Lawrence County High School’s 62-54 football triumph over East Lawrence last Friday night was a game for the record books.
The two Northeast Alabama rivals battled for almost four hours from start to finish, enduring four regulation quarters and an AHSAA-record-tying seven overtime periods before the Red Devils finally secured a 62-54 win. The marathon game grabbed the AHSAA Prep Spotlight for Week 1 of the 2015 high school football season.
“Never as a player, assistant or head coach have I seen a seven-overtime game,” Lawrence County coach Rich Dutton told reporter J.R. Tidwell of the Moulton Advertiser following the game.
The seven overtimes tied the AHSAA state record for most overtime periods in a single game dating back 36 years to Murphy’s 33-26 win over Theodore in 1979 at Mobile. Etowah beat Oxford 69-63 in 1991 in the AHSAA’s only six overtime game of record, and three schools have battled to five overtimes, including Smiths Station vs. Chavala in a 32-26 Panthers’ win in 1974, Tarrant’s 35-28 win over Cherokee County in 1988 and Gardendale’s 45-42 win over Erwin in 2000.
Homewood’s 41-34 Class 5A state championship game at Birmingham’s Legion Field in 2000 went five overtimes as well. Lauderdale County and Northview have the distinction of being the only schools on record to play five overtime games in one season (1986 and 1985, respectively).
The NFHS National Record was set on Nov. 29, 2010, when Jacksonville (TX) nipped Nacogdoches (TX) 84-81 in a game that finally ended after 12 overtime periods. According to the NFHS Record Book, two games have endured nine overtimes, five have gone eight overtimes and the Lawrence County-East Lawrence game is the 10th to go seven and the first since 1997.
“I’ve never been to seven overtimes, so it was uncharted water for myself and everyone else,” said East Lawrence coach Jarrod Helms said. Helms is in his first year as head coach.
Jakob Terry, Lawrence County’s sturdy running back scored four touchdowns – the game’s first on a 5-yard run in the first quarter and the last one in the final overtime. Quarterbacks Dallas Keenum of Lawrence County and Chase Ratliff of East Lawrence scored four and three TDs, respectively, in the overtime periods. Each also scored two 2-point conversions.
The game was tied at 26-26 at end of regulation, 32-32 after the first OT, 40-40 after the second, 48-48 after the fourth and 54-54 after the fifth extra period. Neither team scored in the third and sixth overtime periods.
“Right now I feel numb,” Dutton said. “There were so many highs and lows in the game, you are just zapped. You know it is over, but it has not sunk in yet. East Lawrence did a phenomenal job. (Coach) Jarrod Helms has them going in the right direction.”
Helms said, “I know that our kids are disappointed, but in a game like this there really are no losers… We learn things every day and during every game we play.”
In other highlights from last weekend’s prep football games:
FUMBLE-LESS STREAK ENDS: Jordan Bentley of Guntersville had a streak of more than carries without a fumble dating from a playoff game November of 2013 until last Friday night’s come-from-behind 33-21 win over North Jackson. On his 10th rush of the game, the streak ended at 321. His outstanding play did not, however. He rushed 24 times for 193 yards and three touchdowns, threw a halfback pass 28 yards for a fourth touchdown and also was the Wildcats’ defensive leader from his safety position with 7 tackles and an interception. Bentley led Guntersville from a 15-point deficit to the victory. A 6-foot-1, 220-pound senior, he upped his career rushing totals to 4,011 yards and 68 rushing touchdowns with his stellar performance and started a new fumble-less streak that now stands at 14 heading into this week’s game versus Madison County at Gurley.
LEE BEAT CARVER FOR FIRST TIME SINCE 2002: Junior running back Damion Wright had 126 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 22 carries as the Generals (2-0) beat Carver-Montgomery 34-13 – the first Lee win in the series since 2002.
SAND ROCK COACH GETS FIRST: New Sand Rock head coach Steven Chesnut earned his first victory as head coach of the Wildcats with a 41-6 victory over visiting Gaylesville Friday night. Chesnut, who was the Wildcats' offensive coordinator, took over for longtime Sand Rock coach Russell Jacoway, who retired after 32 years as the Wildcats’ head coach last February. Jacoway, who went 0-10 in his first season in 1983 and 15-0 in his third season (1985) winning the 2A state title, finished his career 228-132 – all at Sand Rock.
CORNER DEFENSE SMOTHERS VINCENT: Coach Zac Willis’ Yellow Jackets limited Vincent to minus-47 yards rushing and no passing yardage in a 63-6 win. The minus-47 yards rushing ranked third all-time behind Greensboro’s minus-67 yards in a win over Uniontown in 1977 and Cedar Bluff’s minus-48 yards allowed versus Donoho in 2012. The minus-47 total yards ranks first all-time reported to the AHSAA for total yards allowed.
JACOB WASHBURN, J.B. PENNINGTON: The senior running back rushed for 279 yards and four touchdowns (1, 5, 40, 62 yards) on 29 carries in the Tigers’ 36-18 win over Boaz. On defense, he had eight tackles and broke up two passes.
ANDREW CASH, FLOMATON: The Hurricanes quarterback ran for 275 yards and three touchdowns in a 55-26 win over Jay, FL.
TYSON WILLIAMS, DOTHAN: Rushed for 237 yards on 21 carries with three touchdowns and had five receptions for 64 yards and a score in a 31-28 loss to Smiths Station.
DEONDRE HAMPTON, BROOKS: Rushed for 239 yards and six touchdowns on 26 carries as the Lions beat Sheffield 56-20. The 6-foot, 185-pound junior had TD runs covering 6, 6, 3, 6, 16 and 46 yards.
OSTIN McPHERSON, ST. PAUL’S EPISCOPAL: Had 20 carries for 245 yards and three touchdowns as St. Paul’s won its 17th game in a row with a 51-28 win over St. Stanislaus, MS.
ALARIC WILLIAMS, SOUTHSIDE-GADSDEN: Rushed for 175 yards and three touchdowns on 10 carries in the Panthers' 49-14 win over Hokes Bluff. Williams scored on runs of 65, 5 and 19 yards, all in the first half.
