AUBURN – Attendance at Auburn University’s Jordan-Hare Stadium for the 2016 AHSAA Super 7 State Football Championships was up more than 4,000 over the 2015 Super 7 and up more than 8,000 over the 2014 Super 7, according to attendance figures released today.
The total attendance for the three-day series was 49,353 with Friday’s total of 26,754 the big difference. The largest crowd of the seven championships was clearly the Opelika vs. Ramsay Class 6A finals Friday night.
The total attendance for 2015 at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa was 45,229, and the 2014 attendance at Jordan-Hare was 41,255.
AHSAA Super 7 Attendance Figures
Ramsay 21, Opelika 16
AUBURN – Ramsay High School head football coach Rueben Nelson wasn’t even born the last time a Birmingham city school won an AHSAA state football championship.
In fact, he was born the very year that football was discontinued at Ramsay, a school that had its first team in 1930, had its first unbeaten team in 1934, its last unbeaten team in 1941 and let the sport remain dormant for 36 years.
In 2012, Nelson was asked to resurrect the sport at the school cradled in the shadow of the Vulcan statue located atop Red Mountain. Friday night at Jordan-Hare Stadium, Nelson coached the Rams to the Super 7 Class 6A state football championship.
Talk about irony.
The Rams (13-2), with left-handed senior quarterback Baniko Harley leading the team, took control of the 2016 Super 7 championship game finale in the first half and then held on at the end to beat Opelika 21-16. Harley rushed for 158 yards on 21 carries and was 8-of-18 passing for 132 yards and two scores.
Opelika (13-2), coached by Brian Blackmon, struck first when Weldrin Ford scored on a 1-yard run at 7:46 of the first quarter to cap a nine-play, 45-yard Bulldogs drive to take a 7-0 lead.
On the next series, Harley ignited the Rams with a dazzling cross-the-field 69-yard run that set up the Rams’ first score – his 9-yard pass to Genori Parrish. The extra point was blocked and Ramsay trailed 7-6 at 5:53 of the quarter. Harley and Parrish hooked up in the second quarter at 5:22 with the 8-yard connection for the TD closing out a 12-play, 85-yard march.
Ramsay got one more chance before the half and Joshua Horn kicked a 25-yard field goal to give Rams a 15-7 lead. The Rams defense recovered an Opelika fumble on the opening series of the third quarter and Harley turned it into six points with a 6-yard touchdown pass to Kordell Jackson just 2½ minutes into the second half to take a 21-7 lead.
Opelika, playing without starting quarterback J.D. Worth due to a first-half shoulder injury, marched 89 yards on 10 plays with sophomore quarterback Cade Blackmon at the throttles to cut the lead to 21-14 with 11:42 to play. Talik Jackson got the TD on a dazzling 40-yard run.
The Bulldogs got another break with 5:13 left when the ball was snapped over the Ramsay punter’s head out of the end zone for a safety to cut the lead to 21-16. That good fortune turned around quickly, however, when Opelika fumbled the ball on the free kick return at the Ramsay 30-yard line and Deshaun Oliver recovered for the Rams.
Oliver also converted a fourth-and-27 fake punt at the Rams’ 14-yard line earlier in the quarter when he told Harley, the punter, to pass him the ball instead of kicking. Harley did it and Oliver gained 29 yards to the 43 for a first down.
The last five minutes turned out to be nail-biting as both teams battled to the end. Opelika, facing a fourth-and-1 at its own 40-yard line with just over a minute to play, came up short when Joshua Adams stopped Ford shy of the first-down mark. The Rams then ran out the clock.
Ramsay finished with 403 total yards on 76 plays and Opelika had 254 on 57 plays. Harley accounted for 290 yards with his passing and running. Teammate Thomas Hirabowski added 70 yards rushing on nine carries. Parrish finished with three catches for 30 yards.
Ford led Opelika with 97 yards rushing on 23 carries. Blackmon was 5-of-10 passing in the second half for 40 yards and Caleb Florence had four receptions for 34 yards. Punter Austen Blackmon had three kicks for a 40.7-yard average.
Zachery Yancey had 14 tackles and four assists to lead Opelika’s defense. Jackson also had seven tackles and four assists.
Kordell Jackson led Ramsay with six stops.
It was the first state football crown in Ramsay history and just the third in Birmingham City Schools history since the playoffs began in 1966. Banks won back-to-back titles in 1972 and 1973. Opelika has now finished runner-up twice (2012 and 2016).
Hoover 17, McGill-Toolen Catholic 7
AUBURN – Hoover High School’s last defensive series of the Super 7 Class 7A state championship game Wednesday night was perhaps the best series of the 2016 season.
Three straight sacks on second, third and fourth down left defending state champion McGill-Toolen Catholic (13-1) some 36 yards shy of a first down and closed the final chapter on the Bucs’ 17-7 victory and the 12th state title in school history.
