How they’ll finish the season

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 18, 2004

The high school football season gets underway tomorrow night when the first county teams go helmet-to-helmet in preseason jamborees.

Local teams kickoff the regular season next week with the Shelby County opener – the Chelsea-Vincent game – scheduled for Thursday night.

What better way to mark the start of the season than to take a look at how it might end?

Calera Eagles: Calera is coming off an impressive eight-win season and returns some talented skill players. There are some question marks about the team’s youth and some new faces on the schedule. Predicted finish: 6-4.

Vincent Yellow Jackets: Vincent isn’t blessed with deep roster and while they have some playmakers, they’ll have to go both ways. The schedule is brutal – all three of the Yellow Jackets’ none-region games are against county rivals in higher classifications. Predicted finish: 3-7.

Chelsea Hornets: Watt Parker brought instant success to Chelsea when he took over two years ago. The Hornets are still swarming about a playoff run that ended inside the ten-yard line. They should get another shot this season. Predicted finish: 8-2.

Montevallo Bulldogs: Coach Jim King has instilled hard work and discipline at Montevallo, where the Bulldogs face the challenge of a small roster and tough schedule. A big offensive line shouldn’t have any problems opening holes for 1,000-yard rusher A.J. Ward. Predicted finish: 4-6.

Briarwood Lions: Briarwood graduated a couple of the best football players the county has seen in recent years in Simeon Castille and Joe Craddock, but shouldn’t have any trouble reloading. No surprises here, the defending state champs will still be the team to beat in Class 5A. Predicted finish: 9-1.

Shelby County Wildcats: The Wildcats move up to 5A after an impressive run in 4A last season. Coach Walters, who left the Wildcats after last season, will have to face his old players when he brings his Sylacauga team to Columbiana in October. The season just might be judged on the outcome of that game alone. Predicted finish: 5-5.

Oak Mountain Eagles: A new head coach and a new look will put a little fresh air under the Eagles’ wings. Jerry Hood will keep the defense he ran last year pretty much the same, but he’s got some tricks up his sleeve for the offense. Predicted finish: 6-4.

Pelham Panthers: Wide receiver Montez Billings is easily one of the top players in the state. If quarterback Chase Armstrong can just get him the ball – he’s already proved he can run with it – the Panthers won’t have any trouble lighting up the scoreboard. Predicted finish: 6-4.

Spain Park Jaguars: After opening just a few years ago, Spain Park is finally going full throttle as a school and a football program. With a slew of senior prospects and one of the top junior talents in the state in quarterback Neil Caudle, the season looks bright. Predicted finish: 8-2.

Thompson Warriors: Thompson not only makes the jump from 5A to 6A, but they also get thrust into the state’s toughest region. Teams like Hoover, Vestavia and Mountain Brook could blemish the Warriors record even if they have a good year. Predicted finish: 4-6.

Coosa Valley Rebels: With a new coach and some young talent, expectations aren’t near as high as they were last season, when CVA was hyped to compete for the state crown. Last year’s 5-5 record was tough to swallow, but a similar mark this season won’t be considered a bad year. Predicted finish: 6-4.

Cornerstone Chargers: The Chargers won four straight games to close the regular season and slip into the playoffs last year. With speedy playmaker Jamal Prentice in the backfield a return trip could be just a handoff away. Predicted finish: 7-3.

Kingwood Lions: When the Lions win their first game this season it will be their first victory since 2001. The same eighth, ninth and 10th graders that took all those hard knocks are now upperclassmen. These cats are kittens no longer. Predicted finish: 5-5.

Shelby Raiders: Gone are the Elm brothers, who led Shelby to two straight state title game appearances. The Raiders have some fresh faces to plug the holes and fully expect to be back in contention for the crown. Predicted finish: 8-2.

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