End of an Era: Smith leaving Piedmont for Westbrook Christian

Football coach Steve Smith announced he’s leaving Piedmont for Westbrook Christian on Friday. Photo by Shannon Fagan.

By Shannon Fagan, WEIS Sports Director

PIEDMONT – The Piedmont Bulldogs have been taken to unprecedented heights the past 17 years Steve Smith has been head football coach. Ever since his first season in 2006, the Bulldogs made the playoffs every year, including last year’s 12-3 Class 3A state runner-up team.

But next season someone new will be calling the shots on the Piedmont sideline.

On Friday, Smith announced he’s leaving Piedmont after agreeing to take the football coach and athletic director duties at Westbrook Christian in Rainbow City. He leaves Piedmont after guiding the Bulldogs to a 198-36 record, which includes a 52-12 mark in the playoffs with five state championships, two state runners-up, and 10 region titles.

Prior to his arrival at Piedmont, Smith had a successful 11-year reign at Class 1A Cedar Bluff which includes an 85-45 record with 10 playoff wins and six region championships.

In 28 years, Smith has a combined record of 283-81, including a 62-22 mark in the playoffs.

Smith said he agreed to take the Westbrook position on Wednesday, but out of respect for Piedmont senior quarterback Jack Hayes’s Alabama Sports Writers Association Back of the Year announcement Thursday in Montgomery and talking to the Piedmont players in a Friday afternoon meeting, he waited to make the announcement.

“It’s tough,” Smith said. “Those kids give you everything they’ve got. They put it on the line for the team and for the school. To look those boys in the eyes when you know that you’re moving on, all of that was tough. It was one of the toughest things I’ve ever had to do. It was that way when I left Cedar Bluff back in December of 2005 to come here.

“You get attached to these kids. You appreciate so much what they do and the time and effort they put in to make the program successful. I certainly wasn’t looking forward to that time, but I knew if I was going to try and live out what I tell them to be a man about it, I needed to look them in the eye and tell them. I wanted them to hear it from me and not from the rumor mill.”

Smith said Piedmont’s school system, fans, boosters and administration are “top notch.”

“I feel like this is the best job in high school football in the state of Alabama. I really do,” Smith said. “I know people look at it and say ‘If that’s the case, then what are you leaving for?’ I just tell them this is a personal decision for what I feel like at this time is the best move for me and my family. That’s the best way I can say it.”

Smith said the past couple of weeks he’s taken a little time to reflect on what the Bulldogs accomplished under his guidance. Six weeks ago, the Bulldogs played in their sixth state championship game in Auburn, falling short against St. James 45-28.

“I’ve been doing some traveling and doing some things and had some opportunities to sit back and reflect, and all I can say when I look at those things is ‘Wow, we were blessed to get to be in this situation,’” Smith said. “The good Lord put us here at the right time and in the right place. We got to experience so many great things together. I’m just so thankful for that opportunity.

“I know every year here at Piedmont we made the playoffs. I think that’s just a testimony to this school, this community and the hard-nosed, blue-collar type kids we have. We’ve had tremendous players. We’ve had loyal assistants. I’ve had tremendous support from our school, our administration, our faculties to allow us to have that opportunity each and every year to be one of the top teams in the state.

“It’s been great. I’m forever indebted to the people here in Piedmont for giving me this opportunity to be part of this school system and for my kids to get their education here. I couldn’t think of a better place for them to earn their high school diploma. The things they’ve learned through academics and athletics by being part of this school system are unmatched.”

Although he’s sad this chapter of his career has come to a close, Smith is excited to begin his new endeavor at Westbrook Christian, which currently competes in Class 3A, Region 6 with Piedmont. The Warriors were 5-5 last season. One of their losses was a 34-0 setback to Smith’s Bulldogs.

“I think there’s a great vision going on at Westbrook right now. There’s a lot of excitement there with where they’re wanting to go with their athletic program. Hopefully I can get there and be a contributing piece to help them reach the goals that they’re looking to reach,” Smith said.

“There’s a lot of good pieces in place at Westbrook already. They’ve got a tremendous plan on where they want to go, their vision on what they want to do with their athletic programs. It’s in line with what my goals are, as far as trying to make the program be competitive on the statewide level on a regular basis. I think there’s a lot of things you do, that you put in place to make it so that it’s sustainable. I think I can bring some things to the table that can add to what they’ve already gotten started. I’m looking forward to that opportunity of seeing how far we can take it there.”

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