County has 8 teams in preseason football poll

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor

It’s officially here. Every year, after a summer of workouts, scrimmages and 7-on-7s, the ASWA preseason high school football poll comes out to signal that the first fall Friday night under the lights is just a couple of weeks away.

With fall practice officially under way, the AISA/ACSC teams kicking off on Friday, Aug. 17, and the AHSAA teams kicking off on Friday, Aug. 24, we’re down to our last Friday night without high school football.

If the excitement for the season wasn’t enough for fans of the 16 teams in Shelby County, having half of those teams found in the preseason rankings, released on Sunday, Aug. 5, should be enough to have the anticipation boiling over.

Five of those teams weren’t ranked in the top 10 of their respective classifications poll, but Briarwood, Thompson and Spain Park each got high praise to start the 2018 football season.

The Lions, who spent from week 3 to the state championship game ranked No. 1 in Class 5A last season, are right back in a familiar spot. Despite losing the state championship in the final two minutes to St. Paul’s last year, Briarwood will start the new season right back at No. 1.

BCS will be losing a lot of talent this year on both sides of the ball, but they’ll also have a competitive team back with some of the best athletes in the 5A classification.

Head coach Fred Yancey is a guy that isn’t scared when new faces step into starting roles, because he knows his coaching staff and the players have done what it takes to prepare each one of them. He almost sounds more confident heading into this year than he did last year.

Briarwood’s toughest two tests will be against No. 7 Wenonah, Sept. 21, and at Ramsay, Oct. 19. If the Lions win those two games, they should win their third straight region title.

For the Thompson Warriors, it’s a similar story. The Warriors fell in the semifinals to eventual state champion Hoover after spending much of the 2018 season ranked No. 2 in the 7A classification.

This year, Thompson will start in that same spot. After receiving a total of 258 points, including three first place votes, the Warriors were 100 points exactly behind the Buccaneers and 17 points ahead of Central-Phenix City, last year’s runner up.

It’s high praise for a team that was 0-10 four years ago and loses four of its best defensive players. That being said, they return arguably the best offense in the state, including quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa, running back Shadrick Byrd and the best offensive line head coach Mark Freeman has had since getting to the school.

If a couple of receivers step up, and the defense comes together, this team will be a legitimate threat to win a state championship in 2018, despite competing in a region that features a total of four ranked teams. Win a week-3 matchup against No. 1 Hoover, and the Warriors should over take the No. 1 spot for the first time in school history.

Behind Hoover, Hewitt-Trussville and Thompson, the Spain Park Jaguars are the fourth and final team ranked in Class 7A, Region 3 to start the 2018 season.

Spain Park had an up-and-down season a year ago that was derailed by a 27-24 loss to Hoover in the final minute and a 51-50 triple overtime loss to Mountain Brook in back-to-back weeks. Win those two games, and the Jags’ season could have had a much different outcome.

Heading into the new year, head coach Shawn Raney sounds more confident than he did last season, specifically on the defensive side of the ball. There will be some new faces on both sides of the ball, but if the Jags have a good defense, they’ll be a real contender.

Behind those three that found a spot in their respective top 10, Calera, Pelham, Vincent, Cornerstone and Coosa Valley all received votes for a spot as well.

Calera and Pelham will compete in different 6A regions, but have enough talent to have special seasons.

The Eagles are making a huge leap from Class 5A into the most difficult 6A region, but have the talent to compete for a playoff spot and a championship.

The Panthers have one of their best senior classes in years, and are a favorite along with 10th-ranked Homewood to win the Class 6A, Region 5 championship.

In Class 2A, the Vincent Yellow Jackets lose head coach Wiley McKeller, but return pretty much their entire team other than wide receiver Zavien Kelley.

With that cast of players back, receiving votes for a spot in the top 10 wasn’t far-fetched. They’ll have a chance to compete for the region crown with LaFayette this year thanks to the departure of Lanett from the region. All Vincent’s players have to do is believe in themselves.

In the AISA, Cornerstone and Coosa Valley aren’t coming off particularly impressive seasons, but they’re doing positive things and also received votes.

The Chargers, and head coach James Lee, sound extremely confident heading into the season. A reason for that is the fact that they’ll move down from AA to A and return an impressive cast of athletes.

Coosa Valley is coming off a 3-8 season, but with new head coach Jamie Scruggs having an impressive resume, he’s already built this team into a team that can compete for a title. If freshman quarterback Brayson Edwards can grow quickly with the weapons around him, the Rebels will be a team that can make a lot of noise.

