MONTGOMERY, AL – Six prep football powers are set to kick off the 2016 high school football season this weekend at the 11th annual Champions Challenge Football Classic hosted by the Alabama High School Athletic Association and its coaches’ wing, the Alabama High School Athletic Directors & Coaches Association, at Cramton Bowl Aug. 18-20.
All six head coaches were on hand Tuesday at the AHSAA office for Champions Challenge press conference. The press conference concluded the AHSAA’s annual Media Day, attended by more than 85 media, coaches, players and special guests.
Sam Adams is beginning his third season as head football coach at Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa. He was quick to point at the press conference that while the six head coaches had accumulated more 600 wins between them, he had not contributed many to that total.
Adams, 17-8 in his first two seasons, says just being in the company of such talented coaches and teams is good for his program. The Class 6A Patriots, 8-4 in 2015, plays Demopolis (10-3) in the opening game of the Champions Challenge Thursday night at Cramton Bowl at 7 p.m. Hoover (10-3) faces Central-Phenix City (9-4) in Friday night’s 7 p.m. contest, and Andalusia (11-2) faces Brooks (11-2) in Saturday’s final game, also set to kick off at 7 p.m.
The six coaches have a combined 670-285 record with 12 state championships and a .702 winning percentage collectively. The six teams were 59-18 overall in 2015All three contests will be broadcast live over Raycom Media’s AHSAA TV Network. The cable channels in each part of the state can be found by visiting www.pathwaytotheplayoffs.com.
The AHSAA Radio Network will also broadcast all three games and all six schools will have local radio stations in the booth. Hillcrest’s NFHS Network School Broadcast Program will also tape-delay Thursday’s game over the NFHS Network platform, Hoover’s NFHS SBP will tape-delay Friday’s game, and Saturday’s game will also be tape-delayed over the NFHS Network by local producers.
Adams’ coaching counterpart Stacy Luker, who has a 187-74 head-coaching record with five state championships to his credit, said Adams’ Patriots will be a strong opponent. “We know they have a talented team, and we are looking forward to playing them,” Luker said. The former Sweet Water head coach was 10-3 in his first season at Demopolis last year.
Hillcrest features one of the state’s top running backs in senior Brian Robinson. Robinson rushed for 1,329 yards and 15 touchdowns last season on 227 carries – with his finest showing coming in a wild 43-42 loss to Clay-Chalkville when he set the AHSAA Class 6A single-game state record with 447 yards rushing. Quarterback Cole Frederick, who earned MVP honors last spring while helping Hillcrest win the 6A state baseball title in Montgomery at Riverwalk Stadium, completed 132-of-232 passes for 1,829 yards and 15 TDs last season.
Luker said his team doesn’t have a 1,000-yard rusher in its midst but said, “we have four or five backs who we think can get the job done.” What the Class 5A Tigers do have is a defense back almost intact that allowed only 115 yards rushing per game last season. The defense, led by leading tacklers R.J. Cox (72 tackles), Russ Logan (59), Khyrim Bryant (40) and Logan McVay (28 tackles and two interceptions), gave up only 204.6 total yards per game.
“No doubt we have six of the top programs in the state playing in the Champions Challenge this year,” said Alvin Briggs, Director of the AHSADCA. “We have six outstanding coaches that have won 12 state championships between them.”
For the first time since the inception of the Champions Challenge in 2006, all three games in the Classic will be regular-season openers. The teams have the choice of playing a jamboree game or a regular season game in week zero, he said. “We are looking at three very exciting match-ups.”
Friday’s game pits Class 7A powers Hoover and Central-Phenix City. Coach Josh Niblett, Hoover’s boss, has an amazing 106-11 record for the Bucs in the last eight years with seven trips to the state finals and two state crowns. Jamey DuBose, Central’s coach, is no stranger to Niblett and the Bucs. DuBose was head coach at Prattville facing the Bucs in the state finals in 2008, 2009 and 2011. Prattville won 16-13 in ’08 and 35-34 in ’11 while Hoover won 28-23 in ’09.
“This is the kind of game that lets you find out just where you program is,” said DuBose, 90-35 in 11 seasons as a head coach with stops at Susan Moore, Prattville, Florence and Central. He is beginning his third season for the Red Devils after going 19-6 in his first two seasons. “We are looking forward to this week’s game with Hoover.”
Both thanked the AHSAA for setting up contests like the Champions Challenge, agreeing that these kinds’ of contests are important for their teams and schools.
