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Top of the Class|Native earns coach of the year honors

By By Chandler Myers
special to the standard

Everything was put back in perspective for Escambia Academy Cougars Head Coach Heath Gibson  Dec. 3 in Prattville.
Just a little more than a year removed from an 0-11 season, the Cougars football coach received the greatest honor in his still young career. Gibson received the AISA Class 2A Coach of the Year award for turning his team around in 2009 to lead the Cougars to a 7-6 record and a  trip to the state semifinals.
The award came as a surprise to Gibson, who was on hand to help coach the West team in the AISA All-Star game, which featured two Cougars, seniors Jon Dean and Cameron “Cowboy” McGhee.
Gibson said he was honored to receive the award, which he credits to his staff and team.
The honor not only sent shock waves through a surprised Gibson, it also turned classrooms at Escambia Academy into an uproar upon the announcement by Escambia Academy Headmaster Betty Warren.
Warren, who was contacted Tuesday by the AISA, informed Gibson’s wife of the award he was to receive, and announced it to the school during the time of the banquet.
Warren said for Gibson to receive the honor is exciting because of how deserving he is.
Gibson’s character shines down through his team with his never give up attitude pushing his players to each win.
Gibson knows the difference between 2008 and 2009, but he said that with all the bad that came in that winless season there were several great things he learned in 2009.
The leadership he showers on his team has pushed its way down into the hearts of all the Cougars.
Cougars senior wingback Jon Dean said Gibson showed he and his teammates how to play as a team.
Even with an award as impressive as Coach of the Year, Gibson is not going to slow down there.
The award-winning coach said he wants to pay back the coaches and players who helped him earn the honor.
The chance for that dream is less than a year away.
With a coach so motivated to give his program what it deserves, do not be so shocked if he is holding that ultimate piece of hardware after next season’s finals.
Gibson has been head coach of the Cougars of Canoe since 2003 and has compiled an overall record at the school of 33-43.
He also coaches girls basketball and JV basketball for the Escambia County Cougars.
This season, Gibson’s team advanced to the semifinals of the AISA state playoffs before falling to eventual state champion Monroe Academy 20-0. The semifinal appearance for Escambia Academy was the farthest they had advanced since the 1971 playoffs.