STEFAN PALMER, AUTAUGAVILLE: The senior had 212 totals yards, 135 rushing on eight carries and 77 receiving on three catches, as the Eagles beat Calhoun 38-0. He rushed for two TDs and had a third on a pass reception.
AUSTIN HARRIS, FAIRVIEW: Picked up 180 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 19 carries in a 34-12 road win over Hanceville. The senior also caught two passes for 58 yards, including a 39-yarder for a score.
BEN ROBINSON & NOAH RICE, ADDISON: Combined for four rushing touchdowns and more than 300 yards rushing in a 42-33 road win over Vinemont. Rice ran for 156 yards and scores of 55, 48 and 17 yards while Robinson picked up 165 yards and a TD.
PEYTON GILLILAND, CLEVELAND: The senior quarterback rushed just four times but picked up 163 yards and three touchdowns (63, 33 and 49 yards) in the Panthers' 42-21 win over Pisgah. He also completed 4-of-5 passes for 59 yards and had seven tackles and an interception on defense.
DAVION STOVALL, HEADLAND: Rushed for 231 yards and four touchdowns on 18 carries in a 53-0 win over Dale County.
GARRETT SANDERS, G.W. LONG: Had only five rush attempts but scored four touchdowns and added a fifth score on a 55-yard reception as the Rebels beat Barbour County 61-0.
JACQUEZ, HALL, BESSEMER CITY: Had 20 rush attempts for 203 yards and two TDs as the Tigers beat Shades Valley 24-17.
KEYVONTAE MAYFIELD, SHELBY COUNTY: The junior had 203 yards rushing on 22 tries and scored three TDs in a 32-31 loss to Helena.
ELDRIC JONES, CENTRAL-TUSCALOOSA: Rushed for 198 yards on 21 carries, including a 94-yard touchdown run, in a 14-2 victory over Brookwood.
DAX BENTON, HUBBERTVILLE: Ran for 183 yards on 10 carries and one touchdown in a 34-12 victory over Holy Spirit.
DONTE EDWARDS, DAVIDSON: Had 172 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 26 carries as the Warriors edged Mary G. Montgomery 38-36.
COLEY LOCKE, DALEVILLE: The Warhawks quarterback rushed for 165 yards on 12 carries, including TD runs of 41 and 80 yards, in Daleville's 27-9 win over Charles Henderson.
DAMON WILLIAMS, GADSDEN CITY: Ran 14 times for 166 yards with touchdown runs of 45 and 47 yards and had a 26-yard catch to set up another score in Gadsden City’s 41-19 victory over Oxford.
DESMON TURNER, FORT PAYNE: Totaled 158 yards rushing and three touchdowns on 23 carries to lead the Wildcats to a 42-7 win over New Hope. He also had one pass reception for 15 yards and two punt returns for 62 yards.
DILAN KILPATRICK, FYFFE: Had 26 carries for 203 yards and two touchdowns as the Red Devils beat Geraldine 31-14.
TAYLOR HAYES, PIEDMONT: Rushed for 145 yards on 26 carries, including a 17-yard touchdown, and passed for 79 yards and another score in the Bulldogs' 35-20 victory at Cherokee County.
AUSTIN BUSH, GLENCOE: In his first varsity start at running back, the junior rushed 17 times for 119 yards and four touchdowns (6, 20, 4 and 10 yards) in the Yellow Jackets’ 43-13 win over Plainview.
TORREY TERRY, EUFAULA: Touched the ball only three times, scoring two rushing touchdowns and one pass receiving TD (34, 24 and 61 yards) in a 61-6 Tigers’ win over Russell County. He averaged 38.3 yards per touch.
KALEB PARKER, PRICEVILLE: Had 552 total yards and accounted for seven touchdowns in a 63-18 win over West Morgan. Barker ran for 166 yards and six touchdowns and threw for 386 yards and a score.
GARRETT BOLAND, VINEMONT: Accounted for 351 total yards in a 42-33 loss to Addison. The junior quarterback connected with seven different receivers during a 19-of-26 passing display for 218 yards. He also collected 133 rushing yards and touchdowns of 30, 1 44 and yards. Colby Nicholas was Boland’s most frequent target with seven catches for 100 yards.
TY PIGROME, CLAY-CHALKVILLE: Was 15-of-21 passing for 324 yards and four touchdowns and rushed for 63 yards and two more scores as the Cougars beat Minor 49-14 for their the 17th straight win.
HEATH BURCHFIELD, JAMES CLEMENS: Was 14-of-17 passing for 251 yards and three touchdowns (17, 26, 69 yards) in a 45-7 win over Athens.
DREW GUY, FAYETTE COUNTY: Was 18-of-37 passing for 284 yards and two touchdowns in a 19-14 loss to Gordo.
COLE FREDERICK, HILLCREST-TUSCALOOSA: Completed 14-of-21 passes for 257 yards and three touchdowns in a 31-0 victory over Oak Mountain.
BO NIX, SCOTTSBORO: The freshman quarterback completed 14-of-21 passes for 271 yards and a touchdown in the Wildcats’ 32-30 loss to Sparkman.
PRESTON HERRING, ARITON: Completed 9-of-14 passing for 251 yards and three touchdowns in the Purple Cats' 50-13 win over Florala.
DALTON ADKINSON, NEW BROCKTON: Completed 11-of-16 passes for 226 yards and two touchdowns and added a rushing touchdown in the Gamecocks' 47-0 win over Pleasant Home.
KENNON CASEY, G.W. LONG: Was a perfect 7-of-7 passing for 172 yards with three touchdowns in the Rebels' 61-0 win over Barbour County.
HUNTER GRANT, WEST END: Was 13-of-18 passing for 234 yards and three TDs in the Patriots' 41-28 win over Susan Moore. Grant also had 103 rushing yards and three more scores on 12 carries to account for 337 total yards and six touchdowns.
JORDAN KING, SLOCOMB: Completed 13-of-16 passes for 160 yards and three touchdowns and added 67 yards rushing on 14 carries in a 35-0 win over Rehobeth.