Andalusia head coach Trent Taylor coached in the Champions Challenge with Straughn in 2013 – winning 35-26 over Walter Wellborn. Saturday night his team will take on Class 5A Brooks. “This is as close as it gets to playing in a bowl game for our high school players. Our entire community is excited,” Taylor added.
The Class 4A Bulldogs (11-2) and Lions (11-2) are meeting for the first time school history.
“That makes this game even more exciting,” said second-year Brooks head coach Brad Black. “Coming to Montgomery to play in a game of this magnitude really means a lot to our program.”
The game will feature two of the state’s premier runners from 2015. Andalusia features senior running back Jamal Hourel, who rushed for 2,396 yards and 35 touchdowns last season on 236 carries. Brooks’ tailback Deandre Hampton, a 6-foot, 195-pound senior, gained 1,855 yards on 264 carries in 2015 with 26 rushing touchdowns.
Tickets may be purchased online at www.ahsaa.com by clicking on the PrepTix link or by going to: http://www.preptix.com/ahsaa.
In last year’s Champions Challenge, Madison Academy beat eventual 4A state champ Leeds 19-14, Gordo downed Glencoe 28-21 and Bob Jones defeated Carver-Montgomery 37-33.
CHAMPIONS CHALLENGE HISTORY
Madison Academy 19, Leeds 14
Gordo 28, Glencoe 21
Bob Jones 37, Carver-Montgomery 30
Opelika 20, Carver-Montgomery 16
Dadeville 14, Piedmont 8
Spanish Fort 42, Stanhope Elmore 14
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 11, 2016) – Led by an encouraging report in football participation nationwide, the number of participants in high school sports increased for the 27th consecutive year in 2015-16 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 7,868,900 – an increase of 61,853 from the previous year.
After a decline of almost 10,000 participants in football the previous year, the number of boys playing 11-player football in 2015 was almost identical to 2014 with a drop of just 309 – from 1,083,617 to 1,083,308.
While some states reported a decline in football participation in 2015, 24 states registered increases in boys participation in 11-player football. When combining boys and girls participation in 6-, 8-, 9- and 11-player football, the number of participants increased 138 – from 1,114,253 to 1,114,391.
“The NFHS and its member state associations have taken significant steps over the past 10 years to minimize the risk of participation in football and all high school sports, so this report on the continued strong interest and participation in high school football is very encouraging,” said Bob Gardner, NFHS executive director. “With the adoption of state laws and protocols for concussion management in place, we continue to believe that the sport of football at the high school level is as safe as it has been since the first rules were written in 1932 – and we believe this year’s participation report is confirmation of that belief.”
After a decline the previous year, boys participation increased about 25,000 to an all-time high of 4,544,574, while girls participation increased for the 27th consecutive year with an additional 36,591 participants and set an all-time high of 3,324,326.
Track and field registered the largest increase in participants for both boys and girls, with an additional 12,501 boys and 7,243 girls. Track and field ranks second to football in boys participants with 591,133, and remains the most popular sport for girls with 485,969 participants.
In addition to track and field, six other top 10 girls sports registered increases in 2015-16, including volleyball, soccer, softball, cross country, tennis and lacrosse. The top 10 girls sports remained the same as the previous year: track and field, volleyball, basketball, soccer, fast-pitch softball, cross country, tennis, swimming and diving, competitive spirit squads, and lacrosse.
After track and field among the top 10 boys sports, soccer registered the largest gain with an additional 7,753 participants, followed by cross country (up 6,710), basketball (up 4,949) and baseball (up 2,248). Although the top five boys sports remained the same as last year – 11-player football, track and field, basketball, baseball and soccer – cross country moved to sixth place ahead of wrestling, which dropped to seventh after a decline of 7,555 participants. Tennis, golf and swimming and diving complete the top 10 listing of boys sports.
Lacrosse continued its rise among emerging sports with 197,572 total participants to rank 10th in girls participation and 11th for boys. Among some of the non-traditional high school sports on this year’s survey, archery (8,668), badminton (17,645) and flag football (12,093) continued to register increases in participation. Also, while boys wrestling had a drop in participation, an additional 2,000 girls participated in the sport last year for an all-time high of 13,496.
Participation in adapted sports also increased in 2015-16 from 8,483 participants to 9,491 with schools in 12 states now offering these programs for students with disabilities.
