Six high schools, including one defending state champion, will play Friday night and Saturday at Cramton Bowl as the 9th annual Champion Challenge officially kicks off the 2014 prep football season for the Alabama High School Athletic Association.
Spanish Fort, which will be staking a 24-game winning streak on the line Saturday night against Stanhope Elmore, won the last two Class 5A state titles. The Toros (15-0) of Coach Mark Freeman will meet Coach Jeff Foshee’s Mustangs (4-6) in the final game of the series Saturday night at 7:30 p.m.
The Alabama High School Athletic Directors & Coaches Association (AHSADCA) hosts the series, which played its first Champions Challenge at Cramton Bowl in 2006.
Carver-Montgomery (10-3), which reached the Class 6A quarterfinals in 2013, opens the triple-header Friday at 7 p.m. against Opelika (7-4). Coach Brian Blackmon’s Bulldogs reached the Class 6A finals in 2012.
Stanhope Elmore, Carver and Opelika will be competing this season in Class 6A with Spanish Fort, which moves up a class as the AHSAA changes to seven classifications.
Class 4A Dadeville (11-2) takes on Class 3A Piedmont (11-2) Saturday at 5 p.m. in the small-school game of the series. Coach Richard White’s Tigers have been one of the winningest 4A schools in the state over the last six seasons. Coach Steve Smith’s Bulldogs, the 2009 3A state champions, are likewise in Class 3A. Piedmont lost 34-33 in overtime to eventual state champion Madison Academy last season.
The 2014 will mark 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 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 and will not count on either team's record. The Spanish Fort-Stanhope Elmore game will be the regular-season opener for each school.
All six schools are taking the playoff-type approach, however. “This game offers a real state playoff atmosphere,” Spanish Fort’s Freeman said. “We played in this game in 2012 and it helped us prepare for the state playoffs and the state championship game.”
His Toros have compiled a 38-5 record 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.
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 has won 10 or more games the last seven seasons. Dadeville (11-2) reached the 4A quarterfinals in 2013, losing a 35-34 heartbreaker to UMS-Wright. The Tigers are 66-9 over the last six seasons with an amazing 40-2 record in region play.
The 2014 Champions Challenge will be televised live and web-streamed by AHSAA TV partner Raycom Network. Stations on the network can be found at www.ahsaa.com. The AHSAA Radio Network will also broadcast all three games live. The AHSAA Radio Network affiliates can also be found at www.ahsaa.com. Live stats will also be available online at www.ahsaa.com.
The Champions Challenge schedule:
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