TYCE THOMAS, BROOKS: Passed for 214 yards and rushed for 82 in a 56-20 win over Sheffield. He had a 29-yard TD pass to Lazarius Decatur.
JOSH DECKER, CEDAR BLUFF: Completed 9-of-15 pass attempts for 188 yards and three touchdowns (37,38, 40 yards) and rushed for 103 yards on 20 carries with two 2-yard TD runs to lead the Tigers past rival Collinsville 33-26.
DE’QUAN JOHNSON, SOUTHSIDE-SELMA: Had five touchdowns in the Panthers' 38-32 overtime win over Keith. Johnson had six receptions for 201 yards and four touchdowns, including the game-winning reception in OT. He also returned an interception 80 yards for a fifth TD and added three rushes for 28 yards. Southside rallied from a 16-0 deficit in the game, which started on Friday night but finished Saturday after storms forced suspension in the first quarter.
DARIUS SMITH, SLOCOMB: Caught three passes, all for touchdowns, as Slocomb beat Rehobeth 35-0.
MALIK TALLEY, SCOTTSBORO: The senior receiver caught 6 passes for 175 yards and a TD in the Wildcats’ 32-30 loss to Sparkman.
ANDRE LITTLE, WEST END: Caught eight passes for 126 yards and a touchdown in the Patriots' 41-28 win over Susan Moore.
JUSTIN McKNIGHT, CHEROKEE COUNTY: Caught seven passes for 108 yards, including a 38-yard touchdown reception, in the Warriors' 35-20 loss to Piedmont.
JOSE OROZCO, HANCEVILLE: Grabbed three passes for 77 yards, including a 39-yard touchdown catch, and had more than 100 yards on kickoff returns in Hanceville’s 34-12 loss to Fairview.
ETHAN McMINN, CULLMAN: Registered 15 tackles, made an interception and ran for a 10-yard TD on offense to lead the Bearcats to a 31-6 win over Etowah.
BRANDON WILLIAMS, OPP: Recorded 15 tackles in Opp's come-from-behind 21-18 win over Straughn.
JORDAN BARNES, BUCKHORN: Had two interceptions, recorded nine solo tackles and seven assists, and broke up a pass in a 22-20 win over Austin.
COLE REVIS, HACKLEBURG: Recorded 4.5 sacks and teammate Tanner Swinney had four as Hackleburg beat Marion County. The Panthers defense had 10 sacks on the night.
DARNELL JACKSON, PIEDMONT: Had 10 tackles and scored Piedmont's first touchdown on a 25-yard fumble return in the Bulldogs' 35-20 victory at Cherokee County. Jackson also rushed for 135 yards on 14 carries with two touchdowns (71, 10 yards). Teammate Austin Brazier also posted five tackles and three sacks in the win.
TYSON WOODS, SCOTTSBORO: The sophomore linebacker had 11 tackles, including three for losses, as the Wildcats lost a close 32-30 decision to Sparkman.
ROMAN PAYTON, NORTHRIDGE: Made two interceptions on defense, one in the end zone and the other at the Northridge 2-yard line, to help preserve a 24-17 win over Tuscaloosa County. He also rushed for 89 yards and two TDs on 11 carries.
DREW McCLENDON, COLD SPRINGS: Registered 12 tackles, including four for loss, in a 21-20 loss to Danville.
CALEN MURRY, HEADLAND: Returned an interception and a fumble for touchdowns in the Rams' 53-0 win over Dale County.
RICKY HALL, PROVIDENCE CHRISTIAN: Had 15 stops in the Eagles' 44-0 win over Zion Chapel.
LEVI HAMMACK, ADDISON: Had had back-to-back sacks on a second-half defensive stop capped off by a safety as the Bulldogs beat Vinemont 42-33.
DEZMOND JOHNSON, SLOCOMB: Returned an interception 95 yards for a touchdown and had four tackles on defense in the Red Tops’ 35-0 win over Rehobeth. He also rushed for 49 yards on eight carries with a touchdown, caught three passes for 55 yards and had 45 yards on two punt returns.
HUNTER GIBSON, SPARKMAN: Scored the game-winning touchdown on a 72-yard punt return as the Senators beat Scottsboro 32-30. He also scored on a 97-yard kick return and 55-yard run.
KAINAN SMITH, GOOD HOPE: Returned the opening kickoff 89 yards for a touchdown and returned the next kickoff 69 yards before exiting early with an injury in a 46-14 loss to Cordova. KEENAN LEWIS, SARDIS: The senior halfback returned a punt 77 yards for a TD and rushed for 129 yards on 11 carries with two more scores in a 50-35 Lions win over Sylvania.
ISAAC RODRIGUEZ, CULLMAN: In just his second football game, the sophomore soccer standout kicked a 43-yard field goal and made all four of his extra-point attempts as Cullman beat Etowah 31-6.
What a difference a year made for Austin High School’s Black Bears!
Last season Coach Jeremy Perkins’ team lost to Spain Park on a late field goal 5-3 to open the 2014 prep football season. Last Friday, it was the Austin that kicked the winning field goal when Ivan Torres booted a 17-yarder through the uprights in the third overtime to give the Black Bears a 38-35 season-opening victory.
The triple-overtime victory thrusted Austin into the Alabama High School Athletic Association Prep Spotlight for Week Zero of the prep football season.
The Black Bears battled through a frustrating 2-8 season in 2014 that included a 28-26 setback versus Buckhorn in the second game and five losses coming by less than a touchdown.
“After a while it can get in your head and shake your confidence,” Perkins said. “It was great to win this kind of game for a change. The biggest thing we are taking from this is confidence and momentum.”
Running back Asa Martin had 29 carries for 280 yards and four touchdowns, Perkins said. He also caught a 66-yard TD pass and added 20 yards on two kick returns to finish with 366 total yards.
“Asa had a complete game,” Perkins said. “He also played well on defense (at linebacker) and our quarterback Victor Garth also rushed for 100 yards.”
