MONTGOMERY, AL – Four teams have been selected for the 12th annual AHSAA Champions Challenge Football Classic Aug. 24-25 at Montgomery’s Cramton Bowl.
The 2016 Champions Challenge, which will kick off the 2017 prep football season, will feature one game at 7 p.m., each night. Defending 1A state champion Maplesville and defending 2A state champion Fyffe will meet in the small-school game on Thursday. Hewitt-Trussville and Pell City will play in the large-school game Friday.
The pairings were announced Tuesday by Alvin Briggs, Director of the Alabama High School Athletic Directors & Coaches Association (AHSADCA), the AHSAA’s coaching organization, which hosts the event each year.
“We are very excited about the two games we have lined up,” Briggs said. “The Fyffe versus Mapleville game pits two schools that were undefeated last season while the big-school game is a clash between two of the state’s up-and-coming programs. Each have storied histories and strong communities that love high school football. We thank the City of Montgomery for all they do to make these games possible each year.”
Both games will be televised live over the Raycom Network in Alabama with WSFA TV 12 as the anchor station. The AHSAA Radio Network will also broadcast the games live over its statewide radio network.
Fyffe (15-0), coached by Paul Benefield, beat Aliceville 28-0 in the 2016 Class 2A finals at Jordan-Hare Stadium. It was the Red Devils’ second state championship in the last three years. Fyffe outscored opponents 700-113 with the championship game win the Red Devils’ sixth shutout of the season.
Coach Brent Hubbert’s Maplesville Red Devils (14-0) beat Pickens County 40-12 last December to claim Maplesville’s third straight Class 1A state title and extended Maplesville’s current winning streak to 23 in a row. His team outscored opponents 683-101 in 14 games last season.
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 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 perfect 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.
Benefield has s 255-52 career record including 210-41 at Fyffe. Hubbert is 143-23 at Maplesville and 160-38 overall. Ethredge is 113-39 in his 11-year career (107-34 at Leeds) and Floyd is 121-33 overall and 22-12 at Hewitt over the last three seasons.
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.
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
MONTGOMERY, AL – Six teams have been selected for the 11th annual AHSAA Champions Challenge Football Classic Aug. 18-20 at Montgomery’s Cramton Bowl.
The 2016 Champions Challenge, which will kick off the 2016 prep football season, will feature one game at 7 p.m., over three nights with Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa taking on Demopolis in the Thursday night game, according to Alvin Briggs, Director of the Alabama High School Athletic Directors & Coaches Association (AHSADCA) that hosts the event each year.
Friday’s game will pit 2014 Class 7A semifinalists Hoover and Central-Phenix City, then Saturday’s game will close out the series with Andalusia versus Brooks.
“We are very excited about the three games we have lined up,” Briggs said. “Each of them has storied histories and strong communities that love high school football. We thank the City of Montgomery for helping us make these games possible each year.”
Hillcrest (8-4), coached by Sam Adams, reached the second round of the Class 6A state playoffs last year. The Patriots have high expectations with the return of talented running back Brian Robinson, wh0 set a new Class 6A single-game rushing record last season with 447 yards against powerful Clay-Chalkville. He is considered one of the top running back prospects in the nation in the Class of 2017. Adams, 17-8 in two seasons at Hillcrest, has compiled a 10-2 region record during that span.
Demopolis (10-3) reached the Class 5A quarterfinals in 2015 before falling to eventual state champion St. Paul’s. The Tigers are coached by Stacy Luker, who coached Sweet Water High School to five Class 1A state titles over a seven-year period from 2004-2010. Luker has a 187-74 career record. His 71.6 winning percentage is among the best in the state.
Hoover (10-3) and Central-Phenix City (9-4) each reached the 7A semifinals last year. The schools’ programs are among the most storied in Alabama prep circles and the two coaches are among the most successful.
The Bucs of Coach Josh Niblett have reached the state finals every year under his tutelage except 2015 when they reached the semifinals. Niblett, 106-11 in eight seasons at Hoover and 171-43 overall, guided Hoover to 6A state championships in 2009, 2012 and 2013 and the first AHSAA 7A title in 2014. His teams also finished as state runner-up in 2008, 2010 and 2011. He also guided Oneonta to the state 3A title in 2004 and has coached his teams to 11 or more wins in 16 years as a head coach.
DuBose, 90-35, had head-coaching stops at Susan Moore, Prattville and Florence before taking over Central in 2014. The Red Devils are 19-6 in two seasons. DuBose served as offensive coordinator at Prattville’s 6A state championship teams in 2006 and 2007 and served as head coach for the title runs in 2008 and 2011. The Lions were runner-up in 2009.
Andalusia (11-2) and Brooks (11-2) both reached the Class 4A quarterfinals last season. Andalusia’s storied past includes 58 regular-season wins from 1973-68 with non-losing streak of 35 games, including the playoffs, during that stretch. The streak included a 7-7 tie with Athens in the 1976 Class 3A state finals with Athens.
Coach Trent Taylor moved back to his alma mater in 2015 from Straughn where he had coached for 25 seasons and compiled a 175-107 record. Taylor is 194-123, including a head-coaching stop at Kinston in 1988 and 1989. Taylor’s teams have won 76 games in the last nine seasons.
Brooks, coached by Brad Black, averaged 34.8 points per game en route to a 7-0 region record in 2015 and the Region 8 title. The Lions have gone 41-17 this decade and won nine or more games nine times since 2000.
In last year’s Champions Challenge, Madison Academy beat Leeds 19-14, Gordo downed Glencoe 28-21 and Bob Jones defeated Carver-Montgomery 37-33.
The 2016 Champions Challenge schedule at Cramton Bowl:
Thursday, August 18 – 7 p.m.: Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa (8-4) vs. Demopolis (11-2)
Friday, August 19 – 7 p.m.: Hoover (10-3) vs. Central-Phenix City (9-4)
Saturday, August 20 – 7 p.m.: Andalusia (11-2) vs. Brooks (11-2)