Pike Road football coach Patrick Browning added three new members to his coaching staff, including former head coaches Barry Loyal and Mike Atkins and former Montgomery Academy defensive coordinator Jacob King.
The trio were approved by the Pike Road board at its Monday meeting.
The hiring of Loyal, the former head coach at Trinity Presbyterian, gives the Patriots an innovative offensive mind to replace offensive coordinator Blake Boren, who took over as head coach at Montevallo.
“Barry is a phenomenal coach and, more importantly, he’s a phenomenal person,” Browning said. “It goes all the way back to when Trinity won the state championship (in 2003) and really started their run in the early 2000s of being a really good football team. He was an integral part of that and really introduced the spread offense to a lot of the high schools in Alabama.
“He’s going to come in and take what we’ve been doing on offense and work on improving it in different areas. We’re always looking to get better and I feel like he’s brings a lot of experience to the table to add on to what we’ve been doing.”
As soon as Boren was hired at Montevallo, Loyal knew where he wanted to apply.
“I called Patrick as soon as I heard that,” Loyal said. “First off, my wife and I – for lots of reasons inside our family – made a decision that we were going to stay in Montgomery. When you think about that, there’s only a handful of places that you think about going to. I’ve always wanted to get back into the public school system. When you look around here, you say where is the best place you can go and I think Pike Road is that place.”
Loyal compared the Pike Road system to the one he enjoyed at Signal Mountain in Chattanooga, Tenn., before he was hired at Trinity. The former Trinity alumnus coached the Wildcats for three seasons, improving each year from 4-6 to 5-7 to 6-5, only to be fired without warning at the end of the 2019 season.
“I’m fortunate to have this opportunity,” Loyal said, “just to be in that environment where I know the community support is there. Those things mean more than just being at a good football school, which it is. I know how to be a really good assistant coach because I’ve been a head coach before so I know what he’s looking for. Honestly, just being in a good program means more to me. I’d just be willing to be a position coach.”
A 1985 graduate of Trinity, Loyal played and received his first coaching job with the Wildcats under Hall of Fame coach Randy Ragsdale. In 1997, he was elevated to head coach of the junior varsity team and a year later left to become the offensive coordinator at Carroll High.
He served as an assistant to Butch Caldwell in 1998 and 1999, then returned to Trinity in 2000 as the offensive coordinator, helping the school through the most successful stretch in program history. Over the next five years, Trinity would reach the quarterfinals or better in every season, rolling off 45 consecutive regular-season wins between a late-season loss to Tallassee in 2000 and an early-season loss to W.S. Neal in 2005.
The Wildcats were 11-3 in 2000, 12-1 in 2001 and 2002 and won the 4A state championship in 2003 with a 15-0 record. They were 12-1 in 2004 and 7-4 in 2005 before Loyal achieved the next step when he was named head coach at Chattanooga (Tenn.) Christian School.
At CCS, he started the football program in 2006 with a junior varsity program and made the move to varsity in 2009. His teams went 1-9, 4-6, 3-7, 2-8 and 3-7 before he stepped down to become an assistant coach at nearby Signal Mountain High, where he served as receivers coach in 2014 and defensive coordinator in 2015 and 2016.
Now, he’ll become the third offensive coordinator at Pike Road in the last three years.
“The core of what we do has not changed since I’ve been here,” Browning said. “We’ve set this up where our players don’t learn new terminology; whoever comes in learns our terminology and they can manipulate that how they need to. There’s a certain philosophy that any spread coaches believe in that I’ve always looked for in a coordinator and the coordinators we’ve always hired are of similar philosophical beliefs.”
Loyal said both coaches have a similar mindset when it comes to developing the Patriot offense.
“After this season ended at Trinity, you start evaluating your program and your guys,” Loyal said. “I had made the decision we were going to go to the outside zone. Ironically, he was doing the exact same thing with his guys. He was a heavy gap scheme last year and wanted to make the transition, because of his personnel, to more of a zone game. Without knowing it, I was already doing work in that regard. We were already thinking along the same lines.”
Loyal said the offensive staff, which now includes Atkins, should be an asset to the Patriots this fall.
“There’s a lot of input into the plan, something that I necessarily haven’t had, so having the support like that is going to make it easy to figure things out,” Loyal said.
Atkins grew up helping out at Sweet Water High where his uncle, Hall of Fame coach Nolan Atkins, was the head coach. Later, Atkins would graduate from the school and get into the coaching ranks by helping his uncle at Demopolis Academy. For 12 years, he was the offensive line coach at Dothan High before taking the job as the head coach at Houston County.
His first team was 0-10, but the second reached the 2016 playoffs with a 6-5 record and the third went 8-3 before losing seasons in 2018 and 2019. He will replace Charlie Boren, who went to Montevallo to help his son.
“He’s done a phenomenal job for Houston County and before that he was the offensive line coach at Dothan for Kelvis White,” Browning said. “He is one of, if not the best, offensive line coach in the state. I’m extremely excited to get to work on the offensive side of the ball with two former head coaches, two guys that are really good in their craft. It’s going to be a fun time to be on the Pike Road offense.”
In addition, Browning hired King, a defensive coordinator at Montgomery Academy for the past four years, as an outside linebackers coach.
“Jacob was looking for the right opportunity to get into public school,” Browning said. “The stars aligned and it was a good fit. Jacob is a phenomenal teacher and a phenomenal coach. It was a no-brainer.”