Opelika, AL—Blake Smalley has been named the new Head Girls’ Basketball Coach at Opelika High School. “I’m extremely excited to be back with the Opelika City Schools as the head girls’ basketball coach at OHS. It is a great opportunity to build on the successful program Coach Devin Booth has already established,” said Smalley.
Coach Smalley has been the head varsity boys’ basketball coach at Handley High School since 2016. While at Handley, he also served as the head track coach and as an assistant football coach from 2016-2018. Prior to teaching and coaching at Handley High School, Smalley taught at Opelika Middle School and was the head coach for the OMS 8th grade basketball team from 2013-2016. “Opelika High School welcomes Coach Smalley as our head girls’ basketball coach. He has a proven record of making positive differences in students’ lives,” stated OHS Principal Farrell Seymore. “As a veteran teacher and coach, he will build on the rich basketball tradition at Opelika High School.”
Coach Smalley is a graduate of Auburn University with a Bachelor of Science in Physical Education. He is married to Megan Smalley and they have three children, twin boys who are almost 4 and one 10-month-old son. 7/27/21 Picture and release was from Opelika City Schools.
Jessica Thornton named new head softball coach at Opelika High School
Opelika, AL—Jessica Thornton has been named the new head softball coach at Opelika High School. Originally from Vancouver, WA, Thornton has most recently been an Assistant Softball Coach at the University of Louisiana, Monroe (ULM). “We are extremely excited to welcome Coach Thornton to Opelika as our new head softball coach,” stated Dr. Farrell Seymore, OHS Principal. “We look forward to Coach Thornton contributing to the rich tradition at OHS. Her expertise and student-centered approach to teaching and coaching will help our students for years to come.”
Thornton began her ULM coaching career as a volunteer coach and was hired as an assistant coach in August 2015. Prior to coaching, Thornton was awarded multiple honors as a collegiate player. She began her career at Mt. Hood Community College (MHCC) in Oregon and completed her career at Jacksonville State University in Alabama. In 2010, she was named the Southern Region Player of the Year and helped lead MHCC to a combined 69-18 record, back-to-back NWAACC titles, and the Southern Region Title. Thornton was named to the Louisville Slugger NFCA NWAACC All-American Team and was the MHCC Female Athlete of the Year in 2011. “I am super excited for the opportunity to advance the softball program at OHS and to be able to work with the kids to help them achieve their goals on and off the field,” stated Thornton.
Thornton earned both her Bachelor’s Degree and Master’s Degree from Jacksonville State University. She is married to Cole Thornton and they have two sons, ages (almost) 3 and 9 months.
MONTGOMERY – Kimberly Vickers, a member of the Alabama High School Athletic Association Executive Staff since December of 2014, will become the next AHSAA Associate Executive Director. The announcement was made by Alvin Briggs, current Associate Executive Director who was selected by the AHSAA Central Board of Control to replace Executive Director Steve Savarese, who is retiring after serving 15 years in that role. Briggs becomes just the fifth Executive Director of the 100-year old organization. Vickers will become the sixth Associate Executive Director in the AHSAA history. The previous five were James Hall, Dr. Jimmie Cal, Joe Evans, Tony Stallworth, and Briggs. Both officially assume their new positions on July 1. “I am very happy to announce that Kim Vickers has accepted the Associate Executive Director role,” said Briggs. “Her acceptance solidifies our staff as we move forward. Her leadership has been essential to the success of the AHSAA, and her role moving forward will be even more essential to the success of this organization.”
Savarese added, “This is a truly great move for the AHSAA. Kim Vickers is a rising star with unlimited capabilities and will key in moving the AHSAA forward.” Vickers said she is excited about the opportunity and proud to be a part of such an outstanding organization. “Since changing careers in 2014 and joining the AHSAA, I have learned so much about the important role the AHSAA has in the lives of our student-athletes. I am very honored and humbled by this new opportunity and look forward to doing what I can to help move the AHSAA forward.” Vickers has spent 33 years in education serving students, schools and communities across the state. She came to the AHSAA in 2014 from Horseshoe Bend High School where she served as a teacher/coach/assistant athletic administrator when Savarese hired her as an Assistant Director. She has served as Director of Publications, restructuring and improving all AHSAA publications with digital technology and effectiveness – at a printing cost savings of more than $100,000 a year. In addition, she has reviewed and reorganized the AHSAA Handbook making it more “user friendly” and also making it available online as an eBook for schools and parents. She played a vital role in starting the AHSAA investigative team, led the committee on non-traditional students’ inclusion, and assisted with the student-leadership program. Working directly with the AHSAA Medical Advisory Board, the Alabama Department of Public Health and the Alabama State Department of Education, her involvement and leadership were essential in helping other AHSAA staff members assemble “Return to Play and Best Practices for Fall, Winter, and Spring Sports” for member schools concerning the COVID-19 pandemic for the 2020-21 school year. As director of the sport of softball, she negotiated a new contract for state softball championships that now provides a championship experience in a venue with a signature stadium designed for the finals. The 2021 State Championships were held at Oxford’s Choccolocco Park and have received rave reviews. She is also one of the AHSAA’s most knowledgeable resources concerning AHSAA By-Laws and other regulations such that the Central Board of Control approved for her to serve as the Eligibility Coordinator allowing her to render official eligibility rulings to the member schools. This was the first time in the 100-year history of the Association that someone other than the Executive Director has had that authority. Vickers, a 1984 graduate of Mellow Valley High School in Clay County, received her B.S. in Secondary Language Arts from Jacksonville State University in 1987 and earned a Master’s Degree in Secondary Education/Language Arts from Auburn University-Montgomery in 1993.
