Way-too-early football predictions; Part 9

Published 1:52 pm Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Spain Park defense will have to be better this season to give the Jaguars an opportunity to be competitive in a tough Region 3. (File)

The Spain Park defense will have to be better this season to give the Jaguars an opportunity to be competitive in a tough Region 3. (File)

By BAKER ELLIS / Sports Editor

Turning to the northern part of the county, part nine of the prediction machine turns to the Spain Park Jaguars.

Spain Park came into the 2014 season ranked in the top-five in the state in class 7A, and rose to No. 3 after week three. The Jaguars then proceeded to lose three straight games, drop out of the top 10 and miss the playoffs. It is important to understand that preseason rankings are arbitrary and, especially at the high school level, can be a complete stab in the dark, so saying the Jaguars underachieved in 2014 based solely on their preseason ranking fails to look at the full picture. Spain Park lost two games by a touchdown or less, including a backbreaking, 64-63 quadruple overtime loss to Hewitt-Trussville at home in the fifth week of the season. Head coach Shawn Raney and company caught a few bad bounces last season, and getting back to the playoffs is of the utmost importance in 2015.

At first glance, there is one glaring issue the Jaguars need to fix. Raney, a defensive-minded coach who has spent his entire career, playing and coaching, on the defensive side of the ball, saw his defense give up 238 points last year, or a shade under 24 points per game. The 64 points Hewitt-Trussville posted skews that number, but the reality remains, the Jaguars gave up too many points last season. On top of this problem, the defensive backfield has been depleted, with Michael Jackson now at the University of Miami and AJ Smiley not there to crack skulls anymore.

All of this being said, this squad has talent, and Raney is a proven winner. Let’s take a quick look at one of the potential statewide sleepers for 2015.

This Jaguars offense is going to rely heavily on Wade Streeter and Larry Wooden, no surprise here. Streeter returns for his senior season after having rushed for over 1,000 last year and is as explosive as they come. His counterpart, Larry Wooden, is a slightly taller, slightly slimmer back who will be a complement to Streeter’s style of play. Their presence will help alleviate some of the pressure on either Joey Beatty or Hunter Howell, the two quarterback prospects vying to take the job left open when Mason Duke graduated.

Perry Young, who has drawn ample attention from Division I programs, according to Raney, will be the man charged with leading the unit. Young is a bona fide freak athlete, who is listed as a safety by recruiting websites but will line up as the weakside linebacker for the Jaguars again. Young hits with roughly the same force as an anvil dropped from three stories onto the sidewalk, and one of his favorite methods of tackling is picking the ball carrier off the ground, throwing them over his shoulder and slamming them on their backs, suplex-style. He will be everywhere on defense this season.

Way-too-early prediction: Hoover and Oak Mountain have cemented themselves at the top of Region 3 until proven otherwise. While Spain Park is not experienced in key areas, particularly at receiver and in the secondary, it has kids in those roles who have been in the program for years, and understand what is required of them and how to play. The Jaguars will get back to the playoffs in 2015, and will win seven regular season games. In the playoffs, they just might have everything figured out to make a run.