Friday, October 7, 2011

The times, they are a changing!

It has been a couple of years since I have written a blog with comments, analysis, opinions of local high school athletics and I know you have missed my thoughts and analysis (eyes are rolling). A few folks have asked me about it over the last 20 months so I thought I would write a little ditty and tell you what I think. I don’t intend to write a weekly blog like a few years back, but thought I would put down a few thoughts since we a now over half way thru the 2011 High School football season (where does the time go?). I’ll categorize my analysis in 3 categories: 1) Cream – Programs on top and should be there for a while, 2) Rising – Programs heading in the right direction, and 3) Falling – Programs at or headed to the bottom. These are just my opinion and insight and as per my usual policy, I will not criticize any player by name or number.

The Cream:

Bob Jones – Personally, I think this program should have been contending for blue maps the previous 2 season and this year; they’re as good as anybody. I have seen them play a few times and defense is their strength and it is a good one. Offensively, they do enough to win and if not careful, can do enough to lose (Florence game a good example). If BJ plays with confidence and that includes playing tough at Hoover in week 10, this team can be in the finals. Weeks 9 and 10 are the key. BJ never plays well against Decatur and follows that with a trip to Hoover. Win both, and they can, the sky’s the limit!

Madison Academy – Going into the season, word was this may be the best team they have had in a while. That is saying something with the record they have produced over the last few years. Loses in the first 2 games had folks scratching their heads. Losing to North Jackson was not necessarily a surprise (you need to win some of these type games if you want to play in the show though) but losing to Sardis was. Unless Sardis loses twice, MA will finish 2nd in the region. Most folks didn’t respect this region last year but a good showing in round 1 of last year’s playoffs left many, including me, wondering if this region was pretty good after all. Like Bob Jones, MA has not proven it is ready for the big time and don’t know if they’re capable this year but they are playing really well now. Expect them to win out including week 10, against a very inconsistent 4A West Limestone. It wouldn’t surprise me if they made it to round 2 of playoffs.

Westminster – With one of the best coaches, if not the best, in north Alabama, not surprised to see Westminster winning this year. After what Hooks did last year (10-2) and making it to playoffs for first time in school history (6 years) and making it to the 2nd round, was phenomenal. Taking it on the chin last week from Fultondale and week 1 from Tanner was expected. If they can win week 9 at Sumiton Christian, they should lock up at least 3rd in 2A, region 7. I have not watched them this year but don’t need to, to know they’re well coached!

Hartselle – I saw Hartselle early in the year against Athens and even though they lost a few playmakers from last year, I could tell they have the makings for a very good, basic football team. They play defense while their offense is productive but not flashy. Their kicking game (including punting, point kicking, and kickoffs) is about as good as you will see at the high school level. They have a tough road game against Cullman in week 9 and play a sound 6A Austin in week 10 but this team has the making to be very special. It would be fun to watch Hartselle match up against the QB “Phenom” from Hueytown in the playoffs.

Other teams that I consider cream: Tanner, Muscle Shoals, North Jackson, Deshler, Lauderdale County, Austin, Florence, and Guntersville.


Hazel Green – When you think about how far HG has come in 2 years since Matt Putnam arrived, you can’t deny they’re a program on the rise. Going 3-7 last year and now standing at 4-2 this year, with quality wins against Huntsville, this is certainly a program heading in a good direction. Losing last week to an average Buckhorn team kept HG off the “cream” list but seeing the excitement and the numbers turning out now to play football at HG are positive signs. Remaining games against Decatur and Florence may keep them out of the playoffs this year, but considering where they have been over last few years, certainly on the rise.

Huntsville – Although I haven’t seen them play as of yet (I will before the year is over), looks like Scott Sharp has his program heading in the right direction. An impressive win over Florence in week 4 has the Panthers on the door of another playoff appearance and they will be favored in all their remaining games and could finish regular season at 7-3. The lost to HG is a head scratcher but it does look like the Panthers are a program on the rise.