Vickers and her husband Jimmy have two daughters Hagen Vickers Whiteard (Cary) and Carlie Vickers who are both following their mother’s footsteps as educators and coaches. The Vickers are also proud grandparents of one granddaughter – Dansby.
Central Board of Control Selects Alvin Briggs As the Next AHSAA Executive Director
MONTGOMERY – Current Associate Executive Director Alvin Briggs has been selected to become the fifth Executive Director of the Alabama High School Athletic Association. The unanimously approved the hiring of Briggs at a special Central Board meeting Monday morning and the announcement was made by current AHSAA Central Board of Control president Van Phillips Monday at a press conference held at the AHSAA office today. Briggs, 56, who has been on the executive staff of the AHSAA since 2011, will be taking over his new role as Executive Director officially on July 1. Steve Savarese, who has served as Executive Director for the 15 years, announced his plans to retire at the April meeting of the CBOC. “I believe Mr. Alvin Briggs in the person who can meet the challenges the AHSAA will face in the coming years ahead with the same commitment to the AHSAA mission as the four executive directors that came before him,” said Phillips. “He attended high school in the AHSAA where he was an outstanding student-athlete who went on to represent his family, school and the AHSAA well at the college and professional level. “After coaching for several years at the collegiate level, he became a high school teacher, coach and administrator at our member schools …. again representing himself as the ultimate professional.” Briggs becomes just the fifth person to hold this position fulltime in AHSAA history. Cliff Harper was the first hired by the CBOC in 1948 and served until 1966. Herman L. “Bubba” Scott served in the position from 1966-1991. Dan Washburn then served from 1991-2007. Savarese replaced Washburn in 2007 and has remained in the position ever since. Sellers Stough of Birmingham served in in a part-time position as executive secretary-treasurer from 1921 to 1948. “I am honored, humbled and excited to be selected as the next Executive Director of the AHSAA,” said Briggs. “I want to thank the Central Board Search Committee, Central Board President Van Phillips and current Executive Director Mr. Savarese for the confidence they have shown in me to lead this great organization in the years ahead. “No doubt, I have big shoes to fill. The previous executive directors Cliff Harper, Bubba Scott, Dan Washburn, and Mr. Savarese have set some tremendous standards and have left a legacy of outstanding leadership for all our member schools. I pray I can continue to lead this organization in the same manner as these great men who have stood before me.” All four previous executive directors had a major impact nationally with Scott and Washburn serving as president of the National Federation of High School Associations (NFHS) Board of Directors. Savarese is currently president-elect but will not move into that position now that he is retiring. Harper (1987), Scott (1990) and Washburn (2011) have been inducted into the National High School Sports Hall of Fame. Savarese will be eligible for induction upon retirement. All four have been enshrined in the Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame and the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame.
Briggs is the first person selected for executive director who was already working on the AHSAA executive staff. He brings a wealth of leadership and knowledge of AHSAA operations spending the last decade serving, first, as Director of the Alabama High School Athletic Directors & Coaches Association from 2011-2018 and for the last three years serving as the Associate Executive Director. Savarese said Alvin Briggs’ transition to Executive Director “will be a seamless transition. He has great staff in place and understands what this job is going to require. He is an outstanding leader, and I have full confidence in him.” Briggs earned his Bachelor of Science in Education degree from the University of North Alabama in 1993, and his Master of Arts in Education from UNA in 1995. His major was Health, Physical Education and Recreation (HPER). A former standout high school student-athlete at Greenville High School (1982), he had an outstanding collegiate career playing defensive back at Auburn University from 1983-1987. He was a member of the Dallas Cowboys (1988-1989) until injuries cut short his NFL career. As a high schooler, he played in the AHSAA North-South Football All-Star Game in 1982 – becoming the first and only player in all-star history to score a touchdown on offense and defense. Briggs joined the football coaching staff at the University of North Alabama in 1993 and remained through 2001. During his time on the staff, he helped lead the Lions to seven NCAA Division II playoff appearances, three Gulf South Conference Championships and three NCAA Division II National Championships. He moved back to his hometown of Greenville in 2001 as system Athletic Director and head football coach through 2005. He then moved back to Florence as assistant athletic director for the Florence City School System. In 2007 he was promoted to system athletic director and head football coach at Florence High School through 2011. His overall coaching record was 52-44 overall. His Greenville teams made three trips to the state playoffs in four years and his Florence teams made two trips in four years. His best season was 9-3 in 2009. At the AHSAA, Briggs oversaw the AHSADCA managing the All-Star Sports Week and Summer Conference providing important professional development for more than 7,000 attendees each year. As Associate Executive Director at the AHSAA, he worked alongside the Executive Director. He has served on various NFHS committees including the Track Committee, Coaches Association Committee and the Tackle Football Education Committee. Overseeing the sport of football, he helped develop the current contact limitations for practice that have been championed nationwide in helping to reduce injuries making the sport of football safer for the more than 32,000 student-athletes in Alabama who play football in the AHSAA, and for student-athletes nationally. He has also served in leadership positions for the AHSAA Reclassification Committee, Joint Ad Hoc Committee, Strategic Planning Committee, and the Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame Committee. He is also currently serving on the Bryant-Jordan Selection Committee and has served on the Board of the Alabama Football Coaches Association. He is active in civic organizations as well including the Kiwanis Club of Montgomery, Montgomery Quarterback Club, and served on the Board of the YMCA of Shoals. He is also a volunteer for various events sponsored by the Alabama Music Hall of Fame Museum.