By: JOHN JAMES MARSHALL, Journal Sports
There’s a 75-year-old guy who slices meat at a local sandwich shop who thinks – though he’s not entirely sure – he might be able to coach high school football. But there is no doubt that he knows more about Cover 2 than what goes into making a good hoagie.
Alden Reeves spent almost 50 years coaching high school football, so you’ll have to pardon him is he thinks he might still be able to pull it off.
“I don’t know if I can do it any more or not,” he says. “I miss the games and the on-the-field practices. But I don’t miss all the in-between … getting the uniforms ready, washing the clothes. But I don’t have any regrets at all.”
Nor should he, because being a football coach is all he ever wanted to do ever since he was a junior at Jonesboro-Hodge High School. It was there that he met then-head football coach E.J. Lewis.
“Ever since I met him in the 11th grade, he impressed me so much and that’s when I decided what I wanted to do,” Reeves says. “I really looked up to him and he influenced me.”
And as football fate would have it, Lewis would be a part of series of football giants who would be a part of Reeves’ coaching life.
Lewis would go on to coach defensive backs at Louisiana Tech, where Reeves would play after finishing what is still one of the great playing careers at Jonesboro-Hodge.
There, he played for legendary Tech coach Joe Aillet and also met then-assistant coach Lee Hedges.
After college, Reeves was signed as a free agent with the Washington Redskins and made the taxi squad when Hedges, who was now head coach at Captain Shreve, gave him a call.
“Have you been cut yet?” Hedges asked.
“I knew I had to decide what I wanted to do,” Reeves says now. “I had just gotten married and I was kind of homesick. Looking back, I probably should have stayed. But I didn’t and started coaching at Shreve. It was great; I Ioved that.”
Once he started coaching at Shreve in 1968, Reeves never knew anything else. And he is thankful he learned about it from these men.
“Coach Hedges was an idol to me, just like E.J. Lewis,” Reeves says. “He had a personality like Coach Aillet. That’s where I learned that you don’t have to do a lot of hollering to coach football. Some coaches do, but I never was around any that did it that way. I just couldn’t get mad at a kid for making a mistake if he was really trying, because that’s all you can do.”
Reeves was part of a run of great football teams at Captain Shreve in the 1970s highlighted by a state championship in 1973.
“I had a feeling we were going to be pretty good that year and it turned out we were,” he says. “We had five All-State players and eight shutouts. I was so happy for Coach Hedges and just to be a part of it.”
There were only two touchdowns scored on the Gators the entire regular season. The defensive coordinator? Alden Reeves … sort of.
“Coach Hedges didn’t do it like most people did,” he said. “I had the (defensive coordinator) title, but he mentored and coached a lot of positions. We just coached everything.”
Shreve made it to the 1983 semifinals, but after the next season, Hedges decided to retire.
“I tried to talk Coach Hedges out of retiring,” Reeves says. “I wanted to be a head coach somewhere down the line. When it came time to apply, I might not have been the most qualified. But I had been there so long.”
In his first season as head coach (1985), Shreve opened 9-0. “I’m thinking I’ve got this coaching thing figured out,” he says. “But Bossier had a different plan.”
Shreve, then ranked No. 3 in the state, fell 14-9 to the Bearkats and then lost the next week in the opening round to West Monroe. “If we ever had a chance to win another state championship, that was it,” he says. “But we let it slip right through our fingers.”
Reeves stayed as head coach at Shreve for 10 years and then left to be an assistant at Southwood. His coaching career continued for almost 15 years in East Texas (Longview, Center, Elysian Fields) but always as an assistant.
He may have retired from coaching but not from working, which is why he will still be happy to make you a thin-sliced roast beef if you get hungry.
“Head coaching was fun, but I’ll be honest with you — it’s not as much fun as being an assistant coach,” he says. “At least for me it wasn’t. That’s because it took about three wins to get over one loss.”
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