Torres, a senior who joined the football team for the first time last spring, missed two tough-angle field goals, including one in the first overtime and one from 47 yards out. He nailed the final one, however, that counted most.
Austin led 14-7 at the half, then 21-14, then 21-20 in the fourth quarter when the Black Bears registered one of its three blocked kicks on the ensuing extra point. The lead extended to 28-20 late when the Jaguars scored and tied the game with a successful two-point conversion.
Neither team scored in the first overtime with both missing field goals. In the second overtime Austin scored on first down to take a 35-28 lead and Spain Park scored on fourth down to tie the game. In the third OT, the Black Bears defense held on three downs and Eric Washington blocked the Jags’ field-goal attempt to set up Torres’ winning kick.
“Even though we finished 2-8 last season, we didn’t panic,” Perkins said. “We had a chance to win every game we played. We are in a very tough region. We didn’t have to make major adjustments and didn’t have many holes to fill. The biggest thing our kids needed was the belief that they could make the plays to win. I think this was a big step in the right direction.”
Austin’s team performance edged another outstanding team effort as Thompson High School, reeling after going 0-10 in 2014, beat Wetumpka 37-13 as new head coach Mark Freeman opened his tenure as the Warriors’ head coach. Freeman, 165-37 over in his 17-year head-coaching career, came to Thompson after going 50-7 in four seasons at Spanish Fort where his teams won two Class 5A state championships.
Senior T.J. Rayam anchored a defensive front that sacked Wetumpka six times and limited the Indians to only 73 rushing yards on the night. Carlos Stephens rushed for 125 yards on 25 carries for an offense that scored three touchdowns in the first four minutes of the game.
In other top performances reported for Week Zero of the 2015 season:
TRE’ NATION, LEEDS: Gained 211 yards on 24 carries with two touchdowns in a 19-14 season-opening loss to Madison Academy in the 10th annual Champions Challenge Classic at Cramton Bowl that pitted the defending 4A state champs versus the defending 3A state champs.
MALIK MILLER, MADISON ACADEMY: Ran for 146 yards on 24 carries and scored once as the Mustangs avenged their only loss from last season with a 2015 season-opening 19-14 win over defending 4A state champion Leeds in the 10th annual Champion Challenge. MA’s current winning streak extended to 15 in a row with the win televised statewide by Raycom Network from Montgomery’s Cramton Bowl.
ANDREW BROWN, WINSTON COUNTY: The Yellow Jackets’ running back had 18 carries for 206 yards and three touchdowns in Winston County’s 28-19 win over Haleyville. He also had 13 tackles from his linebacker position on defense.
COLTON KNIGHT, REHOBETH: Rushed for 202 yards and a touchdown in the Rebels' 20-13 win over Ashford, snapping a six-game losing streak to their Houston County rivals.
DALTON PARKS, DAR: After missing the second half of the season last year with an injury, the Patriots running back returned with 202 yards rushing and a touchdown on 17 carries to lead DAR over Douglas 27-7 in a Marshall County rivalry game. Quarterback T.J. Steele also passed for 107 yards and two touchdowns in the win.
JAMARIUS MAYFIELD, SHELBY COUNTY: Rushed for 190 yards and two touchdowns on 11 attempts to lead the Wildcats past Jemison 42-6.
DEVONTA JOHNSON, CHEROKEE: Totaled 186 yards rushing and scored five touchdowns to lead Cherokee to a 43-7 season-opening win over R.A. Hubbard.
DAWSON DRAKE, CULLMAN: Made the transition from receiver to running back this season with style gaining 169 yards on 23 rush attempts as the Bearcats downed Arab 56-7. He ran for one TD, caught four passes for 35 yards and had an 8-yard reception for two-point conversion after a penalty backed Cullman up. Ethan McMinn also had six carries – all inside the Arab 20 – and scored three of the Bearcats’ seven rushing touchdowns. He also had an interception on defense.
SHAQUILLE TERRY, McADORY: Needed only 10 carries to gain 153 yards as the Jackets beat Bibb County 41-14. He scored three rushing touchdowns.
TYRE GRAY, BENJAMIN RUSSELL: Rushed for 140 yards and two touchdowns on 11 attempts and threw for another score to lead Benjamin Russell to a 33-14 win over B.C. Rain.
NIC ROLLO, COLD SPRINGS: The junior rushed for 138 yards and three touchdowns on just nine carries, all in the first half, and the Panthers rolled to a 41-14 win over Brilliant. He ran for a 65-yard TD on the first play from scrimmage to start the 2015 season with a bang.
DEKARLOS BILLINGSLEY, SCOTTSBORO: Had 22 carries for 120 yards and two touchdowns in a 35-21 loss to Dalton Georgia Friday night and also had three tackles on defense.
DALTON SINQUEFIELD, SMITHS STATION: The senior quarterback rushed for 76 yards on six carries, scored two touchdowns and was 14-of-26 passing for 317 yards and two more scores as the Panthers thumped Americus, GA, in the season opener 41-13.
TY PIGROME, CLAY-CHALKVILLE: The defending Class 6A state champions won their 16th game in a row beating Blackman (TN) 38-7 at Murfreesboro as the senior quarterback completed 17-of-27 passes for 297 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for 59 yards and another TD.
MONTY TURNER, FLORENCE: Passed for 286 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Falcons past Shades Valley 38-13.
ORLANDO LACEY, OPP: Completed 10-of-12 passes for 183 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 153 yards on 13 carries with three touchdowns in a 44-27 win over Luverne.
K.D. DAVIS, BESSEMER CITY: Completed 16-of-21 passes for 284 yards and three touchdowns as the Tigers thumped Hueytown 34-6.
JORDAN KING, SLOCOMB: Completed 15-of-17 passes for 228 yards with two touchdowns and added a rushing touchdown in the 31-26 win over Geneva. He played just three quarters before missing the final quarter because of cramps.
GRAYSON EDGEMON, MADISON ACADEMY: Making his starting QB debut, the junior was 10-of-13 passing for 200 yards and one score in a 19-14 win over Leeds at the Champion Challenge played at Cramton Bowl.
