E.A. Sports Today

Lions getting new leader

McDaniel confirms plans to leave after 16 seasons; directed the team to the state title match last season

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

If the Faith Christian soccer team is destined to make another run at a state championship this spring it will be with a new coach moving the pieces.

Lions coach Erik McDaniel confirmed Wednesday he is leaving the program he has coached for more than 15 years to become pastor of a small rural church in Jasper, Tenn.

He will remain at the school through the end of the academic year, but the responsibilities associated with the revitalization of Grace Presbyterian Church will consume his remaining time.

“This fall we’ve been interviewing at this church and over the Thanksgiving break we said ‘We think the Lord is moving us in a relationship together,’” McDaniel said.

He said several players wept when he broke the news.

“I hate to see people hurting and I hate being the one causing the hurt,” he said. “I’ll miss the people like crazy. I won’t miss the scheduling and things like that.”

The move to Tennessee also will allow him to get closer to his family that lives in the Chattanooga area. McDaniel played college soccer at Covenant College in the city, and his son, Josiah, a star forward on the Lions’ 2015 1A-3A state runner-up team, plays there now.

McDaniel coached the Lions for 16 seasons in two stints, from 1996 to 2007 – through its transition to the AHSAA — and returning in 2011. Two years ago it played in the Northeast Regional and last year made a “quite magical” run to the state final, where it lost to Westminster-Oak Mountain, 4-0.

His overall record was 130-81-6.

Dan Patten, a co-commissioner of one of the school’s recreation leagues, will be the new coach.

“He’s so good with kids,” McDaniel said. “In my mind, he and I have a very similar coaching philosophy. It will be a nice transition.”

McDaniel’s last official act as the Lions’ head coach is to oversee the raising of the state runner-up banner Friday in ceremonies during the basketball games.

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