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Teams Set For 2017 Champions Challenge At Montgomery’s Cramton Bowl Aug. 24-25

      MONTGOMERY – Four high schools, including two defending state champions,  will officially kick off the 2017 AHSAA high school football season Thursday and Friday at Cramton Bowl in the 12th annual Champions Challenge football classic hosted by the Alabama High School Athletic Directors & Coaches Association (AHSADCA).
       The head coaches and selected players gathered at the Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA) Tuesday for the Champions Challenge press conference. Media on hand came in early for the annual Media Day. Montgomery Department of Leisure Services Director Scott Miller was on hand to officially welcome the teams and media to the city. Enterprise High School volleyball coach Janie Wiggins and Auburn High School cross country/track coach Dan Norton were also on hand to discuss the start of those two fall sports as well.  
       Three-time defending Class 1A state champion Maplesville (14-0) and defending 2A state champion (15-0) Fyffe will meet in the small-school game Thursday night at 7 p.m. Class 7A Hewitt-Trussville (11-1) and Class 6A Pell City (6-5) will play in the large-school game Friday night at 7.
     Both games will be televised live across the start by Raycom Media. WVUA Sports Director Gary Harris will handle the play-by-play and former University of Alabama standout Mike Johnson will be the color commentator. The AHSAA Radio Network will also broadcast the games live over its statewide radio network.
    Benefield, 256-52 overall with 210 wins at his alma mater, saw his team record just four turnovers (four fumbles) in last season’s 15-0 season. He said his team is looking forward to the trip from DeKalb County. “I’ve been coaching 36 years and we’ve had a lot of ups and downs,” said Benefield. “I’ve never felt that I had to work a day in my life since I’ve been coaching.”
    He predicts the challenge will be difficult.
      Coach Brent Hubbert’s Maplesville team met Fyffe last year in a jamboree game to start the season with the contest ending in a 7-7 tie. His team lost a solid senior class but has another one returning, he said.
    “Each year we go through an identity change,” said Hubbert. “This group is growing. We’ve had a summer of growth as individuals. We aim to help make these young men better human beings off the field and, we (also) want to teach them to prepare for adversity.”
      Pell City (6-5) reached the Class 6A state playoffs in Coach Keith Etheredge’s first season at the helm in 2016. He moved to Pell City from Leeds where he served as head coach for 10 seasons compiling a 113-39 record and capturing four state championships. Etheredge’s teams have been known for their explosive offenses and smothering defenses.
    Floyd finished his third season at Hewitt-Trussville leading the Huskies (11-1) to a 10-0 regular season record for the first time in the school’s 92-year football history.  Hewitt-Trussville also won the Class 7A, Region 8 title and outscored opponents 552-289 on the year.
   Floyd came to Trussville from Shiloh Christian (Ark.) where he led the school to a 99-21 record over 10 seasons with four state titles in five trips to the Arkansas state high school finals.
    The former prep quarterback’s high school coach was current Auburn University Coach Gus Malzahn.
    “Winning championships are great,” said Etheredge. “I’ve won four (at Leeds) and every one was very, very special to me. But coaching and teaching is about building relationships. That’s the most important part of coaching. If I can touch one life as a coach, I feel I’ve done my job. But, I want to do a lot more.”
     Floyd said he also understands there is much, much more to coaching than just X’s and O’s.
    “I’m a younger coach, but I know there’s so much more about this game than just playing on the football field,” he said, “There’s nothing more fulfilling as a coach than a few years down the line getting messages from those kids you coached. They will tell you, ‘Coach, we remember things you said when you didn’t even know we were listening.’”
    Andalusia beat Brooks 34-13, Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa downed Demopolis 42-7 and Hoover topped Central-Phenix City 23-7 in last year’s Champions’ Challenge.



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