The following is the eighth in an 11-part series featuring members of the 2019 class of the Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame.
The city of Notasulga went the extra mile, sort of, to honor former Notasulga High Coach Ronnie Sikes’ impact on the small Macon County town. The City Council renamed a street Sikes-Taylor Loop for the much-loved football coach.
Sikes had two stints as a coach at Notasulga, one as an assistant and the other as a head coach, with both being memorable rides to success. Sikes, who also had successful coaching tenures at Lanett, Valley, Beulah and Mortimer Jordan high schools, is a member of the Class of 2019 being inducted into the Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame March 18. The banquet will be held at the Montgomery Renaissance Hotel and Convention Center at 6:30 p.m. A press conference with all 11 members of the 29th class will be at 5:30 p.m. at the Renaissance.
A native of Wedowee and a 1977 graduate of Randolph County High School, Sikes attended Southern Union Junior College and Auburn University, where he received his bachelor’s degree in 1981. He earned a master’s degree from Auburn in 1987.
He began his teaching and coaching career at Valley High School in 1981.
“During my first year as head football coach and athletic director at Valley High School, we hired Coach Sikes,” recalled Dwight Sanderson, who was enshrined into the Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame in 2017. “He was fresh out of college, but we hired him even though there were two other applicants that had eight and 10 years of experience. He was that impressive.
“His football assignments were running backs on offense and the secondary on defense. He was the B-team basketball coach (the 1984 team was 17-3) and head track coach. Valley had never had a track program, but, by the second year, Coach Sikes’ track program was solid.”
Next, he went to Notasulga High School as an assistant for four years, then moved to Mortimer Jordan High School as an assistant. He took over as head football coach the following year, leading the Blue Devils to a 7-4 season and a berth in the AHSAA state playoffs. The school had been 5-25 the previous three years. Sikes moved to Beulah High School in 1990-91 as an assistant.
In 1992, he returned to Notasulga, this time as head football coach. Over the next 12 years, his teams compiled a 91-51 record with 10 state playoff appearances. He had undefeated regular seasons in 1998 and 1999. The 1999 team advanced to the semifinals in the state playoffs. Notasulga had four straight seasons of 10 or more wins and put together a 25-game regular-season winning streak during that stretch.
Sikes accepted the head football coach’s position at Lanett High School in 2004, taking over a program that had been struggling. He remained there for five years, compiling a record of 36-23. The Panthers reached the state playoffs four straight years, with the 2007 team finishing the regular season undefeated and advancing to the quarterfinals. That was the first Lanett team to go undefeated in its first 12 games in school history.
Sikes retired from the Alabama Public School System in 2009. He was at Springwood Academy from 2009 to 2013. Since then, he has coached at various schools in Georgia. His record in Alabama is 161-96.
In 1998, he was named Coach of the Year by the Opelika-Auburn News. He was twice named Coach of the Year by the Valley Times-News. He was selected as a coach in the North-South All-Star football game three times.
Christopher R. Martin, assistant police chief in Dadeville, shared his grateful experience with Sikes. “I would not be an assistant police chief today if it were not for Coach Ronnie Sikes and his leadership,” Martin said. “I would not have been a sergeant first class in the United States Army with 16 years of service, a Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medals, five Army Achievement Medals and three successful deployments to some of the most hostile places on planet Earth if it were not for Coach Ronnie Sikes and his leadership, mentorship and discipline.
“What Coach Ronnie Sikes gave to me, I’ll never be able to repay. It has allowed me to mentor others, succeed beyond what I ever thought I would. It allowed me to come from some of the most inhospitable places imaginable. With all he has given me, the least I can do is write this letter to you all, telling you that this man, this coach, this father figure, this coaching genius, and this all-around great man should have his place in the Hall of Fame.”
Martin said his world was turning upside down when he first met Sikes.
“I became acquainted with Coach Sikes during my junior year while I attended Reeltown High School in 1999,” he explains. “I was taken in by Karey Thompson of Notasulga after I had an unfortunate set of circumstances that left me without a guardian. Mr. Thompson introduced me to Coach Sikes, and we immediately began talking about football. Football was my passion. At that time, for a child like I was, football was one of the only structured things that I had in my life. It was what I looked to in an effort to stay out of trouble and keep me straight in my endeavors.
“Coach Sikes was more than happy to welcome me to the team and give me a chance to play. Many of the words spoken to me when I was a teenager still carry on with me today. I attribute my success in life to what Coach Ronnie Sikes instilled into me with a football helmet and adrenaline in my blood.”