The Super 7 Championships continue Thursday at Jordan-Hare Stadium with defending state champion Piedmont (14-0) facing Mobile Christian (13-1) in the 3A title game at 11 a.m., followed by defending state champion Maplesville (13-0) vs. Pickens County (11-3) in the 1A finals at 3 p.m. Beauregard (12-1) and Wenonah (11-2) close out Thursday’s schedule with the 5A finals at 7 p.m. All games are being televised live over the Raycom Media Network. Go to www.pathtotheplayoffs.com for more details. Tickets are also available at www.preptix.com.
Led by 2016 7A Championship Game MVP Kholbe Coleman, Hoover (12-2) finished the night with nine sacks and 82 lost yards for the Yellow Jackets’ talented offense. Coleman finished with eight tackles, one sack for a 15-yard loss and 3.5 tackles resulting in 23 negative McGill-Toolen yards. Coach Caleb Ross’s Jackets finished with minus-43 yards rushing on the night. Quarterback Bubba Thompson was 26-of-39 passing for 280 yards but finished with a negative 58 yards rushing on 16 carries.
The Hoover offense was solid – building a first-half 10-0 lead on junior place-kicker Barret Pickering’s 42-yard field goal late in the first quarter and C.J. Sturdivant’s 2-yard TD run midway through the second period. The kick was the 19th field goal of the season for Pickering, a Hoover school record.
Sturdivant, who finished with a game-high 96 yards rushing on 16 carries, dashed 37 yards with 8:50 left in the third quarter for his second touchdown of the night to give Hoover a 17-0 lead.
McGill-Toolen clawed back, however. Thompson connected with Jalen Tolbert with 4:13 remaining for a 30-yard TD pass to cap a 10-play, 80-yard march. Tolbert finished with four catches for 60 yards. Hoover got the onside kick, and then turned to its defense to seal the win.
Hoover defensive end Christon Taylor added three sacks and six tackles and Ben Abercrombie had nine stops. Jayden Jordan also had a key interception.
McGill-Toolen, which saw its 22-game winning streak come to an end, got a strong defensive effort Carlton Martial. The linebacker had 11 solo tackles and six assists for 17 total stops. Receiver Trey Roberson also had six catches for 78 yards, and Larry Rembert, five catches for 51 yards.
Hoover has won 10 state titles in the last 16 seasons.
Lee County 18, Vestavia Hills 15
AUBURN – Lee County Unified Team wide receiver Porter Caldwell was a jack-of-all-trades Wednesday afternoon scoring two touchdowns to lead his team to an 18-15 win over Vestavia Hills in the AHSAA/Alabama Special Olympics Unified football game which opened the 2016 Super 7 Championship week at Auburn.
The Unified game, set to be played at Jordan-Hare Stadium, was moved to the Auburn University Indoor Football Practice Facility due to weather conditions. The two teams adjusted admirably, both showing strong passing games from the get-go.
Vestavia Hills, coached by Terry Tingle, scored first when Andrew Knight caught a perfect pass from quarterback Thad Smith for a 38-yard score on the opening series of the game. Harris Baker then caught a pass on the one-point try to give the Rebels a 7-0 lead.
Lee County, which won the game for the second year in a row, clawed back to score when Steven Clark caught a 1-yard pass from Drew Williams. Caldwell put Coach Dana Stewart’s Tigers ahead with an 8-yard touchdown reception thrown by Williams.
Vestavia Hills took a 13-12 lead into the half scoring on a 1-yard pass from Smith to Knight on the last play of the first half.
Caldwell’s 12-yard run at 17:32 of the second half put Lee County on top 18-13. The TD was set up by a 25-yard pass from Caldwell to Williams.
Vestavia Hills closed the margin to three with a safety later in the half, and had a chance to take the lead with first and goal from the 1 after Smith tossed a 31-yard pass to Parker Turner with just over six minutes to play.
The Lee County defense forced four straight incomplete passes to hold on for the win.
Smith finished with an outstanding 8-of-28 passing performance for 175 yards and two scores. Knight caught six passes for 115 yards.
For Lee County, Williams was 9-of-15 passing for 68 yards. Caldwell was 2-of-3 for 28 yards. Matt Baker had one big 5-yard catch and played well as the Lee County center.
The Unified Game began in 2014 at Auburn and was in 2015 at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa.
Wednesday’s game was live-streamed by the Opelika High School NFHS Network School Broadcast Program.
2016 SUPER 7 UNIFIED GAME BOXSCORE
Vestavia Hills 13 2 -- 15
Lee County 12 6 – 18
VH – Andrew Knight 38 pass from Thad Smith (Harris Baker pass from Smith)
LC – Steven Clark 1 pass from Drew Williams (Pass failed)
LC – Porter Caldwell 8 pass from Williams (Pass failed)
VH – Knight 1 pass from Smith (Pass failed)
LC – Caldwell 12 run (Pass failed)
VH – Safety, ball touched ground in end zone
Vestavia Hills Lee County
6 First Downs 4
6-25 Rush Att/Yds 4-10
27/8/2 Pass Att/Com/Int 19/11/3
150 Pass Yards 107
175 Total Yards 117
3-18 Penalties 5-18