Tough picking county’s ‘best’

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Picking the best of the best is always difficult work.

Especially when it comes to football in Shelby County.

When the staff at the Shelby County Reporter decided to pick a football Dream Team, we knew we were faced with a substantial challenge.

The questions were raised: What format would we use? How would we select the players? What criteria would be applied?

Our goal was to select a football team featuring the very best players in Shelby County’s public and private schools.

No small task considering the hundreds of players at Oak Mountain, Pelham, Briarwood Christian, Thompson, Chelsea, Shelby County, Montevallo, Calera, Vincent, Coosa Valley Academy, Cornerstone Christian, Kingwood Christian and Shelby Academy.

We sought out the top players at each position, 11 on offense, 11 on defense, a punter and a kicker.

Our format was somewhat different than the Shelby County Coaches Association all-county team (published in the Jan. 28 edition of the Reporter), but we immediately recognized coaches’ input as a valuable resource in our selection process.

Coaches’ recommendations, personal evaluation, athletic talent, mastery of football skills and statistics were all used to break down the candidates at each position.

In the end, we were left with our Shelby County Reporter Dream Team.

This year’s Dream Team features at least nine players who will play college football on athletic scholarships.

Thompson High School had four players ink their names to scholarships on signing day, as did Briarwood Christian.

Auburn and Alabama fans both had reason to celebrate last Wednesday as the county’s two biggest recruits, Thompson’s Tony Bell and Briarwood’s Simeon Castille, signed respectively with the Tigers and the Crimson Tide.

Castille and Bell were ranked among the best recruits in the nation by several recruiting services. You will find both on the Dream Team defense.

Briarwood Christian topped all Shelby County schools with six different players selected to the team.

The Lions had at least 11 players who had a legitimate claim to consideration for Dream Team selection, a testament to a remarkable season that brought the Class 5A state championship home to Shelby County.

Many of the selections literally came down to presstime decisions and inevitably, some very deserving players would be left out. There simply wasn’t enough room to honor each athlete who excelled on the football field this past season, nor was there adequate space to recognize the hard work of the many other players whose contributions to their teams seldom garner any limelight.

Many players, like Shelby County linebacker Marc Lemley, were right on the cusp of selection but were edged out at their position by others.

Lemley was one of my favorite players to watch this season and as his several nominations testify, also impressed Shelby County coaches.

The junior went all out on every down and played much bigger than his five-foot-seven-inch, 165-pound frame.

Although he was not selected as a Dream Team linebacker this season, Lemley will be among the front-runners for next year’s squad as will others across the county.

Ashley Vansant is the sports editor of the Shelby County Reporter. He can be reached at