E.A. Sports Today

It all fit

Chance encounter at a golf tournament paved the way for Scott Martin coming to Ohatchee, building the Indians into a state title contender

Scott Martin has built a career on taking football programs on the rebound and turning them into winners, just as he's done at 3A state semifinalist Ohatchee. (Photos by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos)

Scott Martin has built a career on taking football programs on the rebound and turning them into winners, just as he’s done at 3A state semifinalist Ohatchee. (Photos by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

OHATCHEE – When Ohatchee principal Bobby Tittle heard through the grapevine there was a coach from one of the big schools in the state genuinely interested in the Indians’ football vacancy three years ago, he felt like a guy who just hit the lottery.

After all, it isn’t often you get a coach who has a state championship in one state and worked in the two biggest classifications in this one interested in a small country program that hadn’t been to the state playoffs in more than a decade.

If the interest was mutual it could turn out to be a coup for the Indians. There were a lot of elements that brought Scott Martin to Ohatchee and it couldn’t be a better fit for both sides.

Now, after two years laying a foundation — about the same amount of time the three coaches that preceded him lasted — Martin has the Indians prepping for their biggest game in nearly 40 years. Friday night, the once-beaten Indians play undefeated, top-ranked, defending state champion and region rival Piedmont for a spot in the Class 3A state title game.

“When you’ve got a head coach at a 6A or 7A program and I heard he was interested I reached out,” Tittle said. “I didn’t know him or his pedigree at the time … but we talked for about an hour — I wouldn’t even call it an interview — and when you sit and talk to him you could tell right off the bat he’s a man who knows what he’s talking about and has a plan. It still baffles me to sit here and know we’ve gone from 1-9 to 12-1 going to the semifinals with a chance to go to state championship game.”

The tale of Scott Martin coming to the Creekbank is really a love story that has turned into a love affair with the community, the convergence of many factors that can only be categorized as fate.

It all began with one of Martin’s other passions, golf.

He was playing in the 2013 Sunny King Charity Classic when his partners invited him to an after-party following the last round of the tournament. It was there he met local attorney Shirley Millwood and they started dating.

It developed into one of those long-distance relationships that tend to happen with two successful professionals; Millwood was practicing law in Alexandria and Martin was coaching football in Tuscaloosa.

After about a year of those I-20/59 interludes, they decided to make their relationship a little more permanent and one year to the day they met – the Monday after the next year’s Sunny King final round – they married. With Shirley running a successful practice here, Martin told her he would apply for the first job that came open in Calhoun County.

He knew what was at stake in the possibility of leaving Hillcrest. The Patriots were on the rise – this year’s team ended the regular season No. 1 in 6A with what would be Martin’s seniors — but a promise is a promise. That first Calhoun County opening just happened to be at a place that hadn’t had a .500 season since 2007 or been to the playoffs since 2003. It would be like Nick Saban leaving Alabama to coach at Austin Peay.

Martin was never married to big-school football even though most of his career had been spent there. He was a head coach at Louisiana giant Destrehan and went back as an assistant in a state championship season. After retiring from the state shortly after Hurricane Katrina, he came to Alabama and coached at Spain Park, Pell City and Calera. But he also spent two other head coaching stints at smaller schools is southern Louisiana where he found enjoyment in the intimacy of community.

He did his due diligence and knew the Ohatchee history. He knew the Indians had only one victory the year before — and that was by forfeit – and he knew they had four head coaches in the previous seven years. And he knew it was moving up in classification.

But an all-time winning record let him know the program had had success in the past, so it wasn’t a foreign concept.

“It wasn’t like you were going to a place where you had absolutely no chance, but it was going to be a challenge,” he said. “As a football guy you could look at it as a risk; I looked at it as a challenge. I think the one thing we have done at Ohatchee that is hard to do at small schools (is stay committed). At a school like Ohatchee you get a guy who is coming into that job who is trying to parlay it into the big job or a guy coming into the very light years of his coaching career that’s just trying to find a place to finish win or lose.

“My thing was I still had lot of good years left and I thought we could be successful, but you had to have a guy who comes in and makes a commitment to say I’m not interested in coming into a 2A or 3A school but I’m really looking for that big 6A or 7A job. I’ve been there, I’ve done that; it was not what my commitment level was.

“My commitment level was coming into a place like Ohatchee and treating it like it was a 6A or 7A job, and changing the culture of our kids and treating them like the 6A and 7A football players get treated in the program, which is to eventually have the best of everything that you can afford and put them to where they feel like they’re big-time guys.”

He told Ohatchee officials if they hired him he wouldn’t go seek the next prime spot that came open, but by the same token, knowing it was going to take time to lay the groundwork, didn’t want them to come to him in another two years if it was looking like more of the same and tell him they were going in a different direction.

“I told them if wins and losses are all you were looking at, then you probably weren’t going to get your wish in two years,” he said. “But I think we can make strides and we can do a lot of things and turn this program in a different direction.”

Tittle guaranteed him the time that he needed.

In truth, life on the Creekbank offered everything Martin ever wanted at this stage in his life. Even if he never coached another game he’s got a loving wife, a house on the lake — the M&M Paradise, they call it — a boat to cruise on it and access to the golf course.

All he has to do now is go win a big football game – or two – and the picture will be complete.

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