By Gregg Dewalt
Special to The Daily
FALKVILLE — Suddenly, it's cool to be a football player at Falkville High.
Three wins in three games to start the season has had that effect in the small Morgan County community.
"Teachers that I would never expect to be interested in football are telling us ‘great game' in class," quarterback Aaron Estes said Tuesday night. "People are coming up to me in church that I don't really know and congratulating me. It's something we haven't experienced on the varsity level before."
They've been playing football in Falkville since 1924 and there have been only 30 winning seasons in school history, according to the high school football historical site ahsfhs.org. With a fast start this season, the Blue Devils are on track to make it 31.
The trick is to keep the season-opening winning streak going. With Falkville winning only twice in the previous two seasons, new coach Joel Schrenk has brought a new attitude and a new offense to the Blue Devils. A drop in classification — from 2A to 1A — didn't hurt, either. Now, instead of being outmanned on Friday nights, the Blue Devils are confident they can compete with anyone on their schedule.
"We were always one of the smallest 2A teams (in terms of enrollment) but this year we are, I think, the second largest 1A team," said Estes, who is the son of former Falkville football coach Neil Estes. "It was tough. We were playing teams like Tanner and Fultondale that were some of the best in Class 2A. This year, we think we can beat anyone on our schedule."
Much of the credit for the resurgence belongs to Schrenk, who said he found a team eager to put in the work necessary to turn around the program's lagging fortunes.
"They were excited," Schrenk said. "They were texting me back and forth in February and March telling me how excited they were to get started. We had a great spring. Everybody bought into what we were trying to do."
Schrenk pointed to summer workouts as an indication he had a team hungry to succeed.
"People told me they wouldn't come work out in the summer," Schrenk said. "Well, we had 95 percent participation. They believe in what we are telling them and what we were doing."
Of course, nothing creates enthusiasm like winning. Committed to a new spread offense, the Blue Devils won their opener 61-7 over Southeastern. That one-game point total eclipsed the last year's entire season total by three.
"I don't think Falkville had won a game like that in 40 years," Estes said.
Wins against Shades Mountain Christian and Appalachian followed. Now, the Blue Devils are 3-0 overall and 2-0 in Class 1A, Region 6 play heading into Friday's showdown against unbeaten Meek.
Schrenk points out that Falkville had a favorable schedule to start — the three defeated opponents are a combined 0-7 this season, but doesn't want to lessen the achievement.
"Historically, this has not been a great place to win in football," Schrenk said. "We're trying to change the culture. It's one thing to win some games, but we're trying to look at the big picture. That's what we have to do."
The new offense certainly has helped raise the excitement level. With Estes pulling the trigger at quarterback, Falkville frequently has been finding the end zone.
"The biggest thing about Aaron is his leadership and his competitiveness," Schrenk said. "The kids look up to him; he's been a leader throughout his life in this school. You can tell he is the son of a coach. He has been around the program for so long, and everybody looks up to him."
Schrenk said Estes quickly gained an understanding of the spread offense and now is comfortable enough to make suggestions about play-calling.
"If I can dream it up, (Estes) can run it," Schrenk said.
With Meek coming to town Friday, it's another chance for the Blue Devils to make a statement.
"We have to stay humble," Estes said. "I think we are good enough to win our region. We're getting better every week. Last year, if you rolled an ankle on Monday, you could sit out practice the rest of the week and know you would get to play on Friday. Now, everyone wants to be at practice every day. They get mad if they miss one rep. It's great to see."
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