Drew Phillips Athens (2)

Drew Phillips comes to West Morgan as head football coach after seven years as an assistant at Athens. [COURTESY OF ATHENS NEWS COURIER]

Drew Phillips knew in middle school he wanted to be a head football coach someday.

That someday has arrived. Phillips was named the new head coach at West Morgan after approval Thursday by the Morgan County school board.

“West Morgan is a special community,” Phillips said. “The administration has a vision of the culture they want for their program that lines up with what I believe in.”

Phillips, 34, comes to West Morgan from Athens, where he’s been an assistant for seven years. For the last two years, he’s been the Golden Eagles' offensive coordinator.

Football is definitely in Phillips’ DNA. His late grandfather was Harlon Hill, whose name is on the NCAA Division II Player of the Year trophy.

Hill was an All-American receiver at what is now UNA. He was the NFL Rookie of the Year in 1954 and NFL MVP in 1955 with the Chicago Bears.

“We spent a lot of Sundays at my grandparents’ house watching football,” Phillips said. “I can remember him being so mad after watching the Bears lose a game.

“The biggest thing I learned from my grandfather was about discipline. He instilled the importance of discipline in me that I still carry today.”

Phillips’ uncle, Jerry Hill, was his head coach at Brooks in his senior season in 2004. Bob Godsey was the head coach when Phillips was a freshman and sophomore. Chris Balentine was the head coach his junior season.

“All three of my high school head coaches to this day have helped me tremendously,” Phillips said.

Phillips comes to West Morgan after Mikel Riggs resigned after three seasons that saw the Rebels go 7-23 with no playoff appearances.

“Coach Phillips came to his interview with a great plan for our football program,” West Morgan principal Keith Harris said. “That really impressed us. We feel like he’s exactly what our football program needs.”

West Morgan’s last trip to the playoffs came in 2017 under head coach John Ritter. The Rebels went 10-2 with a second-round loss in the Class 3A playoffs.

Ritter left for Russellville after that season and West Morgan moved up to Class 4A.

Despite only being 3-7 last season, West Morgan just missed the playoffs as the No. 4 team out of Class 4A, Region 8. The final playoff team was decided when Brooks beat West Morgan, 29-21.

The Rebels have several key pieces returning from last season. Running backs Connor Dillard and Cade Alexander each rushed for over 600 yards and a combined for 12 touchdowns. Returning in the offensive line are Marcus Jones and Trevor Morgan. The top three tacklers — linebackers Cade Alexander, Braxton Peters and Sebastian Pendegraph — also return.

Phillips knows Class 4A, Region 8 well from having played at Brooks. Other teams in the region are defending champion West Limestone, Priceville, Deshler, Central Florence, Rogers and Wilson.

“There’s a lot of great tradition among the teams in our region,” Phillips said. “It’s always going to be super competitive.”

After high school, Phillips went to UNA and served as a volunteer coach at Brooks. Starting in 2011, he was the offensive coordinator at Randolph. In 2014 he moved Athens to be part of Allen Creasy’s coaching staff. He stayed on when Cody Gross took over the program in 2016.

One of the players Phillips had the opportunity to coach was wide receiver Quez Watkins, who just completed his rookie season with the Philadelphia Eagles.

“We hate to see Drew go, but he’s ready to be a head coach,” Gross said. “West Morgan is getting an outstanding person who will be a real asset to the school and community.”

Phillips was the offensive coordinator for the last two seasons. The 2019 team scored 404 points and averaged 33.7 points in an 8-4 season. That was the most points scored by an Athens team since the 2006 team scored 431 while going 12-3 and winning the Class 5A state championship.

Athens scored 306 points last season while going 7-4. The Golden Eagles were led by running back Jaylen Gilbert, who rushed for 1,317 yards and 15 touchdowns. Quarterback Jordan Scott threw for 983 yards on 70 of 100 pass attempts with 16 touchdowns.

In December, Phillips was selected as the Assistant Coach of the Year in Class 6A by the Alabama Football Coaches Association.

“I want teams that play us to know that we do things the right way,” Phillips said. “To be successful we need to do the little things. We want to be a fundamentally sound football team.”

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 david.elwell@decaturdaily.com or 256-340-2395. Twitter @DD_DavidElwell.

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