WIL APPLETON, ALBERTVILLE: The junior quarterback was 12-of-15 passing for 182 yards and a touchdown in Albertville's 35-7 win over Columbia in veteran head coach Dale Pruitt's first game as the Aggies' coach. Appleton also rushed 5 and 36 yards for touchdowns.
BRADLEY NORTHCUTT, AUBURN: Rushed 27 times for 160 yards and two touchdowns and passed for 117 yards and a TD in the Tigers' 45-38 Class 7A win over Gadsden City.
SLADE PRICE, CARVER-MONTGOMERY: Price was 18-of-25 passing for 338 yards and two touchdowns in his debut as the Wolverines quarterback as Carver fell 37-30 to Bob Jones in the Champions Challenge at Cramton Bowl. The game was officially a preseason jamboree game. Xavier Lane had nine catches for 132 yards and a score and Darrion Steele had six for 142 yards and a score.
BRADY POLSON, BOB JONES: Was 16-of-25 passing for 159 yards and a touchdown in just over a half of play in the Patriots’ 37-30 Champions Challenge win over Carver-Montgomery.
JAKOBI BYRD, FLORENCE: Caught six passes for 167 yards and two touchdowns covering 49 and 58 yards as the Falcons beat Shades Valley 38-13.
T.J. SIMMONS, CLAY-CHALKVILLE: Caught four passes for 151 yards and two touchdowns as the Cougars went out-of-state to beat Blackman (TN) 38-7 at Murfreesboro.
JAVARIA NALLS, SHEFFIELD: Had two interceptions, returning one 40 yards for a TD, as Sheffield beat Mars Hill Bible 49-7. The Bulldogs finished with six interceptions on the night.
XAVIER LANE, GORDO: Returned an interception 95 yards in the Green Wave’s 28-21 Champions Challenge preseason game win over Glencoe. A few minutes earlier, teammate Pat Manning streaked 95 yards on a rush from scrimmage for another Gordo TD.
JAE-LYN RUSS, TALLADEGA: The defensive end forced three fumbles in Talladega’s 14-6 win over Talladega County Central.
ROBBIE ORFIELD, MADISON ACADEMY: Had nine tackles, including two sacks resulting in 20 yards in losses, as the Mustangs beat Leeds 19-14 in the Champions Challenge at Cramton Bowl.
DERRICK UNDERWOOD, HOMEWOOD: Returned a kickoff 90 yards for a game-tying touchdown in the first quarter and finished with 270 all-purpose yards as the Patriots beat Decatur 28-15. Underwood rushed for 143 yards on 25 carries and also caught three passes for 35 yards in the win.
KOBE BAGGETT, DOTHAN: Punted four times for 45.0-yard average and also caught three passes for 66 yards, including a 41-yard touchdown pass, in Dothan's 43-22 loss to Navarre (FL).
Gordo High School used two big plays in the second half and a tenacious defensive effort to post a 28-21 victory over Glencoe in the 10th annual AHSAA Champions Challenge Football Classic at Cramton Bowl Saturday.
The Classic is an event of the AHSAA and is hosted annually by the Alabama High School Athletic Directors & Coaches Association (AHSADCA) at Montgomery’s Cramton Bowl. The Class 3A battle was the second of three games in the 2015 series. Class 7A Bob Jones and Class 6A Carver-Montgomery met in the final game Saturday night, and Madison Academy beat Leeds 19-14 on Friday in the first game.
The MA-Leeds game was the regular-season opener for those teams while the final two games were considered preseason jamboree games.
Leading 14-7 at intermission thanks to a punishing offensive attack and even stronger defense, Coach Ryan Lolley’s Green Wave struck with lightning speed midway through the third period when Pat Manning streaked through a gaping hole for 95 yards to give Gordo a 21-7 lead at 7:04 of the third quarter.
Glencoe, anchored by a talented offensive front, responded with an 11-play, 81-yard drive that ended with Aaron Bush hauling in an 18-yard pass in the corner of the end zone to close the gap to 21-14 with 1:49 left in the third. The Yellow Jackets, coached by Lee Ozmint, got the ball back with 11:49 left in the fourth quarter and mounted another time-consuming drive using 13 snaps to move from their own 37-yard line to the Gordo 11. With 4:34 remaining, however, the Green Wave lightning struck again when defensive back Xavier Lanier picked off a pass at the 5-yard line and raced 95 yards for the TD as Gordo jumped back ahead 28-14.
Glencoe responded once again, though, driving 70 yards in nine plays to cut the lead to 28-21 with 47 seconds left when Taylor Daugherty scored on a 6-yard scamper.
The onside kick that followed sailed out of bounds and Gordo needed only two snaps to run out the clock.
Gordo led 14-7 at the half with the first score coming on an 11-play, 64-yard march to open the game. It culminated with Collin Herring scoring on a 5-yard run. Will Hankins’ kick gave the Green Wave a 7-0 lead with 6:35 left in the quarter. Glencoe tied the contest early in the second quarter following a 49-yard punt return by Pace Ozmint to the Gordo 1-yard line. Chase Wilson bulled in for the score on the next play, and Andrew Long kicked the extra point to tie the game at 7-7.
Gordo tight end Ben Davis, considered one of the top senior prospects in the Southeast, turned a short pass from Koy Chapman into a 24-yard TD reception with 3:23 left in the half to close out the first-half scoring.
Only 12 yards separated the two teams’ total yards with Glencoe rolling up 115 rushing, 150 passing while Gordo gained 193 yards on the ground and 60 passing for 253 yards. Manning was the game’s leading rusher with 123 yards rushing on eight carries for Gordo. Malcolm Nicholson also added 41 on 13 carries and Chapman was 5-of-7 passing for 60 yards. Davis finished with two catches for 36 yards.
Wilson completed 12-of-18 passes for 150 yards and one TD for Glencoe. Pace Ozmint had five receptions for 76 yards, and Dalton Roberts had four for 35 yards. Wilson also rushed for 39 yards on 15 carries, and Taylor Daugherty had 62 on 16 carries.
