Six high schools chosen to participate in the ninth annual Champions Challenge high school football triple-header addressed the media Wednesday at the 2014 event press conference at the Alabama High School Athletic Association Office in Montgomery.
The press conference closed out the AHSAA’s annual Media Day, which was attended by more than 50 media representatives from across the state.
Carver-Montgomery will meet Opelika Friday night, Aug. 22 in the first of three games, according to Alvin Briggs, Director of the Alabama High School Athletic Directors & Coaches Association which hosts the event each year.
The two remaining games will be played Saturday, Aug. 23, beginning at 5 p.m. with Piedmont taking on Dadeville in the small-school game. Class 6A teams Spanish Fort and Stanhope Elmore will meet in the final game at 7:30 p.m.
“We are very appreciative of the AHSAA for inviting us to participate,” Carver head coach Billy Gresham told the media. “We think this is a great opportunity for us to play a team we have the utmost respect for.”
This coming season will be the first year that schools will have 11 weeks to play 10 games and the first year for the new seven-classification system. Schools still have a choice whether to count any week one contest as a regular-season or exhibition contest. The Carver-Opelika and Piedmont-Dadeville games will remain as exhibition games, Briggs said, and will not count on either team's record. The Spanish Fort-Stanhope Elmore game is set to be the regular-season opener for each school.
“Coach Blackmon and I have talked and although it is officially an exhibition game, we are going to be playing all out just like a regular game,” Gresham said.
Piedmont Coach Steve Smith said his Class 3A Bulldogs will be facing a powerful opponent in Dadeville. “We lost of lot from last year’s team,” he said, “but we have young players who are having to step up and be leaders this year and this will be a very good challenge for us.”
Class 6A Carver (10-3) reached the third round of the 6A state playoffs last season and Class 6A Opelika (7-4) reached round one after playing in the 6A finals in 2012.
Spanish Fort (15-0) coached by Mark Freeman, moves up to Class 6A after winning back-to-back Class 5A state football titles. The Toros will be riding a 24-game winning streak heading into the Champions Challenge. The team is 38-5 in three seasons under Freeman’s direction and 73-12 over the last six years with three state titles.
Class 6A Stanhope Elmore finished 4-6 last season. The Mustangs are coached by Jeff Foshee, who has compiled a 98-58 record with 11 playoff appearances in 13 seasons.
“We think this is a great game for our program and our community,” Foshee said. “This is an exciting opportunity for our players, coaches, dance team, band and our entire community.”
Gresham has led Carver to a 29-9 record the last three seasons. The Wolverines have gone 60-16 over the last six years with six straight playoff appearances. Brian Blackmon has guided Opelika to a 35-20 record in five seasons with 17 wins over the last two years. The Bulldogs have reached the 6A playoffs for four straight seasons.
Piedmont (11-2) reached the Class 3A quarterfinals last season, losing 34-33 in overtime to eventual state champion Madison Academy. Smith’s Bulldogs averaged 43.2 points per game in 2013 while yielding only 12.5 points per game. He is beginning his ninth season as head coach. Piedmont has won 10 or more games the last seven seasons with an 86-18 record overall and a 17-7 mark in eight playoff appearances. The Bulldogs won the 2009 Class 3A state championship.
Dadeville (11-2) reached the 4A quarterfinals, losing a 35-34 heartbreaker to UMS-Wright. Coach Richard White’s Tigers are 66-9 over the last six seasons with an amazing 40-2 record in region play. Dadeville will be in Class 4A, Region 3 and Piedmont is in 3A, Region 6 this fall.
In last year’s Champions Challenge, Benjamin Russell beat Walker 28-14, Straughn downed Walter Wellborn 35-26 and Bob Jones edged Enterprise 23-20.
The 2014 Champions Challenge will be televised live and web-streamed by AHSAA TV partner Raycom Network. The AHSAA Radio Network will also broadcast all three games live.
Raycom announced at the press conference the first slate of games for the its new AHSAA Thursday Night Game of the Week. Raycom, the AHSAA’s TV Partner for the Super 7 championships and State Basketball Tournament, will show 10 Thursday night games beginning Aug. 28 with Mountain Brook at Huntsville.
The remaining schedule includes: Sept. 4: Shades Valley at Center Point; Sept. 11: Florence at Cullman; Sept. 18: Washington County at Sweet Water; Sept. 25: Montgomery Academy at Trinity Presbyterian; Oct. 2: Hoover at Spain Park; Oct. 9: Charles Henderson at Eufaula; Oct. 16: Smiths Station at Enterprise; Oct. 23: R.A. Hubbard at Hackleburg; and Oct. 30: Blount at Saraland. Executive producer Mike Llewellyn announced that Graham Dunn and Mike Peacock will be the announcers for the Thursday Night Game of the Week.
The Champions Challenge schedule is:
Friday, August 22 – 7 p.m.: Carver-Montgomery (10-3) vs. Opelika (7-4)
Saturday, August 24 – 5 p.m.: Dadeville (11-2) vs. Piedmont (11-2)
Saturday, August 24 – 7:30 p.m.: Spanish Fort (15-0) vs. Stanhope Elmore (4-6)
CHAMPIONS CHALLENGE HISTORY
Benjamin Russell 28, Walker 14
Straughn 35, Walter Wellborn 26
Bob Jones 23, Enterprise 20
Spanish Fort 33, Muscle Shoals 22
Central of Clay County 25, Beauregard 13
McGill-Toolen 27, Northridge 0
Hueytown 36, Thomasville 27
Hamilton 38, Sweet Water 35
Daphne 24, Clay-Chalkville 21
Opelika 34, Greenville 6
Auburn 30, Spain Park 3
Jackson 30, Trinity 8
Prattville 37, Carver-Montgomery 0
T.R. Miller 27, Leeds 7
Hoover 32, Oxford 27
Prattville vs. Oxford, canceled due to inclement weather
Prattville 36, North Gwinnett, Ga. 3
Hoover 38, UMS-Wright 0
Clay-County 41, Addison 6
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