‘Enjoy the journey’: Madison Academy coach looking for another state championship
, The Decatur Daily
MADISON — It was a wild ride in Hartselle in 2011.
From the end of August to December, the whole town rode the excitement that came out of J.P. Cain Stadium every Friday night as their football team went on an improbable run. A year after losing 14 starters, the Tigers finished with a perfect 15-0 record and upset a loaded Vigor team 13-3 to win the school’s only football state championship.
The man leading the charge was head coach Bob Godsey.
Through 26 years as a head coach, few have been as successful as Godsey. Since taking over at Brooks in 1998, Godsey has amassed an overall record of 233 wins and just 78 losses. From 2003-18 he went 141-51 at Hartselle. He’s won 10 region championships and taken his team to the playoffs 22 of his 26 seasons as a coach.
Yet, despite what powerhouses like Fyffe or Thompson might make you think, getting to a state championship is a rare and exceedingly difficult feat. In 2011 Godsey coached in his first state championship. Now, 12 years later, he prepares to coach in his second.
“It’s exciting,” Godsey said. “Just as much as it was in 2011. It’s something special.”
Godsey, 57, is now coaching a team that was playing the same day as Hartselle in the 2011 state championship at Bryant Denny Stadium, the Madison Academy Mustangs.
In 2011 Madison Academy played for its first state title in school history. The Mustangs lost, but it kickstarted a hot streak. Over the next five seasons they played for four more championships and won three.
Since 2016, however, Madison Academy hasn’t reached the championship game.
After retiring from public school teaching and coaching following the 2018 season, Godsey took over at Madison Academy in 2019.
So far he’s 50-12 at Madison Academy, which is just three wins shy of the most in school history. He’s also yet to lose a region game in five seasons.
As successful as they’ve been, a return to the state finals kept eluding the Mustangs.
In 2020 Madison Academy finished the regular season 10-0 but were upset in the second round of the playoffs. In 2021 they lost by four to Oneonta in the semifinals and last season they were defeated in overtime by Sylvania.
This is nothing new to Godsey.
Before reaching the 5A state finals in 2011, his Hartselle teams were also plagued by close calls. From 2006-10, the Tigers lost in the quarterfinals three times and the semifinals once.
Godsey said he’s drawn from lessons learned during that time at Hartselle and, just like the Tigers did in 2011, the Mustangs finally got over that hump this season.
“I think there’s a lot of similarities between the two teams. It feels like we’ve been knocking on the door for three or four years now and that’s how it felt at Hartselle,” Godsey said. “But you learn from it. You know if you keep putting in the work, eventually you’ll catch that break.”
The Mustangs have certainly had to work to once again reach the state finals as the last three weeks have been anything but easy.
It started in the second round of the playoffs when Madison Academy faced off with Mars Hills, a team that was ranked No. 1 for a majority of the season. Madison Academy won 21-14.
A week later the Mustangs scored with 19 seconds left to defeat Sylvania 35-28. Then last week they again pulled off another thrilling victory when they scored with 57 seconds left to top Geraldine 48-43.
To say it’s been a roller coaster of a postseason might be an understatement, but that’s just the way Godsey likes it.
“To me that’s where the memories are made,” Godsey said. “We’ve been through three absolute wars and each week I’ve gotten to see our guys, when things didn’t look good, persevere and find a way to overcome.
“As an old man, that makes me pretty happy to see.”
Madison Academy is set to take on Mobile Christian on Thursday at 11 a.m. at Bryant Denny Stadium for the 3A state championship. It’s just one of two championship games, along with 6A’s Clay Chalkville vs. Saraland, to feature two undefeated teams.
Godsey admitted he didn’t know how it will play out on Thursday, but he plans on soaking up every moment.
“One of the things I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older is to enjoy each accomplishment,” Godsey said. “I feel like that’s the wisdom that comes from having done this before. Just soak it in and enjoy the journey.”