Following the announcement by superintendent Robert Sparkman, Walker principal Gary Boling introduced Brunner to the members of the community in the audience — calling Brunner’s ascension to the helm of the Vikings’ program a “home-run decision.”
“This is a good night for Walker High School and Jasper City Schools. Coach Brunner is a proven head coach — he proved his abilities this season through the most difficult of circumstances — and brings a great deal of experience in very good programs that he will use in leading our student athletes,” Boling said. “He is well-respected by his fellow staff members, administration, students, parents, his peers in the coaching ranks and has good rapport with Steve Savarese and the Alabama High School Athletic Association. Coach Brunner is a man of integrity and character, with a work ethic that is second to none. I’m sure his tenure at Walker will be long and include a lot of success.”
Brunner was named interim head coach following the resignation of former coach John Holladay in the aftermath of a post-game brawl between Holladay and Cullman defensive coordinator Matt Hopper. After the AHSAA levied sanctions against the Walker football program that included a ban from post-season play for the 2013 season due to the incident, Brunner was tasked to lead the Vikings through the remaining nine games on the schedule.
Despite the inability to make an appearance in the Class 5A playoffs, the community and student body rallied around the Vikings, while Brunner centered the team’s focus on repeating as Region 6 champions and battling back from the off-the-field adversity. Thanks to a strong defense and the emergence of the Vikings’ rushing attack, Walker went 8-2 season on the season, a perfect 7-0 in the region and claimed its second consecutive Region 6 title.
Brunner thanked the board and Boling for their confidence in him and said he looked forward to building on the foundation of success present from years of outstanding Walker football.
“I’m really blessed to have this opportunity. What we did this year was a testimony to our kids and the staff that was already in place at Walker,” Brunner said.
“I’m happy to have the chance to coach our young men and make a difference in their lives, as well as in our community. I’m also looking forward to upholding the tradition that has been set here. After Aug. 30, the young men on our team did a great job of showing their character and class — I thank the seniors and our entire team for buying into the vision that myself and the staff put forward. That’s what got us through.”