Blackman football coach Philip Shadowens gathered his players around him as they pulled off their helmets and took a knee.
Practice on the field had just ended, and a film session was about to begin in a few minutes in the school’s football fieldhouse.
The fifth-year Blaze coach looked around at his team and began to preach to his team about themselves, tonight’s opponent Oakland and about life. All three aspects linked together.
When it comes to motivating football players, Shadowens may be considered one of the best coaches in the state. And it’s been proven on the field.
“He’s been in the county for a long time, and been very successful here,” Oakland coach Thomas McDaniel said. “I’ve always been curious because I don’t know why or how he’s always gotten his kids to buy into him and his coaches.
“There have been years when he’s won big games when he wasn’t really supposed to win. Whether it be 2006 when it was Smyrna and he beat Riverdale in the playoffs, or it be 2010 when (Blackman) beat us and we were undefeated. He’s got a way of getting kids to buy into what he wants them to do.”
Tonight, Shadowens and McDaniel will be on separate sidelines when fifth-ranked Blackman plays second-ranked Oakland at 7 p.m. today at Ray Hughes Stadium.
Both have earned each other’s respect through the past few years of meeting on the field and talking off the field as coaching equals.
Shadowens won state championships at Smyrna in 2006 and 2007 before leaving the North Rutherford school. McDaniel won a state title in 2008 in his first season at Oakland.
“We probably have talked on the phone a lot more over the past couple years,” Shadowens admitted. “When it comes to (college) recruiting and what he does to get kids recruited. And we’re an advocate for each other’s kids when it comes to that.
“I have a lot of respect for how hard that program works, and how hard they play on Friday night. You can tell on video how they prepare. I’ve never seen Oakland not prepared.”
Both coaches know what to expect from their opponent. There will be few tricks on display.
“We’re never going to trick anybody,” said McDaniel, who coached against Shadowens when he was an assistant at Riverdale and Shadowens was Smyrna’s coach. “You pretty much know what you are going to get with Blackman.
“But that’s what makes it fun. They are going to do what they do. You know what to expect. That’s intrigued me about him because that’s how we try to do things.”
Both teams have taken on their respective coach’s personalities.
McDaniel is wired on the sidelines. He ran around the sideline during last week’s 35-0 win over rival Siegel like he had just consumed a can of Red Bull.
Shadowens, on the contrary, is more reserved. The former two-time state champion said he wants his team to have fun on the sideline.
“My personality first and foremost as a football coach is we’re going to have fun,” Shadowens said. “We’re going to prepare hard. We’re going to work really hard doing it. We’re going to accept every challenge and hit it head on. If you do that, you are going to win a lot of football games.”
And with that comes Shadowens’ post-practice speeches. Those close to him make a point to wander over to the team after practices to listen in. His wife, Laura Shadowens, doesn’t even know exactly what her husband will say.
That is because they are not prepped.
“My mom told me growing up I was either going to be a coach or a preacher,” Shadowens said. “I think I have the best of both worlds. I get to do both; I get to coach the game I love, and I get to preach to the kids not only about football, but about life and God.”