Way-too-early football predictions, part 3

Published 12:22 pm Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Zac Oden, Montevallo's rising junior quarterback, will play a key role in Montevallo's 2015 season. (File)

Zac Oden, Montevallo’s rising junior quarterback, will play a key role in Montevallo’s 2015 season. (File)

By BAKER ELLIS / Sports Editor

Here we go again. Part three of our way-too-early football predictions focuses on the Montevallo Bulldogs.

The Bulldogs are coming off a somewhat bizarre 2014 campaign. Montevallo started off hot, amassing an early 4-2 record. The first three games the Bulldogs won, they won in convincing and thrilling fashion, drumming Francis Marion and Oak Grove by a combined 33 points before beating Holt in a good old-fashioned shootout, 51-48. However, due to an eligibility issue which Montevallo self-reported to the AHSAA, the school was forced to forfeit the three early season wins.

It was one of the oddest events of the 2014 football season across the state, as Montevallo had gone to the AHSAA before the start of the season to make sure the player in question was cleared to play, and he was cleared through the AHSAA’s eligibility database. Later, in September, Montevallo discovered that the student’s status had unknowingly changed, and immediately withdrew the athlete from competition.

When the dust settled, the Bulldogs were penalized, forced to forfeit the three contests the player in question participated in, for a rules violation no one knew had taken place. Once the ruling came down, Montevallo didn’t win another game in 2014, and the history books will reflect an unseemly 1-9 final record for the 2014 Bulldogs.

Now, the fourth-smallest school in class 4A will try to put that unfortunate, strange season behind them, and focus on the task at hand.

The 2015 Bulldogs will face the same basic challenge they faced last season, namely, significantly less names on their roster than most every school they face. At the beginning of the 2014 season, the Bulldogs had one more player listed on their roster than did Hope Christian, the 8-man ACSC team in Pelham. Therefore, health will be at a premium for Montevallo, as depth is not a luxury fourth-year head coach and former University of Alabama great Andrew Zow has in spades, which will result in a number of kids playing both ways.

Rising junior Zac Oden, who has been under center since his freshman season, will once again orchestrate the offense. Oden is a two-sport stud who can make just about any throw on the field, and if his offensive line can keep him upright, should be able to get the ball out to young playmakers Ahmad Edwards and Daqwan Bryant. Edwards and Bryant are a pair of sophomore wide outs who played significant minutes for Montevallo last year due to a lack of depth. Both are a year older, stronger and wiser, and can flat out move. They’ll need to step into a larger leadership role to help this offense do the same.

The Bulldogs are also fortunate to have Undreaz Lilly back again. Lilly, roughly the size of a small barn, will pull double duty again as the No. 1 running back and middle linebacker. A grind-it-out, downhill runner, Lilly is extremely tough to bring down in the open field, and has enough quickness to wreak havoc in the opposing team’s backfield, or drop into coverage if need be.

Montevallo’s region, Region 4 of Class 4A was not particularly strong last season, with West Blocton winning the region in undefeated fashion before getting thumped in the second round of the playoffs. No other team in the region won a playoff game. With a region not particularly strong, Montevallo, a team not known for getting a ton of breaks, could conceivably make a run. The problem will be health. In the best-case scenario of 2015, everyone stays healthy (by no means a guarantee), the young receivers step up to help Oden and Lilly shoulder the offensive load, and the offensive and defensive lines hold their own in the trenches.

Way-too-early prediction: Montevallo has pieces, but not enough of them to compete for a 10-game season. They will be competitive in a number of games they play, but will get worn down in the fourth quarter of games, as they don’t have enough athletes to stay with teams for complete games. The Bulldogs go 4-6, drop a few heartbreakers late, and continue their playoff drought for another season.