Jason Bowen

Arab head football coach Adam Gilbert is impressed with his team’s opponent tonight.

The Knights host Class 5A No. 5-ranked Scottsboro in Region 7 play. Gilbert called the Wildcats’ a “complete team.”

On the flip side, his team is impressive, too. Arab is 5-2 overall and is 3-1 in region play, a year after going 1-9 and seeing starting quarterback and Arkansas transfer Daulton Hyatt transfer to Etowah. Arab has been the surprise team in the region this season. But knowing Gilbert’s track record, should we be surprised the Knights are winning? We saw firsthand what he can do when he started what can be considered the golden age of North Sand Mountain football.

NSM had two playoff appearances in the 46 seasons before Gilbert took over in 2010. NSM made three straight from 2011-13 — the Bison have made one since and are about to make another for five in six seasons — while posting records of 9-2, 8-3 and 9-3 before Arab came calling for Gilbert’s services. In his first season with the Knights in 2014, Arab went 7-4 and made the 6A playoffs before last season’s drop-off. 

Gilbert, a Pisgah alum, said the “sting of last year” helped the Knights finally adapt the mindset change he wanted.

“The kids here are great, very respectful,” he said, “but we’ve had to make them tougher. They’ve finally bought in to the weight room. They’ve started attacking it instead of just doing [the workouts]. We’ve worked to become that blue-collar team that works harder or as hard as anybody. When we beat Alexandria, that solidified it to our kids.” 

That formula, which Gilbert used at NSM, is taking hold at Arab. He’s putting his stamp on the program. It’s a program that has struggled to sustain success, but so was NSM. And now three years after Gilbert departed Higdon, NSM has continued to enjoy gridiron success under the direction of head coaches Jeff Monroe and Keith Kirby.

“I keep up with North Sand Mountain every Friday night,” Gilbert said. “I’m proud of how they’re doing. They’ve got a chance to win a region championship, just need one more win. I’m excited for them.”

Gilbert said he and his family enjoy being part of the Arab community, although he admits he misses his native Sand Mountain. But when it comes to football, this year’s Arab team is playing like one for there, Gilbert said. 

“Work hard, play hard and good things happen to you. These kids have bought into that and they’re seeing it pay off.”


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