Decatur Heritage Christian Academy didn’t have to go far to find its next head football coach.
Nikita Stover, who coached DHCA’s middle school team this fall, was named varsity head coach on Tuesday.
“If you have a good coach already in your house, why go somewhere else?” Decatur Heritage athletic director Ty Patterson said. “We just feel like Nikita is a good fit for our program.”
Stover, 36, takes over the reins of the program from Steve Meek, 61, who is retiring after leading the Eagles for 11 seasons. Under Meek’s leadership, the Decatur Heritage Eagles went 86-42 with four region championships and eight straight trips to the playoffs with a 10-8 playoff record.
“We want to build on the foundation that Coach Meek built,” Patterson said. “We are excited about the future at Decatur Heritage.”
Stover is a name familiar to area football fans. He was a first-team All-State receiver at Hartselle. He played three seasons at Alabama. His last two were Nick Saban’s first two years as head coach.
Stover, who owns Core 9 Training, first became connected with Decatur Heritage last year when his friend Johnny Jones became the girls basketball coach. Stover coached the middle school girls basketball team. He then took over the weight training program for the school’s athletic program. This fall he coached the middle school team to a 6-1 record.
“From the first time I walked into this place, it just felt like a really good fit,” Stover said. “I like it here a lot. I’m excited about having the opportunity to take the football program to the next level.”
Meek told school officials during the summer that this would be his last season after 38 years in coaching. He was head coach at Lawrence County for five years in the 1990s. His 17 wins at Lawrence County plus his Decatur Heritage success gives him an all-time record of 103-75.
“The kids seem to really like Nikita, and he sure has a football background,” Meek said. “We worked really well this season, and I’ll certainly help him in the transition.”
Stover inherits a roster that will be missing 10 seniors from a roster of 32 who were part of a three-year run that produced a 31-7 record with three region championships.
The list of seniors includes quarterback Brayden Kyle, who was a first-team Class 1A All-State selection as a junior. He has a chance to repeat the honor this month after throwing for 2,855 yards and 39 touchdowns and rushing for 31 touchdowns.
Senior defensive back/receiver Tyler Founds was an All-State selection as a sophomore.
“We have experience returning in the line, but we do lose a lot of the skill guys,” Stover said. “If we can get through next season when we’re going to be really young, I think the next couple of years after that are going to be really good. We have a really good young group coming up.”