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Ohatchee defensive coordinator Blake Jennings named coaches Class 2A Assistant Coach of the Year

Ohatchee inside linebackers coach and defensive coordinator Blake Jennings has been named the Alabama Class 2A Assistant Coach of the Year. (Photos by Beverly Wright)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today
Blake Jennings was in the middle of giving a chemistry lesson Friday afternoon when a visitor suddenly appeared at his classroom door. Ohatchee football coach Scott Martin doesn’t usually make a habit of interrupting his assistant coaches’ classes, but when he does it’s with a purpose.
This time he came bearing some big news. He wanted to tell his defensive coordinator personally that he had just been named the Class 2A Assistant Coach of the Year by the Alabama Football Coaches Association (ALFCA).
“I had no idea,” Jennings said. “Coach Martin walked into my room when I was teaching and told me. He hit me sideways with it. I had no idea and hadn’t thought about it.”
Jennings is the architect of a defense whose first unit this year gave up 4.3 points a game, 117.3 net yards – 64.1 rushing – scored five touchdowns (three by linebacker Ryker Lambright) and had a plus-18 turnover ratio. The overall unit held seven of its 11 opponents to eight points or less and posted one shutout.
“That’s a recipe for success,” Martin said. “I couldn’t think of a more deserving person than him to receive this award. To win football games and championships you have to have great defenses. As a football coach he leaves no stone unturned. He’s very, very thorough. We don’t over-coach our kids, we over-prepare our kids, preparing them for every potential. That takes organization and he’s a very organized, detail-oriented person.”
It’s a trait he carries into the classroom, too. Not long ago he was the school’s Teacher of the Year.
“I’ve never met a good football coach who wasn’t a good classroom teacher,” Martin said. “Now, not every great classroom teacher can be a good football coach, but I never met a good football coach who wasn’t a great teacher.”
The success Jennings has had with the Ohatchee defense isn’t an overnight thing. The Indians have been 41-7 the last four years with four playoff appearances and all the losses to a veritable who’s who of perennial powers. The number of points they’ve allowed has decreased each of those years, and this year it was the fewest since 1979. The last two years they’ve given up 20 points or more six times and they’ve four of those games.
“When I got there six years ago I inherited a group of young, energetic coaches who have been in successful programs but they weren’t feeling the success at that point,” Martin said. “I just let those guys spread their wings and be football coaches. I’ve got a great staff. Any of my assistant coaches could probably be a nominated person for this award, but there’s only one who leads up front in it and that’s Blake.
“I felt like he deserved it over the last few years and I’ve been very vocal on the issue. I’ve told everybody who would listen great football teams and programs are built first of all defensively, then you go kicking game and then offense. It’s very instrumental that on your staff you have people who can fill those roles in a big way if you’re going to be successful. He’s definitely filled that role as well as anybody could as our defensive coordinator.”
Jennings credits the success to the players, naturally, the chemistry with his three defensive assistants – Chris Finley (line), Brett Henderson (outside linebackers) and Bryant Ginn (secondary) – and the trust and autonomy Martin places in him on that side of the ball. He coaches inside linebackers in addition to making the defensive calls.
“We work well together and they make coaching defense fun,” Jennings said. “I’m really fortunate. Coach Martin is our offensive guy, but he puts a ton of emphasis on defense. We get as many reps on defense as we do on offense. He tells our kids defense is what’s going to win it for us. The kids like it because of the defense we play. We try to fly to the football, try to play fast and do a lot of different stuff.”

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