As the great Tom Petty once sang — and Roger McDonald likes to quote — “Waiting is the hardest part.”
It’s been an arduous process but Dadeville finally has a new football coach.
McDonald was named head football coach and athletic director after being unanimously approved by the Tallapoosa County Board of Education at its regular meeting Monday night.
“When (superintendent Joe) Windle had his health issues, I knew this was going to be put on the backburner,” McDonald said. “Then with trying to find a teaching slot (for me) and the coronavirus, it’s just one of those things that when the good Lord wants something to happen, it’s going to happen. This was supposed to happen because it finally did happen. I’m excited and happy it’s going to work out but waiting is the hardest part.”
But that wait is over — at least somewhat.
With the restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic, McDonald can’t meet with his new team and coaching staff right away but his No. 1 priority is connecting with all the players via phone to let them know his intentions and game plan moving forward.
But McDonald actually thinks having the pandemic might work in the Tigers’ favor because it evens out the playing field.
“The only good thing that’s happened with the shutdown is it puts us on the same playing field as anyone else,” McDonald said. “No one else is doing anything either.”
McDonald brings with him a lot of experience, including a 101-69 career record over Alabama and Georgia.
For the last seven seasons, McDonald has racked up a 40-33 record at Carroll of Ozark. He led the Eagles to a pair of playoff appearances, including a Class 5A third-round appearance in 2016. Prior to that, McDonald was the coach at Greenville (Georgia) where he led his team to playoffs in four seasons. His team had the 10th ranked defense in the state across all classes in 2011.
During his previous time in Alabama, he was the coach at Valley where the Rams went to playoffs for three of their four seasons with McDonald at the helm. He also spent 2001 through 2003 at Beauregard.
In 14 seasons as an Alabama head coach, McDonald has an 88-61 record and seven playoff appearances. He has never coached below Class 4A; Dadeville will continue to be a 3A school during the 2020-22 classification cycle.
Much like Dadeville is used to after two decades of the hard-nosed Richard White, the Tigers won’t see many on-the-field changes under McDonald. The two are very familiar with each other, even having coached alongside each other in last year’s AHSAA North-South game, and they have a fairly similar style.
“I just believe in being physical and hard-nosed and wanting to put a tough product on the field,” McDonald said. “We make things challenging for our kids because we don’t want them just to be tough in football; we want them to be mentally tough football. We’ll be under center offensively more than (Dadeville) is used to and defensively we’re an even-man front.
“It’s not real complicated. We want to put kids in the best position and not have to think; they can just be aggressive and play. I think if you run the football, stop the run and have a good kicking team, it’s the same formula that has always won still wins.”
Already knowing he’s in a tough boat given the coronavirus situation, McDonald has tried to take some time to be in Tallapoosa County as well as studied his new players on film. He now wants to connect with them one on one and is ready to begin that journey, even if it is virtually.
“The biggest thing I wanna do is get each kid on the phone where they can hear my plan and we can start getting to know each other,” McDonald said. “They have to develop trust with someone they won’t see eye to eye for a while. The biggest thing is letting them know someone has been hired and I’m excited to be there even if this is uncharted waters.”