E.A. Sports Today

Shortt stepping aside

UPDATED: Longtime Cleburne County football coach confirms his decision to retire

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today
HEFLIN – Michael Shortt, the longest tenured and winningest football coach in Cleburne County High School history, has told his players they would be having a new coach when spring practice starts.
Shortt told his players Wednesday in a weight-room meeting he was retiring, and confirmed the decision to East Alabama Sports Today this morning. The Tigers start spring break Monday.

“I was kind of surprised because I know he loves this place,” quarterback Reese Morrison said. “He had to do what he had to for his health and his family. It’s really hard for him to give it up, but it’s the best for him.”
Shortt had been battling health issues the last two years and this year missed the first game more than 30 years of coaching when the Tigers played Saks.
“I don’t plan on missing another,” he told East Alabama Sports Today at the time.
He did attend games upon his return, but he was up in the press box with a headset. Rusty Mayfield had been installed as their interim coach for the season.

Earlier this week, and prior to informing his team of his plans, Shortt received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Friday Night Network.
In 21 seasons at his high school alma mater, Shortt has posted a record of 144-95, won seven region championships and made 14 playoff appearances. His 2001 Tigers were the Class 4A state runner-up and his 2002 team came within one game of returning to the title game.
“This was something we kind of anticipated a little … because of the medical condition he’s been through; he really endured a lot,” offensive coordinator C.J. Boyd said. “Lord, we hate to see him go. That man has devoted his life to Cleburne County High School and done a bunch of great things for that place and that school.”
Of course, a 33-year coaching career isn’t without some bumps. In 2015 he survived a school board inquiry over the use of an offensive term during a pre-game talk with his players during the 2014 season.
The season following the controversy the Tigers went 9-3, won a second straight region title and reached the second round of the playoffs. In the three seasons since, however, they have gone 5-25.
In 2017, Shortt made the call to play a game with Alexandria despite a wave of illness that ran through his team and sidelined nearly half his varsity roster. Two weeks later, the Tigers won their first game of the season.
“We definitely went through it the last few years,” Boyd said. “I’m looking forward to some brighter days at Cleburne County High Schools. Not just in this situation, but it’s time things turned for the betterment.”

Shortt apparently is looking forward to seeing that as well. In a response to a Facebook post from the Heflin Tiger Booster Club the former coach wrote, “Even though I will not be there (to) coach, I still love these guys and I look forward to great things out of them next year … Once a  Tiger always a Tiger.”
It was not immediately known who would oversee the program during spring practice, which typically takes place in mid-May. Initially it’s believed all the assistants will have a hand in it collectively.
“We’re still going to have spring practice,” said Morrison, adding he was excited about the prospects for next season. “They said we can tackle and still work on running and throwing and all that.”

This story will be updated. 

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