For the past 13 years, James “Coondog” Causey and Scott Graham have been friends. Causey grew up in Pell City, while Graham moved to the area from Mobile when he started attending Duran Jr. High School in the seventh-grade.
The two loved sports, and played football together for the Panthers.
When the two were seniors in the 2003 season, they helped lead the Panthers to one of the best seasons ever as they went 12-1 and advanced to the third round of the Alabama High School Athletic Association state playoffs.
After graduating from PCHS in 2004, the two went on to Jacksonville State University where they graduated together, and then a teaching and coaching career for the two started at Ragland High School.
After one year at Ragland, the two were separated as Graham took a defensive coordinator position at Highland Home High School in Crenshaw County, just below Montgomery.
Causey stayed on another year at Ragland, before making his way back to his alma mater to teach and coach.
Although they are many miles apart, the two remain friends, stay in touch with each other, and get together when Graham comes home for a visit.
Just last week, on the Fourth of July, the two, along with their girlfriends, watched the fireworks show in Pell City.
“From our eighth-grade year in junior high school to our first year as teachers and coaches, we were together,” Causey said.
Rocky friendship to start with
It was in the seventh or eighth-grade year that the two got into a fight.
“I took his woman,” Causey said laughing. “I hated him at first.”
“We didn’t like each other to begin with,” Graham said.
“Once we got past that initial fight, and became teammates on the field, I knew it would be a friendship that would always last,” Causey said.
That 2003 football season
The two played both ways on the football field and were very instrumental in leading the Panthers to a 12-1 season. The regular season was perfect at 10-0, and of course there was a huge win over archrival Oxford. (Graham would later do his student teaching and coaching for Oxford under John Grass).
“For me, I hate to lose,” Graham said. “I can’t stand it. To step up on that stage and go undefeated in the regular season, win the region, and make it to the third round of the state playoffs is a great accomplishment. We were not going to be denied. But we should have never lost to Pleasant Grove that night in the playoffs. If we play them five more times, we beat them all five times.”
Causey said it does not matter what sport you are playing, any time you can go undefeated, it is a big accomplishment.
“It don’t matter if it is varsity football, eighth-grade baseball, or T–ball, to stay perfect in anything is remarkable,” Causey said. “I think what made our team so successful was how close we were to each other. We had 12 seniors and we were all best friends.”
Causey agreed with Graham about how they should have defeated Pleasant Grove.
“Even almost 10 years later, we are still talking about it,” Causey said. “I say we would beat them by 10 points.”
Coaching at Ragland
While both helped Coach Brian Mintz on Friday nights with the varsity Purple Devils, the two were assigned to coach the junior high football team.
That team went 3-3 that year.
Those players then are the ones who came within one win of playing for a state championship this past season, and finished with a record of 13-1.
“Those were our players,” Causey said.
Graham said the interest in junior high football at Ragland before he and Causey got there was not that big a deal.
“That one year we coached together, we had over 30 kids interested in playing junior high football,” Graham said. “The majority of players on last year’s Ragland varsity team that was so good, started playing football for us back in junior high.”
After two years at Ragland, Causey came home to Pell City, teaching in the Pell City School System. He coaches football, basketball and baseball.
Just last year, he led the eighth-grade junior high Pell City baseball team to a 29-0 record and won the St. Clair County Tournament, beating Odenville in the championship game. Causey believes it is the only Pell City baseball team to go undefeated in a season.
“I have a passion for baseball and football,” Causey said. “I do enjoy coaching.”
Two years before Graham arrived at Highland Home, the Flying Squadron football team went 0-10 and 1-9.
In 2010, Tom Pinkston was hired as the new head coach. Graham was the first assistant coach he hired, naming him defensive coordinator.
The 2010 Highland Home team went 5-5, and last year, they were 8-4, advancing to the second round of the state playoffs. They went from a 1-19 record over two years to 13-9 the next two years. This will be Graham’s third year at Highland Home.
“I’m fortunate to have a great head coach,” Graham said. “Coach Pinkston has had 6A experience as an assistant coach, winning multiple state titles. He is one of the better coaches I have been around. He is right there with John Grass.”
Graham and Causey both said their goals are to one day be head coaches at the high school varsity level — Graham in football and Causey in baseball.