The top 10 states by participants remained the same; however, Florida moved ahead of New Jersey to eighth position this year. Texas and California topped the list again with 809,075 and 802,117, respectively, followed by New York (372,772), Illinois (344,143), Ohio (319,929), Pennsylvania (319,853), Michigan (295,436), Florida (285,885), New Jersey (279,371) and Minnesota (237,686). Thirty-three of the 51 NFHS member state associations reported increases in participation in 2015-16.
The participation survey has been compiled since 1971 by the NFHS through numbers it receives from its member associations. The complete 2015-16 High School Athletics Participation Survey is attached in PDF format and will be posted soon on the NFHS website at www.nfhs.org.
Signs Exclusive Partnership with NFHS Network to Expand Digital Ticketing Nationally
ATLANTA (August 9, 2016) – Huddle and Preptix today announced a merger to create the nation’s largest and most innovative ticketing solution for the high school sports market. The combined company, Huddle, Inc., will be headquartered in Alpharetta, Georgia. Huddle offers an integrated digital and paper ticketing solution for both state association post-season events and individual school regular season events. The Huddle leadership team will remain intact, while Jay Barker and Patrick Noles from Preptix will assume senior roles at Huddle.
Additionally, the NFHS Network has selected the merged company as its exclusive partner for a national rollout of a digital ticketing platform for high school sports. Combining the NFHS Network’s media assets with a digital ticketing platform will allow it to raise overall awareness of high school sports, build its subscriber base and create custom sponsorship programs for national brands.
Digital ticketing provides consumers with a convenient way to purchase and redeem tickets online or via a mobile phone. Digital tickets have become increasingly prevalent in the travel, sports and entertainment industries but have yet to materially impact the more than 450 million tickets sold annually to high school sporting events. High school is one of the largest markets in the world that doesn’t provide a digital ticketing option for fans.
“As we grow GoFanTM, our digital ticketing platform, to augment the 150 million paper tickets we deliver annually to over 9,000 schools and 18 state associations, we’re thrilled to have Preptix join our family,” said Joey Thacker, CEO of Huddle. “The Preptix digital ticketing solution and its relationships in the high school market are a perfect complement as we bring an easy and innovative solution for high school sports fans to purchase tickets to their favorite events.”
“Patrick, the entire Preptix team and I could not be more excited about this,” said Jay Barker, founder of Preptix. “While we considered several opportunities with potential partners to expand the Preptix solution to additional states and regions, Huddle and the NFHS Network are the clear direction for the future.”
“Huddle and Preptix are the ideal combination for us as we work with our state association partners to deliver a national digital ticketing solution to the high school sports market,” said Robert Rothberg, president of the NFHS Network. “We’re committed to bringing new and groundbreaking solutions to the high school market, just like we have with our live video streaming and live data platform.”
"With the acquisition of Preptix, Huddle is strengthening its e-commerce solution, as well as bringing new talent to its rapidly expanding metro Atlanta headquarters,” said David Hartnett, senior vice president of Economic Development at the Metro Atlanta Chamber. “Further, the company's new partnership with PlayOn! Sports and the NFHS Network speaks to the strong and collaborative nature of our region's digital sports and fitness community."
Huddle, Inc. gives brands a local voice, lasting relationships, and a nationally scalable way to rise above a noisy advertising world. With partners that include StateFarmTM, CITGO®, O’Reilly Auto Parts®, Olive Garden® and Taco Bell®, Huddle has built a trusted reputation for driving local sales through innovative marketing programs. Huddle, based in Alpharetta, Georgia, builds programs that are rooted in serving a targeted audience and converting them into passionate brand advocates.
Learn more at HuddleInc.com. Stay up to date on marketing news and local solutions by following Huddle on LinkedIn and Twitter.
Preptix provides schools and associations with a digital ticketing solution that can be utilized for sporting events and other ticketed school events. Based in Birmingham, Alabama, Preptix is a pioneer of digital ticketing for high schools and serves as the exclusive digital ticketing provider for the Alabama High School Athletic Association. Learn more about Preptix at preptix.com or by following us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
The NFHS Network is a joint venture of the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), its member state associations and PlayOn! Sports. The NFHS is located in Indianapolis, Indiana, and is the national leadership organization for high school sports and performing arts activities. PlayOn! Sports is based in Atlanta, Georgia, and is the nation’s largest high school sports media company. All NFHS Network events are available online at NFHSnetwork.com. Follow the NFHS Network on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram for the latest news and event information.