School Spotlight: Saraland High School (Saraland, AL)

Saraland High School, located in Saraland City Alabama, is a public school ranked 45th within the state of Alabama. Home of the Spartans, Saraland is ranked #1 in the Alabama Division 6A with a 13-1 winning record ( Saraland thrives in academics and athletics with a 94% graduation rate surpassing the Alabama state average. Saraland High opened its doors in January 2010 and has an enrollment size of approximately 1,058 students, including well-known alumni such as Cordale Flott (former LSU player, current CB for NY Giants), Matt Peacock (MLB Pitcher for Kansas City Royals), and Velus Jones Jr (NFL WR for Chicago Bears). Saraland High School not only produces a class of future star-athletes but holds the 2022 State Champion title under Coach Jeff Kelly’s regime. The Saraland Spartans won their first 6A football title in program history against Mountain Brook Spartans, with a final score of 38-17 at the Jordan-Hare Stadium. The Spartans football program has a rich history of reaching the playoffs for ten consecutive years, on top of the AHSAA State Championship twice, and building a record of 91-30. When Saraland first opened in 2010, the football staff was run under Coach John Holman who led the program to 3-7. However, in 2011, coach Jeff Kelly came in and led the program to over 117 victories and three state title game appearances. Now in 2022, Jeff Kelly’s hard work came to reality after overcoming the state title, “It is not enough to get there. We’ve been there, done that. That is not what this team is about. We want to finish” Kelly.

Before we follow up with an interview featuring Coach Kelly, here are some general facts. Jeff Kelly serves as the athletic director at Saraland High and the head football coach for the Spartans. Kelly graduated from Southern Mississippi where he received a BSBA and MBA from USM Business School. As the consecutive starting QB for the Golden Eagles, Kelly was then drafted by the Seattle Seahawks in 2001 where he spent two years.

My first approach to Coach Kelly was informing me a bit about his coaching career and what led him here as the head coach for Saraland and his ongoing success at the program.

“Well, I been here 13 years and I guess going on 20 years total now. What led me to my coaching career was a combination of where I got to play and then really having a hard time getting away from the game. When you commit to something you do, it seems like your whole life. Another reason I started coaching was upon a great influence by my high school football coach Ronnie Massey, I thought he had the greatest job in the world working with kids and creating development and his impact as a coach meant a lot in my life.”

“Getting here at the second year of Saraland, it was all new. We had to build the program ground up and see the tremendous growth and change that led to success over the last 13 years at Saraland.  We work with outstanding young men that come through as players, on top of the supportive atmosphere from Saraland’s administrative and community support. From the school board down to the superintendents, our superintendents here are second to none when it comes to being the guy you want to work for and the opportunities they provide”.

Head Coach, Jeff Kelly

I then preceded to discuss Coach Kelly’s coaching philosophy and how that translated to his most recent success.

 “I don’t get philosophical. I just show up every day and try to get better every day. We have 10 plus wins a season and we are trying to upkeep that. Our philosophy centers around the fact that every day is important whether it’s a game day on a Friday night in the fall, or a Wednesday in the middle of February. Everybody in our program from the coaches to players need to have a sense of urgency on what you’re doing on a day-to-day basis. Our philosophy is about showing up every day with that urgency to get better using attention to detail. When you stack good days on top of good days, you improve.

Head Coach, Jeff Kelly

Coach Jeff Kelly discussed the challenges that come along by defending that State Championship title. Saraland finally got over the hump and brought home their first state title in 2022 against Mountain Brook.

“The drawback really makes it challenging to maintain that edge that gives you the chance to be there in the first place. When you have success, you get content and comfortable. When you get familiar with success, it may be easy to not work as hard, but you got to fight on a daily basis to have a chance to be successful. The things that bring you success can bring you down. Overcoming state champions is the biggest challenge, but I’m excited about the tremendous amount of football returning this season, huge parts of our offense and defense coming back carries over a lot of expectations and experience.

Head Coach, Jeff Kelly

According to Coach Kelly, Saraland is the hub of the town so there is that small town atmosphere.

“We’re still a fairly young system, but Saraland is consistently known for being top 10 academically in the state across the board. If you ask anybody around the state, they will say Saraland football has been good for a long time.”

By gaining perspective on the coaching at Saraland, it is clear the talent produced here at Saraland High is truly phenomenal. Some significant key players recognized by Coach Kelly started off with Alabama commit: WR Ryan Williams, named after 2022 Alabama’s Mr. Football Award. The 6’0 160 lb. star sophomore helped lead the team with four touchdowns in the school’s first class 6A Championship against Mountain Brook. Williams was also named Gatorade’s Alabama Player of the Year.

Ryan William’s Alabama official visit pictures.

QB KJ Lacey was another mention by Coach Kelly. KJ Lacey, often referred to as the next “Bryce Young” has various offers from USC, UAB, UCF, Nicholls State, Ole Miss, Auburn University, FSU, Texas A&M, Georgia Tech, University of Alabama, University of Tennessee, and many others. The 6’1 180 lb. is a Class of 2025 Dual Threat with incredible combination of accuracy, anticipation and arm strength.

Quarterback, KJ Lacey for the Saraland Spartans.

RB Santae McWilliams was another honorable mention. McWilliams is a 5’9, 170- pound running back from Saraland, AL. The Class of 2025 threat has explosive ability as quoted by Coach Jeff Kelly, as FSU serves among the first offers for Santae.

RB Santae McWilliams JR.

OLB Jamison Curtis, a 6’1, 205-pound OLB, MLB playing for Saraland High School is another star to keep an eye on. Curtis has received offers from Georgia Tech, Ole Miss, UAB, University of Marshall, University of North Alabama, University of Memphis, and more.

Jamison Curtis, OLB for Saraland High Spartans.

DT Antonio Coleman, Class of 2025 prospect measuring at 6’2 and 265 lbs. for Saraland High School. He has received offers from Liberty University, Marshall University, UAB, University of Memphis and more. Coach Kelly has described all the mentioned athletes to be “home run players with explosive capability, anytime they touch the ball they take it to the house”.

Antonio Coleman, DT.

These young men give you a lot of options as a coach to get them ready.

Head Coach, Jeff Kelly