Tyree Hurst had 11 tackles, Dee Jones had nine, Davis and Herring had eight each to lead the Green Wave defense. Austin Bush had 10 stops and Ozmint had nine to lead the Jackets.
Six high schools, including two defending state champions and two 2014 semifinalists, will play Friday night and Saturday at Cramton Bowl as the 10th annual Champions Challenge officially kicks off the 2015 prep football season for the Alabama High School Athletic Association.
The head coaches and selected players gathered at the AHSAA Tuesday for the Champions Challenge press conference. Media on hand came in early for the annual AHSAA Media Day. Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange was on hand to welcome the media there to cover the press conference.
Three-time defending Class 3A state champion Madison Academy will be riding a 14-game winning streak into Friday night’s Champions Challenge opener against defending Class 4A state champion Leeds. Kickoff will be at 7 p.m. The Mustangs lost to the Green Wave 27-24 in the season opener last season at Huntsville – a loss that snapped a 25-game winning streak.
Coach Eric Cohu’s team rebounded to win 14 in a row, beating Glencoe 31-28 on a last-second field goal in the Class 3A semifinals and then beat Dale County 70-34 in the 3A championship game at Auburn University’s Jordan-Hare Stadium last December.
Leeds won seven in a row to open the 2014 season, then lost to Dadeville 20-14, then Coach Keith Etheredge’s Green Wave reeled off seven more wins to claim their third state title since 2009 with a 30-0 triumph over Deshler in the 4A finals at Jordan-Hare.
Etheredge, 94-32, has seen his team compile a 66-7 on-the-field record over the last five years while Cohu’s team has gone 64-7 during that same stretch. Leeds posted four shutouts in five playoff wins last season, outscoring those opponents 206-14. Madison Academy scored 722 points on the season. Cohu has a 114-22 overall record including 76-10 with the Mustangs.
The Champions Challenge will continue on Saturday with a double-header featuring Class 3A semifinalists Glencoe and Gordo in the 5 p.m. game at Cramton Bowl and Class 6A Carver-Montgomery versus Class 7A Bob Jones in the final game at 7:30 p.m.
Gordo , 13-1 last year, lost on the final play of its semifinal game versus Dale County 32-28. The Green Wave of Coach Ryan Lolley has compiled a 20-5 record in his two seasons as head coach. Led by linebacker Ben Davis, Gordo touts a strong defensive team – reflective of the school’s storied history dating back to its first season in 1915. The Green Wave has a 555-348-32 record overall during that span. Glencoe, which fielded its first team in 1922, is 491-381-26 overall with Coach Lee Ozmint’s Yellow Jackets compiling a 45-16 record over the last five seasons.
Carver-Montgomery won the Class 6A, Region 2 title last season and finished 9-3 overall in 2014. The Wolverines have gone 38-12 in Coach Billy Gresham’s four seasons as head coach and are 46-16 over the last five seasons. Bob Jones, 8-3 in 2014, finished second in Class 7A, Region 8 behind region winner Gadsden City. The Patriots fell to Tuscaloosa County in the state playoffs last year 28-21.
Coach Kevin Rose, who joined the Bob Jones staff in 2008, has been head coach the last seven seasons compiling a 57-15 record which ties for second among 7A schools during that span. Only defending 7A champion Hoover has won more games in that span.
The Alabama High School Athletic Directors & Coaches Association (AHSADCA) hosts the series, which played its first Champions Challenge at Cramton Bowl in 2006.
Last year was the first year that schools have had 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 jamboree contest. The Carver-Bob Jones and Gordo-Glencoe games will remain as exhibition games and will not count on either team's record since all four already have 10 regular-season games scheduled. The Leeds vs. Madison Academy clash will be a regular-season game. Both schools will have 10 weeks to play their remaining nine games.
All six schools are taking the playoff-type approach, however. “Our kids were really devastated with the season ended like it did last year,” Gordo’s Lolley said. “We are a hungry team. I am sure Glencoe felt the same way. We feel this is such a big honor to be able to kick off the season in the Champions Challenge on such a big stage.”
The 2015 Champions Challenge will be televised live and web-streamed by AHSAA TV partner Raycom Media. Stations in 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 is:
Friday, August 21 – 7 p.m.: Madison Academy (14-1) vs. Leeds (14-1)
Saturday, August 22 – 5 p.m.: Glencoe (13-1) vs. Gordo (13-1)
Saturday, August 22 – 7:30 p.m.: Carver-Montgomery (9-3) vs. Bob Jones (8-3)
CHAMPIONS CHALLENGE HISTORY
Spanish Fort 42, Stanhope Elmore 14
Opelika 20, Carver-Montgomery 16
Dadeville 14, Piedmont 8
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
INDIANAPOLIS, IN (August 13, 2015) – The number of participants in high school sports increased for the 26th consecutive year in 2014-15 – topping the 7.8 million mark for the first time – according to the annual High School Athletics Participation Survey conducted by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS).
Based on figures from the 51 NFHS member state high school associations, which includes the District of Columbia, the number of participants in high school sports reached an all-time high of 7,807,047 – an increase of 11,389 from the previous year.
While boys participation dipped 8,682 from the previous year, girls participation increased for the 26th consecutive year with an additional 20,071 participants and set an all-time high of 3,287,735. The boys participation total of 4,519,312 is No. 2 all-time behind the 2013-14 total of 4,527,994.
The top 10 states by participants remained in the same order as last year, with Texas and California topping the list with 804,598 and 797,101, respectively. The remainder of the top 10 was New York (389,475), Illinois (340,972), Ohio (319,929), Pennsylvania (319,562), Michigan (295,660), New Jersey (279,377), Florida (267,954) and Minnesota (235,243). Alabama ranked 21st nationally and fourth in Section 3 with 123,339 high school participants. The AHSAA numbers include 80,510 boys and 42,829 girls. AHSAA’s top boys’ sports by participation were football (31,468), basketball (12,860) and baseball (12,080). The top girls’ participation sports were softball (9,338), volleyball (9,202) and basketball (8,349). The AHSAA numbers totaled 130,791 when factoring in cheerleading and bowling, programs not figured in championship sports results reported to the NFHS in 2014-15. Bowling will be a championship sport in 2015-16 and cheerleading is currently an activity that has an independent championship program, but is endorsed by the AHSAA.
