from back burner to center stage

By W. BRIAN HALE, Eagle Sports Writer
Posted 9/26/19

Prior to the arrival and installment of Bryan Moore as Jasper head coach, the Vikings’ program had fallen on tough times.

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Vikings go from back burner to center stage

Posted

Prior to the arrival and installment of Bryan Moore as Jasper head coach, the Vikings’ program had fallen on tough times.

In the 2016 and 2017 seasons, the Vikings failed to earn a postseason berth, winning seven games and just two region contests in the two-year span.

Moore was named to his post in January 2018 after a successful three-year stint at Eufaula.

In his first interview with the media, he emphasized goals and purpose — with goals like winning games and championships, while the more important purpose wasn’t “to win games, but to affect young people’s lives.”

Moore’s intent was to win games and championships and to build leaders — the type of young men to represent their community and ultimately give back to it.

The beginning of the transformation Moore envisioned begin with a rigorous offseason strength and conditioning program designed to get the Vikings bigger and stronger — while also working on character development through various activities centered around leadership and enhancement of personal potential.

When Jasper stepped onto the field for their season opener of 2018 against Cullman, a new Vikings squad had emerged that was stronger and more fundamentally sound.

Although Moore’s debut ended with a close loss, it was the last the team would experience until the third round of the playoffs.

The Vikings won 11 consecutive games, clinched the Class 5A, Region 7 title and finished the year with an 11-2 record — the best conclusion to a season since 2008.

The success has continued into 2019 with a flawless 4-0 start as well as a perfect 3-0 region mark.

Further signs of success have come in the program’s first No. 1 ranking, as well as the three consecutive shutouts the team has enjoyed.

Heading into Friday’s Game of the Week matchup with No. 2 and defending state champion Central Clay County, Moore reflected on the progress the program has made since the early preparation for the 2018 spring jamboree to this week’s practice against the Volunteers.

“We had high goals, but to think we’d be at this point within 18 to 20 months was probably unrealistic. But we saw something in Jasper that my wife Lindsey and I thought could be really good,” Moore said. “It’s been even better than expected. Outside of good football, it’s a great place to live — a great place for my children. It’s been a journey, but a lot of that has to do with the people around us — the players, the coaches and so many people other than myself. They’ve all bought in and helped us recreate this program. Our Athletic Director Jonathan Jordan has been right there with me all along the way and been very influential in behind-the-scenes work. I hope it continues this way.”

One of the biggest keys in the evolution of the program has come in the enhancement on and off the field of the team’s senior leaders — forerunners who experienced the tough times, but remained with the program and embraced the new changes and challenges Moore and his coaching staff implemented.

Seniors such as Michael Crear, Micah Woods, Ryan Pugh and Russ Green provided additional development and leadership on and off the field that the coach staff was able to rely on to make Jasper a success, as well as develop the next generation of leaders to step in after graduation.

“We’re very fortunate that we entered at a point where had a senior-laden team — all 14 of them played. That’s what made a difference. Now we have 18 seniors, all of whom play. Last year we had a great junior and senior group that simply didn’t want to continue to lose, they wanted to turn it around,” Moore said.

“It took us a little while, we’re sort of re-living those games right now, as we’ll turn on the replay as see how our current senior leaders like Kaden Shelton, Drake Roberts and Aundra Reese have come along in their physical ability. So many of them have transformed and you’re seeing a different product. It’s a lot of fun to see. But those seniors from last year helped lay the foundation for what we have today.”

Three of this year’s senior leaders gave their own perspective on how the program has changed from the struggling times of their sophomore season to being featured in the state’s Game of the Week matchup.

“We knew from the first meeting with Coach Moore was about business and he is a winner,” Shelton said.

“Coach Moore set us to a certain frame of mind when he came in with his tone. His catchphrase, “The Viking Way” resonated with us,” Reese said. “It set everything up that helped us reach this point today.”

“Coach Moore is probably one of the best coaches I have had coach me,” Roberts said. “He has a great mentality and works with us really well.”