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Dadeville coach Roger McDonald leads members of his team into a press conference in Opelika for high school media day.

The COVID-19 pandemic was well underway when Roger McDonald was named Dadeville’s new football coach. Even though school is still out, McDonald said his team was eager to get down to business.

Players Lane Smith, Jordan Parker and Avonate Wilson ventured to Opelika with McDonald on Wednesday for a high school football media day and to share they are ready to play — if football happens.

“We have inherited a group of kids that are hungry,” McDonald said. “They had been out of school. When we showed up at the school, we were trying to let kids know we were having a meeting over social media. We had almost 50 kids show up that day.”

McDonald said the coronavirus has affected getting around the Dadeville community and getting to know everyone, but thankfully former coach Richard White was there to break the ice. White also laid out how he had been doing things. McDonald said White’s help and the history of Tiger football has helped.

“There is a lot of pride and tradition in Dadeville,” McDonald said. “Dadeville has won. They have always won and always had success. There have been down years, but it has never lasted. I knew going to Dadeville we would win. It might take some time, but we are going to win — going to be competitive. These kids understand the pride and tradition. They just watched Anfernee Jennings play at Alabama and get drafted so you know the type of players that are here.”

Outside of McDonald’s seven-year stint at Carroll Ozark, his entire playing and coaching career has been in East Alabama. In that time, he has learned a little old-school football.

“I have been blessed with an opportunity to learn from other coaches, as a player and a coach,” McDonald said. “The good Lord blessed me with being in the right place and working for a lot of outstanding coaches. They were cut from the same cloth — tough, hard-nosed football.

McDonald is bringing that old-school football to Dadeville.

“These kids are going to find out, we do it a little different from the way most people practice in this day and time,” McDonald said. “We won’t be out there throwing it around 75 times a day at practice.”

The Tigers haven’t been afraid to take part in workouts over the summer.

“We have averaged about 46 kids show about three days a week,” McDonald said. “It’s two hours and we get after it. They are in the weight room for an hour and outside doing plyos and agilities, flipping tires and pushing sleds and running for an hour. They have come in excited and I am proud of how hard they have worked.”

Getting the most out of the practice time is crucial. It is when players can learn the schemes of a new coach and show the new coach they aren’t scared to be physical.

“That guideline the (Alabama) High School Athletic Association has given for being physical, when you can hit, they leave it real broad,” McDonald said. “There are time limits on hitting. To me, a play only takes seven seconds, if I only got seven seconds, I can do a lot of hitting for that 40 minutes when you only count seven seconds of contact running a play, scrimmage or line drill.”

The pride in the history of Dadeville football has kept the players coming to the field house for workouts without McDonald.

“The situation we are in, they have been going all summer and really don’t know,” McDonald said. “People say we are going to play. They say we are going to do this or do that, but nobody really knows really what’s going to happen. They have really had to have a blind faith and trust they are going to have a playing opportunity for all this work to pay off. I couldn’t ask for any more.”

The AHSAA announced Wednesday fall sports will be allowed to start on time this fall. The organization is expected to release more details regarding the fall season at a 1 p.m. press conference today.

Cliff Williams is a staff writer for Tallapoosa Publishers.