2003 season finally arrives

As county teams get ready to get the 2003 football season kicked off Thursday night, this is the first season in recent memory in which many teams have a shot at region titles, if not state championships.

Without further ado, let’s get to those games right now.

The Vincent Yellow Jackets play host to the Chelsea Hornets Thursday night to officially begin the 2003 season in Shelby County. Watt Parker led Chelsea to a dream season and an appearance in the second round of the playoffs a year ago. Chelsea could be down a little this season due to graduation and Vincent looks to improve on last year’s 2-8 record. VHS missed the playoffs for the first time in eight years last season and want to return to the promise land of high school football.

Class 4A Chelsea may be a little too much for the Jackets this time. CHS 28, VHS 20.

Thompson High School looks to make a serious run at a region and state title this year behind highly-touted Tony Bell and other solid players such as Eric Bogan. Pelham, on the other hand, looks to Chase Armstrong to fill the shoes of departed Chris Vines at quarterback. Firepower in the form of Montez Billings and a solid offensive line returns for the Panthers, however.

PHS had a down-year last season at 4-6, and while home field advantage may come into play, the Warriors are just a little too strong. THS 20, Pelham 10.

Briarwood, ranked No. 2 in Class 5A in preseason polls, will have to prove its merit early with a trip to 6A Vestavia Hills Friday night. BCS head coach Fred Yancey graduated 27 seniors from last year’s semi-final team, including Crimson Tider Tim Castille. Joe Craddock, one of the best play callers in the state, returns to take the snaps while the younger Castille (and maybe the better Castille) will lead the defense.

Let’s give the Lions the benefit of the doubt. BCS 21, VHS 20.

Oak Mountain High School needs to do one thing this year to make the playoffs &045; avoid injuries. Easier said than done. OMHS finished 1-6 in region play last season and 5-5 overall. The Eagles could have easily been 8-2 during the regular season and made it to the playoffs and caused a stir in Class 6A. Barring injuries, they will this year. Against an 0-10 Class 5A Fairfield team in 2002, the Eagles should have little trouble. OMHS 31, Fairfield 7.

Shelby County looks to defend its Region 5, Class 4A title from a year ago when it opens the season against a tough 3A Tarrant at home Friday night. Tarrant lost to eventual 3A state champion T.R. Miller in the playoffs a year ago. The Wildcats took an early blow when quarterback Bo Walters went down to an ACL injury in the preseason. Walters has faith in his two quarterbacks which will likely see equal playing time in 2003. Standout wide receiver and defensive back Rico Crumpton will go a long way in getting the Wildcats a second region title in a row, and a win over Tarrant Friday night. SCHS 21, THS 17.

Jim King takes over the reigns at Montevallo High School, which will field a mere 34 players in 2003. Tough practices and discipline ran the others off before the season ever started. The discipline and hard work will help the Bulldogs, however, get out of an under-achieving slump. MHS may slip up on a few folks this year and could slide into the playoffs under the radar (perhaps before I just put a bulls-eye on their collective backs). MHS travels to Leeds Friday night to open the 2003 campaign. Leeds finished as the third qualifier in Region 3 of Class 3A last season. A strong defense will pull the Bulldogs through. MHS 14, LHS 10.

Calera looks to make the playoffs in back-to-back season for the first time since the 1980s. Head coach Ken Adams, in his eighth year as the Eagles head coach, will take his team to Verbena Friday night to begin that quest. The Eagles defeated Verbena handily 42-6 a year ago. Verbena is under the direction of a new head coach, Mike Harris, who came from 5A Chilton County. He didn’t have a lot of success at CCHS the last few years, and he may not at Verbena the first few years.

Look for the Eagles, if not over-confident, to win easily. CHS 35, VHS 6.

Coosa Valley Academy has high hopes in 2003 and will shoot it out for the area crown with Central of Selma and Shelby Academy. The Rebels face a tough test on the road early at Springwood, an unpredictable team. Head coach Jim Stomps was not pleased with his team’s offensive performance in a jamboree last Friday night. Stomps, however, will have his troops ready. CVA 21, SA 7.

Shelby Academy lost to eventual Class 1A state champion Jackson Academy in the semi-finals a year ago. While a lot of that team’s talent returns in 2003, including Ryan and Andrew Elm, some of the talent is gone. Michael Childress will be missed, but the Raiders have a lot of talent in the backfield and on the defensive side of the ball. Evangel, which makes the trip to SA Friday night for the season-opener, has never really been that strong. SA 28, Evangel 0.

Cornerstone missed the playoffs by a chin hair last season. This year, they will fight to be the fourth qualifier in a tough region of 1A &045; a region which includes Shelby, CVA and Central.

Chambers, which will come to town Friday night, is a big, tough team, and if head coach Tim Smith wants to make it to the playoffs in 2003, a win against Chambers will go a long way in terms of confidence. Out on a limb, we’ll go with the Chargers. CCS 16, Chambers 14.

Lee Scott comes to Alabaster to play Kingwood Christian Friday night. The Lions of Kingwood went 0-10 last season and this year may not be much better. While we think the Lions might win a game in 2003, it won’t be Friday night. Lee-Scott 38, Kingwood 0