Everybody in the southwestern corner of Alabama knows there are some quality athletes in Atmore and the surrounding area, but that knowledge doesn’t seem to spread very far outside the area. The first Coastal Connection Media Day was designed to change that.
“It was mostly about exposure,” said Escambia County High School’s Rico Jackson, who came up with the idea for the event. “A buddy of mine who played football at Hillcrest-Evergreen told me that kids in this area never get any exposure, so this was a way to give them some of the exposure they need.”
Jackson, who left state Class 2A runner-up Aliceville to take the reins of the ECHS program, said the August 3 get-together was a success, both in the number of schools that took part and the media presence it attracted.
Head coaches and/or players from 17 public and private schools in Escambia, Monroe, Clarke and Washington counties attended the initial Coastal Connection, which was hosted by ECHS and sponsored by Al.com. At least one Mobile television station covered the event, as did daily and weekly newspapers from across the region.
Coaches and players from the various schools introduced themselves and talked about their expectations for the upcoming football season, then answered questions from the media representatives.
“I think it went great, I really do,” Jackson said. “We had a good response, with 17 schools, and we had pretty good media coverage.”
The ECHS coach, who was hired to rebuild the school’s struggling program (The Blue Devils have posted just nine wins in the past five years.), said the idea came to him several months ago.
“I actually started thinking about this back in the spring,” he recalled. “I wrote to Ben Thomas (an Al.com and Mobile Press-Register sports editor), and he liked the idea, so we communicated back and forth and they decided to sponsor it.”
Thirteen public schools and four independent schools were represented at the mass press conference.
ECHS, Escambia Academy, W.S. Neal, T.R. Miller and Flomaton were there from Escambia County; schools who attended from Monroe County included Monroe County High, J.U. Blacksher, Monroe Academy, Excel and J.F. Shields; Clarke County’s contingent consisted of Clarke County High, Thomasville, Jackson, Clarke Prep and Jackson Academy; Fruitdale and Millry were there from Washington County.
Washington County High, Leroy and McIntosh were also invited, but chose not to participate.
Although none of the four participating counties is located along Alabama’s coast, Jackson said he felt the media event’s name was appropriate.
“It was called Coastal Connection because we invited schools from counties that touch Mobile and Baldwin counties,” he said. “They both already have events like this, so we wanted to do something for the connected counties.”