SUMITON — Sumiton Christian assistant coach Jeremy Moon’s long-time coaching experience includes scores of players who have gone on to be key contributors — including his son and current Eagles standout, Eli.
With his father on the sideline providing motivation and direction to Eli and his teammates, the Eagles have rebounded from two 1-9 seasons to currently hold a 5-3 record on the year, have clinched their first playoff berth since 2016 and have the opportunity to finish third in Class 1A, Region 7 with a win over Valley Head tonight and a Woodville loss to Appalachian.
For Jeremy, the years of being able to coach his son from the toy bowl level to the prep ranks is an experience few have shared, but all greatly treasure.
“It’s been a real blessing to be involved with him throughout all these years. We really appreciate the opportunity at Sumiton Christian that allows us to keep it going. This is my home area, having grown up in East Walker. To be back where I grew up and be able to watch Eli accomplish what he has along with his teammates has been a great experience,” Jeremy said.
“This turnaround we’re enjoying, all the credit goes to the kids and the way they’ve bought-in and made the effort they have. Any time you are trying to change a program, it doesn’t happen abruptly — it’s going to take small turns and we’re fortunate to have great young men who are eager to see it through.”
Having his father on the sideline has also been not only a comfort for Eli, but has also brought the advantage of helping foster a better sense of communication with the coaching staff, as well as helped to keep him motivated.
“We didn’t start out winning like we have lately, but my dad’s been there to give encouragement. During our game against Gaylesville, which was our first region win on the season and a really important one for us, I had an awful migraine headache that left me wanting to sub-out late. Dad was there to encourage me and tell me to give it all I had,” Eli said.
“I ended up getting an interception late in the game that ended up sealing the win for us. It was one of my favorite moments from this year.”
While the Eagles’ stellar season, practices and the games on Friday nights play a huge role in both Jeremy and Eli’s lives together, off the field and away from the game, the father and son keep the “business talk” to a minimum.
“There are a few times we’ll go over details while watching game tapes, but we spend more time talking about music or college teams. I never wanted either of my sons, Eli and my older son John who also played here at Sumiton Christian, to think football is a burden,” Jeremy said. “I want them to enjoy the time on the field and the memories that surround it.”
“We talk football a good bit to make sure we’re on top of everything, as well as we both enjoy it a lot, but it’s not our lives. There are a lot of other things we enjoy together as well,” Eli added.
Both father and son have many treasured memories together on the football field, with both strongly believing more are awaiting ahead.
“In Eli’s freshman year, he had some great plays on defense that really stood out and showed his promise and potential. This year against Cherokee was really his breakout game. He nearly hit 200 yards and four touchdowns. It was great to be an eyewitness to,” Jeremy said. “What stands out was when he was eight on a 9-10 year-old team and took a shot on the chin from a much larger player. He came over to the sideline and had a huge, swollen bruise that looked like a purple Easter egg. He begged to stay in the game. Right then I knew he was a gamer and a leader — that’s something you can’t coach.”
“I got to play with my brother John during my freshman year — even though the season didn’t go as we wanted it to with winning only one game — just being on the field at the same time was special,” Eli said. “Now with us winning games which is something we weren’t used to, it’s like it’s all paid off.”
Jeremy and Eli both quickly acknowledge the fun they’re having this season together, along with their teammates and the coaching staff.
“We had fun last season though we didn’t have the success we are having now, but any time you can see things start to click, and not just for Eli but for the entire team, it’s wonderful,” Jeremy said. “To watch this team go out and give everything they’ve got and reap the rewards, it’s what a coach hopes to see.”