On Thursday, he officially got that opportunity.
The former Cedar Bluff assistant was named the new head football coach at Coosa Christian in Gadsden. He replaces former head coach Van Owens, who went 28-30 in six seasons.
“I’m very excited,” Clifton said. “It’s a great opportunity for me. I’m looking forward to getting their program turned around and on the right track.”
Clifton becomes the 14th coach in Coosa Christian’s football history, which dates back to 1976.
Last year, the Conquerors went 4-6 under Owens, who had two stints as Coosa’s head coach. He guided the football program from 1997-2000 in 8-man football, then came back in 2011 and coached the past two seasons.
Clifton comes to the Conquerors as a coach who’s had several hats. A 1992 graduate of Cedar Bluff, Clifton spent the last seven years as an assistant for the Tigers.
Last season, he stepped up to become the Tigers’ defensive coordinator after former defensive coordinator Mark Mitchell accepted a job at Piedmont.
In 2012, Clifton led a Tiger defensive unit that gave up an average of just 14.2 points per game, including a pair of shutouts. Cedar Bluff posted a 10-1 record and made the second round of the Class 1A state playoffs.
Prior to last season, Clifton was co-offensive coordinator with the Tigers from 2006-11 and also worked with the Tiger special teams.
Clifton also spent two seasons as an assistant at Gaylesville.
Clifton said he’s thankful to Cedar Bluff head coach Jonathan McWhorter, Gaylesville coach Brian Clowdis, and former Cedar Bluff and current Piedmont head coach Steve Smith for molding him into the coach he is today.
“I’ve been preparing for this for nine years, and they’ve helped me get to this point in my career and to become a head coach,” Clifton said. “Coach McWhorter has been gracious enough to give me his insight on what it takes to be a head coach. It’s been a pleasure to work with him at Cedar Bluff.”
McWhorter said he’s sorry to lose someone of Clifton’s caliber, but he’s also excited for him in his new coaching endeavor.
“He did a great job here at Cedar Bluff,” McWhorter said. “We’re sorry to lose him, but we’re proud he’s getting the opportunity to coach his own program.”
Clifton said he met with the Cedar Bluff players on Friday, informing them of his decision to leave. He said he’s yet to meet with his new players at Coosa, but expects to soon.
“They’re all class acts,” Clifton said of the Tiger players. “Each one of them shook my hand or gave me a hug and wished me the best of luck. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be getting the opportunity to become a head coach.”
Clifton’s absence means the Tigers will be searching to fill his vacancy. McWhorter said Cedar Bluff hasn’t begun the process of looking for Clifton’s replacement yet, but expects to “cross that bridge going into spring.”
“We’ll probably have an opportunity to hire one or two coaches, but that yet has to be determined,” McWhorter said. “We’re happy for Coach Clifton, but we still expect great things to continue for our program. I’m sure whoever steps in will do a great job for us.”