Faith, focus, finish: Coach Eric Whaley’s lasting impact on the Boaz High School Pirates

BOAZ, Ala. -- Friday evening the Boaz High School Pirates stepped onto the field for their home jamboree without a major player. But, as the team, the students and the community will tell you, their Coach Whaley isn't there in person, but he's there in what he left behind.

On Friday afternoon the field at Boaz High School was freshly painted. It hadn't been played on yet, but in a few hours, that was going to change.

Over the last several years, every play and every game was led by head coach Eric Whaley.  "Coach Whaley had an enormous impact on our community," said Patrick Williams, Assistant Principal and  Associate Athletic Director, "He was very dedicated to Boaz High School, he was dedicated to his church and certainly dedicated to his family."

"He taught us how to fight and he was a great role model for that," said senior Parker Childers. For the last few seasons, Coach Whaley battled cancer. "To watch him go through what he was going through and for us to have to step out on the field, it was very hard."

But support poured in. The Albertville Aggies painted their field on the Boaz sideline. Guntersville sold shirts to help with the coach's medical expenses, and Douglas raised almost $800.  "It was an amazing way that all the communities came together for one cause," Williams said.

In February, Coach Whaley had to take leave. "He wasn't able to come back," Williams said.

Coach Whaley passed away earlier this month. "Never quit. That's all I can get from what he gave to us, is never quit because he didn't," Childers said.

"Coach Whaley was the type of guy who would've said, we need to play, and so we're playing," Williams added.

Coach Whaley had a motto: faith, focus, finish. It's plastered across the school, and of course, at the football facilities. That's just one of the lasting impacts he left behind. "Whatever the outcome is we're just going to give it all we've got and do it for him," Childers said.

"He'll be watching," Williams added.

The team decided to dedicate their season to Coach Whaley.