Pike Road turns to Ed Rigby to guide football program

Ed Rigby was introduced as Pike Road's second-ever football coach on Friday morning. 

PIKE ROAD -- After going through a whirlwind of interviews late last week, Pike Road officials settled on an obvious choice for the Patriots’ new head football coach, selecting Eufaula coach Ed Rigby to take over as the school’s second coach after the departure of Patrick Browning.

Rigby was mentioned frequently as a choice for the position, but the school system had to first select a principal in Andrea Maness and a superintendent in Keith Lankford. Both were on hand for the introduction of Rigby on Friday morning.

“There was certain criteria that I was looking for,” Lankford said. “A man of character, integrity, pride. The other thing I wanted to find was someone the students could associate with and was approachable because that was brought to me by one of the athletes, that was what they were looking for. So it was exciting for me when the committee selected this person.”

A selection committee was formed and reportedly selected six finalists to be interviewed for the position last week but Rigby, who has spent the last nine years building winners at Elba High and Eufaula High, was an obvious choice.

His resume fits nicely with the job he was hired for. He took over a successful Elba program from Scott Rials in 2013 and continued its winning ways. The Tigers had won a state championship in 2011 under Rials and Rigby would get the program back in the championship game in 2014 and 2015, losing to Fyffe the first time before beating them in 2015.

He will have a similar role at Pike Road, taking over a program Browning built from scratch in 2018 into a 5A state champion in 2021. Browning left for Greenville High in early April.

“There are so many great things they are (doing),” Rigby said. “Some of them we’ll keep, some of them we won’t. Coach Browning did a tremendous job here. His offense was super complex the way they flipped the line. His plays were not, but the presentation was. He’s going to do awesome at Greenville with it, but we’re different.”

In 2018, Rigby took over a Eufaula program that had been a perennial power in 5A but was competing in 6A for the first time. Rigby will face a similar challenge at Pike Road as the Patriots compete in 6A for the first time this fall.

“The thing about taking that (Eufaula) job was (the mindset of), ‘hey, we won’t be successful, we’re too small, we’re going to win three games,’” he said. “I heard that more and more. Man, I’d get so mad about it. But we sold it around town, with the kids continuously. That first win (over Northview in 2018) solidified that we could win at that level. But it was a constant spin and a constant sell.”

Rigby has earned a reputation in south Alabama and northwest Florida for building winning programs, but will face some unique challenges at Pike Road where a relatively new school system is outgrowing its facilities and struggled at times off the field with a rapid influx of new players.

One of his first priorities will be evaluating his coaching staff and filling vacancies on that staff.

“We’ll see how things work out with hiring folks here because there are some openings,” Rigby said, “but at first we have to look at this staff and what we have here and how we fit together.”

The hiring of a coach in late May will prevent the Patriots from conducting its traditional spring practice, although recent Alabama High School Athletic Association legislation permits teams that don’t hold a spring practice to gain an extra week of practice in the fall.

That will help a program replacing several key personnel as its transitions from 5A to 6A.

“In the state of Alabama, 6A is the most difficult and hardest class,” Rigby said. “There’s 20 great teams in 6A, from your Spanish Forts to your Hueytowns. And any time you move up a class, there’s a learning curve. The good thing with this deal is the learning curve is not as big because I’m familiar with everybody.

“Lord willing, with the knowledge I have, the coaches we hire and the great coaches they have, it’ll help us do that curve a lot faster.”

Interestingly enough, Eufaula competed the past two years in a region that included Montgomery schools G.W. Carver, Sidney Lanier and Park Crossing, among others, and the Tigers are moving back down to 5A and Pike Road will take their place in the region.

Rigby’s teams are noted for their aggressive defensive style. His offensive style is somewhat similar to what Browning ran at Pike Road, although last year’s version featured less passing from quarterback Iverson Hooks and more running out of Wildcat formation from Quinshon Judkins.

“We’re behind the eight ball on a lot of things, a handful of things passing wise” Rigby said. “To be successful in 6A, you’re going to have to throw the forward pass. It’s got to be a threat. You’ve got to run the ball to be successful at every level in this sport but to be successful in 6A, you’ve got to have an over-the-top (passing) threat. My version of (the offense), from what they did last year, is more wide open.”

He’s won at every level. And he’s coached at programs, such as Elba and Eufaula, that had a winning tradition and hired him to continue that winning tradition. He got his start in coaching in 1994 with his wife Chanda, who just completed her 10th season as the women’s basketball coach at Troy University. She was present at Friday’s press conference, drawing some praise from her husband.

“A lot of my success has been because of her,” he said. “She’s very devout in praying for me early and often and daily.”