4th in a 13 part series introducing the Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame class of 2023
By Bill Plott
Montgomery, AL – Coach Paul Benefield and Fyffe High School are about as close to being the greatest prep football dynasty in Alabama as you can get. A 40-28 win over B.B. Comer in the Class 2A state championship game last fall was their sixth state championship since 2014, and it was also their sixth 15-0 season.
Benefield is one of 13 individuals who are being inducted into the Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame next Monday, March 13, at the Montgomery Renaissance Hotel and Convention Center. The banquet will begin at 6 p.m. At 1:15 p.m., a press conference will be held at the Renaissance introducing the Class of 2023 to the media. The Hall of Fame is a program developed and managed by the AHSAA’s Alabama High School High School Athletic Directors & Coaches Association (AHSADCA). This year’s class will be the 23rd class inducted since the HOF inception in 1991.
A native of Fort Payne, Coach Benefield grew up in Fyffe and was a member or the Red Devils’ football team coached by legendary coach Ronnie Haushalter, who was inducted into the Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame in 1997. Haushalter’s philosophy was simple – block and tackle better than the other team. Benefield’s plan has been much the same. Haushalter compiled a 217-143-3 record in his 34-year. Benefield’s current record is 337-55 in 31 seasons. Haushalter coached Fyffe his last 25 seasons, and Benefield just completed his 26th year as the Red Devils head football coach. Between the two, they have served 51 of the last 53 seasons since 1970 with a combined 454-153 record at Fyffe.
Benefield graduated from Fyffe High School in 1976 and Jacksonville State University in 1980, and also earned master’s degree from JSU. He is 292-44 in his tenure at Fyffe from 1997 until now. His .869 winning percentage at his alma mater ranks first in the AHSAA, and his 337 overall rank fourth all-time behind Terry Curtis of UMS-Wright, now retired Buddy Anderson of Vestavia Hills, and Danny Horn of Central, Clay County. Even more amazing is his 139-9 record with the Red Devils over the last 12 seasons, which includes a 51-game winning streak. His teams are 155-13 (92.3%) in region play and 58-19 (75.2%) in playoff games and have scored 12,496 points while yielding just 3,578 in 336 games. That averages out 37.2 points per game on offense and just 10.6 points allowed per game on defense.
Benefield began his coaching career his alma mater as an assistant varsity coach and head junior high school coach in football. In 1987 he went to Plainview High School as assistant football coach. In five years, he helped lead Plainview to back-to-back 14-win seasons and runner-up finishes in the state playoffs. The school’s record was 46-8 during those five years. In 1992, he accepted his first head coach position at Sylvania High School, remaining there for five years. He compiled a record of 45-11with four state playoff appearances including back-to-back 10-0 regular seasons in 1994 and 1995.
In 1997 he returned to his alma mater, Fyffe, and the rest is history. The 2022 championship gave him a 139-9 record over the last 12 seasons — a winning rate of 93.9%. He has coached six undefeated seasons at Fyffe and has coached 15 regular-season undefeated teams. He has never had a losing season and his 29 playoff appearances is fifth in the state. He has won numerous Coach of the Year awards including state honors in 2007 and 2014.
DeKalb County Superintendent Wayne Lyles said. “His meticulous attention to detail and leadership made it possible for the Fyffe High School football program to win five state championships over seven years (now six in eight years) at the 2A and 3A classifications. I was privileged to be part of the 2019 and 2020 championships as principal at Fyffe High School.
“The Fyffe football program has always been historically strong, but Coach Benefield elevated it to a championship level program over the last decade through his leadership, vision, determination, and willingness to adapt.”
Lyles points out his teams have not always had the best talent. However, that hasn’t deterred Benefield. “He develops players with his proven regimen that requires discipline, dedication, and hard work,” he said. “It is evident that winning is important to Coach Benefield, but most importantly for him is that you win with ‘class.’ If you watch his team play, you will notice his players assist opponents up after tackles, do not engage in trash talking, and are respectful to opposing coaches, players, and officials.
“These are non-negotiables for his team. Coach Benefield instills respect, discipline, and a strong work ethic in the players he coaches to help them become successful in life after high and football.”
Fyffe Principal Tim W. McCollum praised Benefield’s commitment.
“Coach Benefield’s dedication to our students is not just in developing players who can win football games,” he said. “He strives to develop young men who will play and act with class and respect. Coach Benefield strives to instill in our players a strong work ethic along with dedication and respect, so that they are not only successful on the football field, but in life beyond high school. Coach Benefield’s commitment to our program and school have brought a tremendous amount of recognition and pride to our school.”