When Cornersville football coach Gerard Randolph stepped down from coaching responsibilities, the administration began a search for his successor that didn’t take terribly long.Cornersville has …
When Cornersville football coach Gerard Randolph stepped down from coaching responsibilities, the administration began a search for his successor that didn’t take terribly long.
Cornersville has named Shelby Waddell as the new head football coach for the Bulldogs.
“It was very exciting and I’m very humbled that Mr. (Brent) Adcox and Mr. (Eric) Crabtree have entrusted me to lead the program here. This is a great program with great people. To be able to come into a situation like this that Coach Randolph has left and to be asked to take that over, it’s an honor to be here,” Waddell said.
Waddell has made the rounds throughout the coaching circuit in Alabama and Mississippi and has been part of successful programs, as well as building programs from the ground up.
“I graduated college in 2016 from Athens State University. The year after I started graduated is when I really started coaching in a volunteer role at my alma mater at Cherokee (Ala.). In 2015, I ended up going to Mars Hill Bible School as a co-offensive coordinator helping kind of get their program started because that’s when they first launched football and I was there for a year,” he said.
Originally from Cherokee, Ala., which is a small community much like Cornersville, Waddell eventually came back to Cherokee as the offensive coordinator.
“In 2016 when I did my student teaching, I came back to Cherokee as the offensive coordinator and helped them get back to the playoffs since 2002 and the first time they hosted since like 1999,” he said.
“I was there for year, graduated and got a teaching job at Biggersville High School, which close to Corinth, Miss. I got to be there for two years and was part of a huge rebuild where we made the playoffs for the first time since the 1990s. That first year we ended up 8-4 with the first winning record in a long time. I think we went 12-2 the next year and made it to the second round of the playoffs, was runner up in the region and was the best year they had in school history at that time. After I left there, they kept it rolling and about two years later they played for a state title,” Waddell said.
After stints at Cherokee and Biggersville, Waddell found his way to another rebuild in 6A Hazel Green (Ala.), which is where he’s been the last three years.
“I ended up going to Hazel Green the past three years and took the offensive coordinator job there. Hazel Green is 6A. Ended up coming in to another massive rebuild and was able to get that program back to where we were competitive in most of our games this year. I won’t say it was an easy road, but we changed the culture there. They have a good foundation to work with now,” he said.
Having been part of teams that have continued success, as well as having to help teams rebuild into competitive programs, Waddell has a vision of stepping into his role with the Bulldogs and carrying the torch left by Randolph.
“I’ve known coach Randolph for a long time. We’ve been friends for a while. We would get together in the offseason and talk ball. I know the job he’s done here and it’s been absolutely incredible and the job the staff has done here has been exceptional,” he said.
Having that string of recent success, Waddell says, helps a new coach get his foot in the door and continue the program’s competitive nature.
“I do think it puts you ahead because you already have the standard of expecting to be good and competitive every year. But those are big expectations to live up to. Kind of my goal is to see how much we can build on that and get to the next level,” he said.
While some coaches are bent on overhauling coaching staffs, rosters and schemes, Waddell wants to implement some of his own ideas to an already successful formula to hopefully carry the program to new heights.
“It’s more analyze the roster and build around that. I’ve been in more of a spread background. When we were at Biggersville, we would be in the spread some, but we would get in the I and we would play a physical brand of football,” he said.
“What I want to do from an offensive end is get in here with these coaches, see what they’ve been doing and trying to fit some of the stuff I may want to bring in to what they’ve been doing to where it’s not a total overall and fitting it to our kids. I’ve been a part offenses where it’s go-go-go and I’ve been part of offenses that want to slow it down and eat up clock because that’s what best fit us. It’s all working with what you have, in my opinion.”
Waddell and the Bulldogs began summer work earlier this month and have been working on getting acclimated with one another.
“Really kind of focusing on us. It’s not going to be an overhaul on everything because there’s been working really well, but there are going to be some changes in some areas and just getting the kids used to that,” he said.
As with any new coach, Waddell thinks the biggest challenge is just getting to know the program and community.
“I think just getting to know the kids, getting to know the staff, earning their trust and earning their respect. To me, that’s not something that’s given. That’s something you have to earn,” he said.
One of the bigger points Waddell wants to address is the retention of players and staff with the new coaching change.
“I’ve seen it from the other side when there’s change. When I played high school ball, there was a period where we had three different head coaches,” he said.
From the day he was offered the position, Waddell began reaching out to the members of the staff.
“That night, I was already reaching out to people on staff. I’m not bringing in a big staff. I made it a point to let everybody on staff, and the players too, that ‘Hey, you guys have been doing a great job and I want to keep everybody on board,’” he said.
While success can look like different things to different coaches, Waddell has a clear vision of what success can look like in Year 1 of his coaching tenure.
“To me, every night on that field, we’re competitive and we’re in every game and we’re making the other team uncomfortable because they’re having to work. Obviously we want to win every game we step out on that field and play. But success is also how we play the game, the manner we play it and building great people off it. That’s a big deal to me,” he said.
Waddell comes to Cornersville with his wife, Olivia, of five years.
Being a religious man, Waddell feels the path and direction that led him to Cornersville was part of a bigger scheme he was both honored and thankful to be part of.
“I was just honored to be honest they would entrust me to be the head coach of this program. It’s always been a goal of mine and I didn’t know if it would ever happen or when it would happen. I’m a big believer in God and I feel like he has a plan for all of us. I’ve always prayed to send us where you want us. I’m just excited this is the path he has for us,” he said.
Cornersville posted a 9-3 overall record in 2021, which included a push to the second round of the Class 1A state playoffs.
The Bulldogs open the 2022 schedule on Aug. 18 at Richland.
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