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Nick Roberson accepts promotion at Pickens County High School

Nick Roberson is the new head football coach at Pickens County. (Photo by Andrew Carroll)

REFORM | Nick Roberson starts his new job with a couple of advantages. He knows his players, and he has a championship ring.

The challenge is trying to follow up on the best season in the history of the Pickens County High School football program.

The 35-year-old Roberson was the defensive coordinator last season when the Tornadoes went 15-0 and claimed the school’s first AHSAA Class 1A title. He succeeded Patrick Plott, who left to take the head coaching job at Greenville. The Tornadoes went 11-3 in 2012, 11-2 in 2011 and 11-2 in 2008 with Plott as the head coach.

Pickens County has put together nine straight winning seasons and nine straight playoff appearances.

“I enjoy the challenge,” Roberson said. “Being here for three years with Coach Plott, I was able to learn a lot. And really, it’s not broke. We’re still going to run the same offense, still run the same type defense.

“We’ve always had discipline, and I want to continue on with that because it’s not just the wins and losses that I’m really concerned about. It’s the wins and losses on fourth down and life. Are you going to quit? Are you going to remember some of those hot August days when you were working and be able to fight through some of this mental stuff that you’re facing in life later on? I want to make them good young men and productive citizens in society.”

Pickens County beat Maplesville 38-18 in the championship game. Jermarcus Brown, the Class 1A Player of the Year, rushed for 329 yards and three touchdowns. Quarterback Devonte’ Simon rushed for 100 yards and a score and threw a touchdown pass. Offensive lineman Zev Finch helped the Tornadoes gain 471 yards in total offense, including 441 rushing yards. Brown, Simon and Finch were part of a senior class that included 15 players.

“You’re not going to find a senior group that’s probably that talented, not just at a small school but just about anywhere across the state, I would think,” Roberson said. “Jermarcus Brown, Devonte Simon, it’s hard to replace those two by themselves, and that senior class was pretty special.

“I feel extremely good about our offensive line and our defensive line. From our offensive line we lost one starter (Finch) off last year’s team, and we have a pretty good group of skilled receivers. We need to get out in space. We’re going to be very similar to what we were last year. We’re going to spread it out but still try to run. We’re going to have to grind it out this year instead of depending on one or two players to make something happen.”

Returning linemen include tackle Malek Steele, guard Tyshawn Washington, center Chris Cobb and tackle Devin Spruill.

Sophomore Zach Thomas has a chance to start at quarterback. Roberson said Thomas filled in for Simon, who went out with a sprained ankle during a regular-season game against Hubbertville.

“Zach actually played pretty well,” Roberson said. “All he needs is some experience.”

Roberson plans to “spread the load” by using a stable of running backs. Darrien Latham scored on a 6-yard run in the title game. Roberson said was a “short-yardage” back last season. A.B. Hamilton is a prospect at running back and receiver. Steffon McCoy, a starting cornerback last year, has a chance to be in the receiver rotation with Tavarius Steele and Javarius Jefferson.

Pickens County moves into Class 2A and will compete in Region 4 with Francis Marion, Holy Spirit, Fayetteville, R.C. Hatch, Thorsby and Vincent.

“The attitude has been pretty good because it’s still Pickens County,” Roberson said. “When the lights come on, they’re coming out to play. We’ve had a lot of change here. Of course, losing Coach Plott was a big loss for us as far as somebody that was here and stable.

“There’s a lot of people who don’t think they can do what was done last year or be quite as good, and they want to prove that they are still that championship caliber and still that championship team. They’re kind of tired of hearing that ‘the seniors got the ring. You were just there.’ They want to put their name on this team, and I’ve been extremely proud of their effort and their leadership ability.”

Roberson, who is from Flomaton, played tailback and was a defensive lineman in high school. He graduated from Troy University in 2001. He coached at Escambia County and at Monroe County Junior High School and was at Holt for six years before moving to Pickens County.

“I’m just proud to have the opportunity to continue on the tradition at Pickens County High School,” he said.

Reach Andrew Carroll at or at 205-722-0223.