Much anticipated Central-Hoover Battle follows Friday MONTGOMERY -- The Jeff Davis-Carver-Montgomery rivalry has had some outstanding moments over the last 50 years. Thursday night’s battle in the AHSAA’s 14 th annual Kickoff Classic high school football season opener takes center stage and both coaches look forward to it. This game is almost “family.” “We were college teammates and it will be fun,” said Carver head coach James Thompson. “We kind of joke and laugh in the off-season, but come Thursday night it will be serious business. May the best team win?” Jeff Davis head coach Lee Carter sees a chance for both programs put their best foot forward – as friends off the field but rivals on the field. It starts with the two head coaches’ long-time friendship. “Coach Thompson he’s more than a teammate … he is a friend,” said Carter. “It’s kind of like we both became men together. We both came to Alabama State when we were 18 or 19 years old. We also played the same position, so we not only sat in team meetings together but in position meetings as well. “We (now) live in the same neighborhood so I know him and he knows me. It’s going to be interesting.” The two teams will be meeting for the 51 st time Thursday night at Cramton Bowl in the first game of the 2019 Kickoff Classic. Defending Class 7A state champion Central-Phenix City will meet Hoover, the 7A champs in 2017 and 2016, in game two at Cramton Bowl Friday night at 7 p.m. Both games will be produced by WOTM/Broadway Communications and televised over brand-new the AHSAA TV Network managed by the NFHS Network. Executive producer Vince Earley of WOTM has quickly put together a network utilizing the WOTM presence on a large number of cable affiliates across the state as well as through the Alabama Cable Network’s channel 80 on Charter Cable. The production will be live-streamed also be live-streamed over the NFHS Network. Earley announced the addition of CTV Beam, which services East Alabama including Phenix City, to the WOTM/AHSAA family of cable affiliates Wednesday. The Central-Hoover game features two teams ranked in the Top 25 nationally by The Sporting News and pits the Alabama Sportswriters Association pre-season No. 1 and No. 2-ranked Class 7A teams. While Friday’s game may garner national attention, Thursday’s game features two of the fiercest rivals in a city that battles annually for the Big Five title (with Robert E. Lee, Sidney Lanier and Park Crossing high schools). Jeff Davis and Carver played for the first time in 1970 – two years after Jeff Davis opened its doors as a new school in Montgomery and two years after the AHSAA and AIAA merged to form the current Alabama High School Athletic Association. The Vols and Wolverines have played every year since. The two city rivals of the MCPS have opened the season with each other 13 times in the series and closed the regular season 11 times. The current 36-14 edge in the series held by Jeff Davis is misleading. The Vols won the first 18 meetings and the Wolverines had won 10 of the last 13. Since that early domination, the series has been nip-and-tuck with Jeff Davis winning 18 and Carver claiming 14. Only once in the series have the two schools played twice. Carver won the regular season game in 1992 27-24 in overtime but the Vols rebounded to beat the Wolverines 20-0 in the first game of the state playoffs. The history is rich at both schools. Carver has seen at least 10 of its former players reach the NFL – including Aundray Bruce, who the first player was picked in the NFL Draft out of Auburn in 1988. He spent 11 years in the pros from 1988-1998. Jeff Davis has sent at least nine players to the NFL, including Alabama defensive back George Teague, who was in the pros from 1993-2001. In fact, as many as four players from both schools have been in the NFL at the same time. Carver alumnus linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton is currently with the Washington Redskins as well as linebacker Mack Wilson, who is currently in the Cleveland Browns camp. Thompson says the Wolverines are doing things “The Carver Way. Our motto is commitment, habits, sacrifice, hence CHS,” he said. “I feel the thing that sets us apart is our mindset and mentality and how it aligns with our ultimate goal of being the very best.” Quarterback Kole Williams, who has already committed to Jacksonville State, is back to lead the offense. He had 600 yards rushing, 950 passing and accounted for 27 touchdowns in 2018. Offensive linemen James Robinson and Kientre McDaniel have already committed to Tennessee and Jackson State, respectively. Andre Howard anchors a strong defense at linebacker, and the defensive backfield as a unit may be the number one strength of the team. Jeff Davis finished 3-7 last season enduring what Carter called “a series of horrific incidents and injuries that we have worked hard to put behind us. He has 22 seniors who have committed themselves to demonstrating a commitment to discipline.” The Vols closed the season with two straight wind, “That momentum has been important,” he said. “I think our senior group is the most talented we have had in my six years as head coach. We have a strong receiving corps and our offensive and defensive line is massive.” All eyes will be on talented athlete Marcus Webb, who rushed for 1,500 yards on 307 carries last season. Receiver Reggie Summage caught 37 passes for 493 yards and Jireh German anchors a much-improved defense at linebacker. Like Carver, the Vols have the nucleus of a very strong defensive backfield led by Tavares Womack, Rance Lee and Summage. The television availability is shown in the attached chart.