E.A. Sports Today

‘A huge honor’

Oxford’s Etheredge tabbed as an assistant coach for Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Classic for fourth time 
By East Alabama Sports Today
Even after the final play of this year’s Super Seven gets called this December, Keith Etheredge – and maybe a couple of his players – will have more football to play.
The second-year Oxford head coach and five-time state champion will move from the high school field to the all-star field as defensive coordinator of the Alabama team in the 34th annual Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Classic.
It will be Etheredge’s fourth stint as an assistant in the game and third as the DC. He’s coached the linebackers all three years, as he will in the 2020 game. Alabama has won all three games he has been on the staff.
The game is Dec. 12 in Montgomery’s Cramton Bowl.
“It’s a huge honor,” Etheredge said. “It’s a huge honor to get to coach in this game because you get to coach some great players who you develop relationships with, guys I still talk to to this day. A lot of these guys are in the NFL now. It’s a special, special game to get to go coach in.”
Etheredge, who led the Yellow Jackets to the Class 6A state title last season in his first year at Oxford, is one of only a handful of coaches in the AHSAA to claim five state crowns. He guided Leeds to four state championships (and played for another) and is 139-50 in 15 seasons as a head coach.
St. Paul’s Episcopal coach Steve Mask was named head coach of the Alabama squad earlier this spring. His coaching staff was introduced Wednesday.
Fairhope’s Tim Carter (quarterbacks) will be offensive coordinator and St. James’ Jimmy Perry (running backs) will be special teams coordinator. The other assistants are Fyffe’s Paul Benefield (defensive line), Blount’s Lev Holly (defensive backs), Pleasant Grove’s Darrell LeBeaux (receivers), Colbert County’s Brett Mask (offensive line) – the head coach’s son – and St. Paul’s assistant Shane Sullivan (scout team).
The Masks are the first father-son coaching tandem in the game’s history.
Steve Mask has compiled a 187-94 career head-coaching record in 24 seasons, began his high school coaching career as an assistant football coach and head boys’ basketball coach at Colbert County High School. He has led St. Paul’s to three state champions and 87 wins in just eight seasons (2012-2019). His son, beginning his fourth year as head coach at Colbert County, is considered one of the top offensive line coaches in the AHSAA.
Benefield is the dean of the coaching taff with a 297-53 coaching record in 29 seasons – 25 at Fyffe. He has led the Red Devils to four state titles, including three Class 2A championships in the last three years.
Carter, 127-77 in 19 seasons, has led Fairhope to three straight Class 7A playoff appearances in five seasons. He guided Auburn to the Class 6A state championship game in 2009.
Holly is 44-33 in seven seasons as a head coach, 39-18 in five years at Blount. LeBeaux guided Pleasant Grove to a 13-2 season and the 5A state finals last season and is 22-5 in his two years as head coach. Perry, who has had head-coaching stints at Lee-Montgomery and St. Paul’s, is 127-61 overall in 17 years as a head coach.

The team will be comprised of the best players from this upcoming senior class. Several Oxford players among numerous area players on the watch list.

Alabama holds a 22-11 lead in the series, but hasn’t won since 2016 – the last time Etheredge coached in the game. It’s the state’s longest drought in the series since a four-game losing streak from 1992 to 1995. Getting back on the right side of the ledger is a powerful motivator.
“The kids get to play in a lot of different games that are this good,” Etheredge said. “This is the game you get to represent the state of Alabama, so it’s a special game because you’re representing our state and the schools in our state. You want to win this game.
“My thing is every year I’ve coached in it we’ve tried to push the fact we want to have a lot of fun, but a lot of fun is in winning. We want to win for our state and bring that trophy back to Alabama. It’s important. Coach (Steve) Savarese (the AHSAA executive director) has made that clear.”

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