Six of the top 10 girls sports registered increases in participation this past year, led by competitive spirit squads (5,170 additional participants) and cross country (3,495). While track and field remained the No. 1 sport for girls with 478,726 participants, volleyball (432,176) moved ahead of basketball (429,504) to secure the No. 2 spot. Ten years ago, basketball was No. 1 for girls, followed by track and field, and volleyball.
Among the top 10 boys sports, soccer registered the largest gain with an additional 15,150 participants, while wrestling (11,306) and 11-player football (9,617) had the largest declines in participation. Besides soccer, other top 10 boys sports that had increases in the number of participants were baseball (3,938) and basketball (425).
“Overall, we are pleased with this year’s participation report indicating an increase for the 26th consecutive year,” said Bob Gardner, NFHS executive director. “And while football participation dropped this past year, the decrease is not that significant when you consider more than 1.1 million boys and girls are involved in the sport at the high school level.
“Despite other out-of-school opportunities that exist in some sports, this year’s survey is yet another confirmation that our model of education-based sports within the high school setting is the No. 1 choice for boys and girls nationwide. We applaud the more than 19,000 high schools across the country for continuing to provide these important programs despite the funding challenges that exist in some areas.”
Eleven-player football remains the runaway leader in boys participants with 1,083,617, followed by outdoor track and field (578,632), basketball (541,479), baseball (486,567) and soccer (432,569). The remainder of the top 10 is wrestling (258,208), cross country (250,981), tennis (157,240), golf (148,823) and swimming/diving (137,087).
After outdoor track and field, volleyball and basketball, the remainder of the top 10 girls sports are soccer (375,681), fast-pitch softball (364,103), cross country (221,616), tennis (182,876), swimming/diving (166,838), competitive spirit squads (125,763) and lacrosse (84,785).
Among some of the non-traditional high school sports on this year’s survey, archery and riflery registered significant increases in participation. An additional 2,877 participants (boys and girls) in archery brings the overall total to 7,744 with schools in eight states sponsoring the sport. Riflery was up 1,010 participants for a total of 4,238 with competition in 10 states. Also, while boys wrestling was down by more than 11,000 this past year, the number of girls participating in the sport increased by 1,592 for a total of 11,496.
The participation survey has been compiled since 1971 by the NFHS through numbers it receives from its member associations. The complete 2014-15 High School Athletics Participation Survey is attached in PDF format and will be posted soon on the NFHS website at www.nfhs.org.
High school football coaches remember the old days when playing football meant long, punishing practices, when intense blocking and tackling drills were meant to cull the weak from the strong and drinking water in practice was only for weaklings.
Clay-Chalkville High School head football coach Jerry Hood says he is glad those days are gone forever.
“A lot of the things we learned as players and early in our coaching careers, there’s better ways to do those things now,” Hood said. “We practiced tackling all this summer with just helmets on because we are teaching a new way to tackle that keeps the head out of it. We think those kinds of things are very effective.”
As the game of high school football’s playing rules have changed, so have the techniques and the emphasis on teaching. Practice sessions for AHSAA schools are now spent concentrating on the fundamental techniques that are designed to make the sport safer. Hood, who led the Cougars to a 15-0 season in 2014 and the Class 6A state football championship, says the game has now evolved to one that is safer than it has ever been. He said a recent study by Michigan State University has shown that current tackling and blocking fundamentals are reducing concussions.
“The way offensive and defensive linemen play with their hands these days, there are a lot less head and shoulder collisions in the interior offensive and defensive lines than it used to be,” Hood said. “So, things have changed drastically in our teaching techniques.
“I think the game is now much safer than it was 20 years ago and safer than it was even 10 years ago.”
Hood said it starts in the grassroots – at practice. It is a philosophy that has helped the game of football evolve into a showcase of athleticism, speed and excitement.
“Our coaches at the high school level have reached down to the youth league level and the middle school coaches,” Hood explained. “We’re smarter about what happens to the body when you go through football practice and football games. We watch it much more carefully.”
“I think neck strength has a lot to do with it. The Michigan State study shows that it correlates to a reduction in concussions. I also think our helmet hardware is better, and I think the sport is much, much safer than it used to be.”
Dothan High School football coach Kelvis White also points to the rules’ changes that allow offensive linemen to use their upper-body strength by extending their arms as another major reason the game is much safer. White says teaching those techniques must also include intense strength training and some psychology by the coaches to convince the players that the new techniques do work best.
White said when parents question his staff’s more modern teaching styles, he points out: “The game has changed. Kids today are bigger, stronger and faster so the impact is much greater. I tell the parents that by today’s standards, we want to keep the players safe so they can have a healthy lifestyle when they are through with football.”
White said he has learned to hang on to the good teaching practices of men like his own dad Louis White. Louis directed Courtland High School to four Class 1A state titles during his 30-year coaching career and was inducted into the AHSAA Sports Hall of Fame in 2003.
“My dad was an open book,” White said. “His practices were always open. If a kid had a problem, they talked to him and if a parent had a question, they talked to him. I try to do the same now and keep an open line of communication so the players and parents can learn to trust me. My dad had a lot of old school in him, but at the same time, the kids always came first.”
Central-Phenix City High School athletic director, volleyball and basketball coach Carolyn Wright said coaches in each AHSAA sport are promoting best health and safety practices.
“It starts first with a pre-participation physical,” she said. “It give us some idea of a student’s physical condition going into a season,” she said. “We always start our practices with a dynamic warm-up, then do our stretching. There is no option … we do it every practice in volleyball and basketball before we move into our normal drills.”
She said water is available in the gym at all times, and breaks are taken with the frequency dependent on the intensity of each drill. She says good coaching is more than teaching them how to shoot or dribble or run or jump.
