The upcoming academic year will see a lot of changes in the Houston Academy athletic landscape.
New coaches, including three at the top, and a new athletic director plus a new sport (wrestling) highlight the upcoming year.
A new head football coach in veteran Jamie Riggs was announced in January, but the Raiders will also enter the year with a new athletic director after Mike Sickafoose left to return to his home state of Georgia. Former Daleville head football coach Marc Edge is the new A.D.
In addition, Vanessa Howell takes over as the girls volleyball coach and Leigh Griffin as girls basketball coach. Howell replaces Alan Hoffman, who left for a private business job in Georgia, while Griffin takes over the basketball job following Sickafoose’s departure.
Edge, who had a 10-8 record as Daleville’s football coach in 1998-99, comes to Houston Academy after serving the last 14 years at T.R. Miller as assistant football coach. He was also a golf coach. He also has coached at Montevallo and R.E. Lee in a career that started in 1988.
Edge said his goal is maintain “the tradition” of Raider athletics, who have won 23 state titles, including two this past season (boys golf and boys tennis), while also trying to help revitalize the HA football program which has fallen on hard times the last two seasons.
“We want to continue the tradition they have in academics and athletics at Houston Academy,” Edge said. “It is a good tradition. We want to help get football back on track, but we want to continue all the other sports to be competitive.
“Dr. Phillipps and other administrators, especially Mike Sickafoose, have done a good job and we want to continue and add on to what they have done.”
Phillipps said Edge has all the ingredients that the school was looking for in an athletic director.
“He is really intelligent and very organized,” Phillipps said of Edge. “We felt it was the perfect fit for us.”
For Edge, the Houston Academy job reunites him with Riggs, a longtime T.R. Miller head football coach.
“He was a huge part of it,” Edge said. “He is a man of character and a man of integrity. He is highly competitive who is very passionate about the sport of football.”
Also joining the Raider football staff are former T.R. Miller assistants to Riggs in Jack Whigham and Eddie Brundidge. Both have previously been a head coach, Whigham at Opp (2006-13) and Brundidge at Jackson (1998-2003). Both are also natives of the southeast part of the state. Whigham is from Opp and Brundidge from Dozier in nearby Crenshaw County. Brundidge played college football at Troy.
Two new coaches in girls sports: In addition to the football coaching staff changes, the Raiders will have new volleyball and new girls basketball coaches this season as well.
Howell has an international background as well as coaching ties to the area. She grew up playing volleyball in Brazil before coming to the United States to play at the University of North Alabama. While at UNA, she helped the Lions to the NCAA Division II Women’s Volleyball Championship in 2003.
After graduating from North Alabama in 2006, she returned overseas, playing on a pro team in Spain for one year before coming back to the United States. Upon returning, she served one season as a Troy graduate assistant before stepping away as her children were born. She returned to volleyball as a coach for the Deep South Volleyball Club team, a job she held for three years.
Howell has been at Houston Academy the last two seasons, serving as middle school coach for a season and junior varsity coach last season.
“I am excited about taking over the varsity team,” Howell said. “It is such a humbling opportunity for me to share knowledge with the players. I really enjoy being here as the girls are really sweet. Hopefully we can do big things.”
Griffin has been part of the Houston Academy staff the last six years, coaching the girls basketball middle school and junior varsity teams. A 1994 Northview graduate, she played basketball and softball with the Cougars, earning Dothan Eagle Super 12 honors in softball all four years.
“I am thrilled (at taking over),” Griffin said. “These are the girls I worked with when they were in middle school, junior high and junior varsity and I get to coach them again.
“They are a great group of girls. They love to have fun, but they also work hard.”
It will be a family event for Griffin this upcoming season. Her husband, Scott, will help her coach and her daughter, Kate, will be a senior on this year’s team. Her daughter, Marlee Beth, played and graduated last year.
The new coach is ready to help the Raiders turn things around after a 6-17 season last year.
“I want the girls to be competitive,” Griffin said. “I want them to have fun, be competitive and to learn more about the game of basketball.”