Albertville – Coach Poole is in his 3rd year as coach of the Aggies and has them at 4-2. They could easily be undefeated having blown 2 leads late in the games, to Etowah and Hazel Green. If they can win 2 out of the remaining 4, they will have exceeded their recent history win totals for a season and could grab the 2 seed out of 5A region 7 and home field for the first round of the playoffs. Future looks bright for Albertville!

Other rising teams: New Hope (barely) , Johnson, and East Limestone.


Russellville – Can you guess how long it’s been since Russellville has lost more than 3 regular season games? Try 1998! Russellville currently is at 2-4 with Muscle Shoals this week and Florence in week 10. Assuming they beat Lee and Columbia, they will most likely finish at 4-6. They could get the 4th seed from 5A region 8 but this is a team that finished 11-2 and lost in the 3rd round just last year. It will be interesting to see how patient the fans will be with first year head coach Jackson (formally Buckhorn head coach) after this season.

Athens – Hard to say Athens is falling when you look at the last several years. Athens generally has 4 or more loses a year. Sitting now at 2-4 with games coming in week 9 and 10 against East Limestone and Decatur, this team most likely will finish 5-5. Last year they were 6-6. Difference this year though is one of Russellville’s 2 wins this year came against Athens. This program, fans, and facilities (taxpayers didn’t pay for their jumbotron), should expect a better product year in and year out. Coach Creasy can get it done as he has proven it with his state championship in 2006 but remember, even that year, they finished 3rd in the region behind Russellville and Hartselle. Perhaps instead of listing Athens as falling, maybe we should just say they are just maintaining.

Sparkman – Since the magical season of 2006 when Sparkman had their first 10 win season, the wheels have just fell off this program. From 2007 thru now, Sparkman has not won more than 3 games in one season. In 2011 they are 0-6 with Huntsville, Bob Jones, Buckhorn, and Minor left to play. See a win or two in that schedule? I have wondered for years wondering how a school that big and play in an average region, could not win football games.

Grissom – And then there was Grissom! 2002 was the last year Grissom had a winning season going 8-3 and losing in the first round to Clay-Chalkville. Most folks know about the situation this team was in at the start of the season. It has been, and was expected to be, a long season due to the disruption. That being the case, I have to state the obvious just like above with Sparkman. It is not a brutal region, why can’t a school this size get enough quality players/coaches to produce respectable football? Having been around this program the last several weeks I can tell you it will take a new attitude across the board. Coaches/Players/Parents will have to ditch this “you can’t play winning football at Grissom” attitude. It does not matter how successful you feeder middle schools or pop warner league teams are until if a winning attitude does not take over.

Other falling teams: Butler, Brewer, and DAR

Remaining games that should be interesting and the week played: Bob Jones at Hoover (10) , Hartselle at Cullman (9), Albertville at Guntersville (10), Muscle Shoals at Russellville (7), Hanceville at Hamiliton (9), Austin at Hartselle (10), Northridge at Hillcrest (9), Westminster at Sumiton Christian (9), Deshler at Muscle Shoals (10), and Hoover at Mountain Brook (9). MA at West Limestone (10)

Changing gears and talking about my favorite subject! You want a good food challenge? Try finding a bad bowl of she-crab soup in Charleston SC. You probably won’t. At least I couldn’t and I tried, ask Ms. Daisy. Since it has be a few years since I have blogged, the turnip greens at Top of the River are still good as ever, and I Love Sushi will fling some mighty fine sushi rolls at you if you visit. If you do go to ILS, sit in Jennifer’s section and tell her I sent you. She will take care of you. Leave her a big tip, don’t scrimp on this like some people I know (clearing throat while looking south).

Basketball is just around the corner. Be interesting to see what the area looks like after losing some great players from several schools last year but there are still a bunch a quality players in our area. I’ll give you my take on who and where next time.

Okay, enough for now. I may write a few things at end of season and during basketball season.

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