“Our conditioning program deals with getting the core stronger,” she said. “We try to concentrate on diet by giving them a good synopsis of what they should be eating and things they should try to stay away from. We try to keep them drinking more water and not sodas and beverages like that. Getting the proper rest is also very important. We tell our players after practice to get home, do their homework, get a bath and then get in bed.”
“Our coaches are much more educated in Alabama thanks to the programs of the AHSAA and are very conscious about what it takes to keep the kids healthy.
“With me, I have been in the business for so long that I can tell the difference in a slight twist and a more serious injury just by the sound of the player’s voice and by the way they fall. I am here to tell you that there are a lot of other coaches out there just as experienced as I am.”
Thompson High School football coach and athletic director Mark Freeman called his former Spanish Fort High School player Alex McKeever last week on the first day of football practice just to tell him hello. He wanted to hear his voice one more time.
He said it was the most enjoyable phone call he’s ever made – and he hopes to make the same call each August for the next 50 years.
Alex, a sophomore last year, was going through drills on the first day of practice with Freeman’s then Spanish Fort Toros when the 6-foot-4 youngster collapsed in cardiac arrest. What happened next was a miracle, Freeman said, for many reasons.
Spanish Fort had an Emergency Action Plan (EAP) in place for football practice – one Freeman said his staff, trainers and coaches practiced often. It worked to perfection.
All member schools of the Alabama High School Athletic Association are required to have EAPs on file when audited. The AHSAA, however, stresses the importance of having emergency action plans for after school activities by requiring schools to have an EAP for practice and games for every sport and every venue. It was a main focus of the AHSAA Summer Conference last month.
A template designed to help schools develop a plan is available to all schools. The AHSAA also recently provided each member high school and middle school an EAP program template designed by the Minnesota State High School League entitled Anyone Can Save A Life that utilizes students in roles of responsibility. This is an essential step-by-step plan that is designed for schools with few coaches or sports where one coach may be the only adult in the gym or on the field with a team on a regular basis. This plan shows how anyone, students or adults, can help save a life when a crisis occurs – if they know and practice their roles.
The AHSAA auditors now check those plans when conducting school audits. Each high school and middle school is audited yearly.
“Our preparedness saved Alex’s life,” Freeman said. “Everyone knew their task, from the coach who called 911, to the coach who called the parents to the coach who directed the emergency vehicle into and out of the stadium. We actually had two AEDs (automated external defibrillator) on hand and we needed them.”
Freeman said his certified athletic trainer (Rob Milam) had an AED and the team had one. They had to use them both when the first one began to fail.
“Alex’s heart had stopped, but Rob revived him and the paramedics arrived in time to get him to a local hospital. The rest was even more miraculous,” Freeman said. “He was able to recover fully, and when we played in the Champions Challenge at Montgomery’s Cramton Bowl three weeks later, he and his family were on hand watching from the press box.”
He said he now tells his coaches all the time that he learned two important things from AHSAA Medical Advisory Committee co-chairman Dr. (Jimmy) Robinson at the AHSAA’s mandatory medical advisory meeting at the Summer Conference the year before.
“I learned that if someone is suffering from a heat related illness, they have 100 percent recovery if action is taken within 10 minutes. If not, then it can be disastrous. So we keep an ice tub ready at each practice.”
“When Alex collapsed, we had the ice tub ready but his situation was not about heat. The second thing I learned is that emergency action plans are a must – and the plan must be practiced so everyone knows what their roles are.”
Freeman said he hopes to never have to use an EAP ever again, “but if we have to, then we will be ready,” he said. “The most important thing I brought with me to my new position at Thompson is the EAP. I learned from that experience last year that an emergency is going to come when you least expect it. That situation happened early in the first day of fall practice, our least strenuous day. We were only in our fifth session when Alex suffered his cardiac arrest. I thank God every day that we were prepared.”
Goshen High School football coach and athletic director Bart Snyder is also a very vocal proponent of being prepared. Emergency action plans are not just about knowing where the AED is located,” he said. “It is about taking seriously the training that is available, taking seriously the importance of practicing the plan and making sure everyone, from the coaches, players and the volunteers who might be parking the vehicles at a game, knows what to do.”
Snyder remembers an emergency crisis at his school a few years ago.
“We had an incident that took place in our gym during a girls’ basketball game,” he said. “We had a kid to fall out. During that time, our coaches responded quickly – having been trained to know CPR. Having plans in place enabled us to respond and gave the injured student an opportunity to survive.”
Like Freeman, Snyder said his coaches, students and school practice those plans often.
“We’ll rehearse those plans during fall practice in case something else were to happen,” Snyder said. “Of course, like coaches we hope it doesn’t, but we know we must be prepared just in case. When we practice a crisis situation, we usually let the students know in advance because we don’t want them to panic. Later in the year (after their initial training), we may stage something without informing them just so we can see how everyone will respond.
“In that one particular case I mentioned earlier, the kids that were there responded and helped us. You just couldn’t imagine how well they responded given the situation. It is amazing just what kids can do in certain situations when called upon.”
Snyder is a firm believer in safety education. He said no one will ever hear him complain of the AHSAA requirements placed on each coach. He says few businesses require their supervisors to be as well-trained in safety as high school coaches.
AHSAA rules require all coaches, faculty and non-faculty, to undergo health and safety education training before even stepping on a court or field to work with the student-athletes. The requirements include completing the NFHS Principles of Coaching and Sports Safety and First Aid courses online. All coaches must also be CPR and AED certified at all times, which requires annual training, and they must also complete the NFHS Concussion Awareness and Heat Illness Prevention courses online. The NFHS offers a Cardiac Arrest course that has been recommended for all AHSAA coaches, and through a joint effort with LifeStart, each school now has its own AED to use in emergencies and also to use in classroom training.
Snyder said the tools provided by the AHSAA has helped him become a better coach and helped him better prepare his staff.
“We always try to put safety first,” he said. “We preach to our incoming coaches that whatever we do the child’s safety is number one. We don’t ever want to put our children into a place where they could overheat or become injured due to our mistake.
“So, we’re not going to do anything without thinking safety first.”
NEXT: Final part of this five-part series addresses the importance of coaching technique.