UPDATE: Fred Riley wins No. 100
This article contains updated information.
MOBILE, AL (WNSP) — Fred Riley just passed a major milestone.
The Davidson Warriors head football coach is currently 100-45 since he returned to the school 12 years ago, and is 128-96 as a head coach. He served as the Warriors’ offensive coordinator in 2000.
In his first nine years at Davidson, Riley’s team only missed the playoffs once, and he is already the winningest coach in the school’s history.
“The goal back then was to get your team to Birmingham because that is where the championships were at the time,” Riley told AL.com. “Davidson was coming off back-to-back region titles. The talent gene pool here was really high. I felt like we could be a championship type of program and sustain it for a long time.”
Riley led Davidson to the quarterfinals in 2005, his second year, and in 2009. That 2009 run was bookended by semifinal appearances.
“We’ve probably been the second-best team in the South five times,” Riley said.
Since then, a school zone change in 2014 and a shift in academic focus have turned Davidson into what Riley calls “the Vanderbilt of public high schools in Mobile County.” The team won 13 games from 2013 to last season,
“Our football program dropped from 150 strong to less than 100,” Riley said. “It became a lot more challenging to win football games. But we have good kids here, and we’ve continued to work hard through those changes.”
That hard work have given the Warriors a 5-1 record and a No. 6 ranking this year. Their only loss was a dramatic triple-overtime game against nationally-ranked and Class 7A No. 1 McGill-Toolen.
“If we stay healthy, I feel like we can play with anyone,” Riley said this week. “But if the wrong two or three guys go down with injuries, we will be just like everyone else. Still, I like where we are and who we are at this point.”
That game was in week two. The Warriors (6-1, 5-1), led by quarterback Cephus Johnson, have won every game since by 20 points or more, including last night’s 31-7 win over Fairhope.
The Warriors led 24-7 at halftime, behind two passing touchdowns from Johnson. Though the game’s outcome was already decided, Riley said this moment was a surprise.
“Everything but the soaking was totally unexpected,” he said. “I’ve coached a long time, but even people as old and gruff as I am enjoy being appreciated. This was really nice.”
Riley’s players took three tries to soak him in Gatorade, but he received a second successful shower as well as the game ball, delivered by principal Lewis Copeland.
“I’ll remember this one for a while,” Riley said. “As a competitive coach, they say – and they are right – that you really do remember your losses more than your wins. It wouldn’t take me long to tell you who we lost our 45 games to and how it happened. That’s just being a coach. But I’m proud of this team, and I’m glad we played on Thursday so I have another day to enjoy it before we get back to work.”
LISTEN to the Ben, Randy and Pigskin Pete discuss Riley and his accomplishments on the last Prep Spotlight here, and checkout Pigskin Pete’s Pepsi Pregame Show tonight at 6, followed by WNSP’s High School Football Game of the Week at 7 and Pigskin Pete’s Postgame after the broadcast.