The full rankings are listed below:

CLASS 7A

Team (first-place); 2017 W-L; Pts

  1. Hoover (27); 11-3; 358
  2. Thompson (3); 12-1; 258
  3. Central-Phenix City (1); 11-1; 241
  4. McGill-Toolen; 13-1; 219
  5. Hewitt-Trussville; 11-1; 214
  6. Bob Jones; 7-4; 124
  7. Auburn; 10-2; 123
  8. Spain Park; 6-5; 60
  9. Austin*; 12-1; 57
  10. James Clemens; 3-7; 53

     Others receiving votes: Lee-Montgomery (7-4) 27, Jeff Davis (5-6) 17, Sparkman (7-4) 6, Enterprise (2-8) 4, Fairhope (8-3) 2, Gadsden City (3-7) 2, Mountain Brook (8-4) 1, Theodore (6-5) 1.

     *–Austin played in 6A last season.

CLASS 6A

Team (first-place); 2017 W-L; Pts

  1. Pinson Valley (31); 15-0; 372
  2. Wetumpka; 13-2; 246
  3. Spanish Fort; 11-2; 224
  4. Oxford; 12-1; 173
  5. Clay-Chalkville; 11-3; 172
  6. Opelika; 9-4; 104
  7. Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa; 10-4; 94
  8. Saraland; 8-4; 71
  9. Eufaula*; 9-3; 49
  10. Homewood; 10-2; 48

     Others receiving votes: Muscle Shoals (9-3) 46, St. Paul’s* (14-1) 46, Hueytown (5-6) 36, Daphne (8-3) 27, Park Crossing (10-2) 18, Calera* (7-5) 17, Jackson-Olin (6-4) 17, Pelham (5-6) 6, Benjamin Russell (7-4) 1.

     *–Eufaula, St. Paul’s and Calera played in 5A last season.

CLASS 5A

Team (first-place); 2017 W-L; Pts

  1. Briarwood (31); 14-1; 372
  2. Etowah; 11-2; 256
  3. Vigor; 9-4; 231
  4. Carroll-Ozark; 11-1; 158
  5. Demopolis; 11-3; 154
  6. St. Clair Co.; 10-4; 152
  7. Wenonah; 10-2; 138
  8. Tallassee*; 10-2; 91
  9. Jackson; 5-5; 48
  10. Beauregard; 10-2; 41

     Others receiving votes: Dora* (9-3) 39, Alexandria (8-3) 26, Madison Academy* (7-4) 26, Ramsay* (7-5) 16, Charles Henderson (6-5) 10, Munford* (9-2) 5, Bibb Co.* (11-2) 2, Central-Clay Co. (8-4) 2.

     *–Ramsay played in 6A last season. Tallassee, Dora, Madison Academy, Munford and Bibb Co. played in 4A.

CLASS 4A

Team (first-place); 2017 W-L; Pts

  1. UMS-Wright (30); 13-2; 369
  2. Hillcrest-Evergreen* (1); 14-1; 246
  3. Fayette Co.; 12-3; 234
  4. Andalusia; 12-2; 197
  5. Hokes Bluff; 10-3; 155
  6. Catholic-Montgomery; 10-2; 125
  7. Brooks*; 8-3; 107
  8. W.S. Neal; 6-6; 91
  9. Clarke Co.*; 11-3; 61
  10. Dale Co.; 7-4; 56

     Others receiving votes: Leeds (7-4) 52, Deshler (7-4) 36, Alabama Christian (10-3) 13, North Jackson (2-8) 13, West Morgan* (10-2) 6, Williamson* (7-4) 3, Jacksonville (8-4) 2, Handley (2-8) 1.

     *–Brooks and Williamson played in 5A last season. Hillcrest-Evergreen, Clarke Co. and West Morgan played in 3A.

CLASS 3A

Team (first-place); 2017 W-L; Pts

  1. Randolph Co. (15); 13-2; 295
  2. Mobile Christian (10); 9-4; 289
  3. Gordo (2); 10-2; 214
  4. Fultondale (3); 11-1; 194
  5. Piedmont; 12-2; 171
  6. Saks* (1); 13-1; 155
  7. Thomasville*; 7-4; 134
  8. Pike Co.; 8-3; 87
  9. Wicksburg; 10-2; 57
  10. St. James*; 8-4; 52

     Others receiving votes: Oakman (8-4) 51, Sylvania (11-2) 21, T.R. Miller (5-5) 20, Lauderdale Co. (6-5) 8, Westminster-Huntsville* (6-5) 8, Weaver (7-5) 7, Prattville Christian (3-8) 3, Plainview (9-2) 1.

     *–Saks, Thomasville, St. James and Westminster-Huntsville played in 4A last season.

CLASS 2A

Team (first-place); 2017 W-L; Pts

  1. Leroy (18); 12-3; 333
  2. Fyffe (13); 12-1; 313
  3. Luverne; 10-3; 220
  4. Ariton; 10-2; 148
  5. LaFayette; 9-3; 126
  6. Reeltown; 7-5; 125
  7. Ohatchee*; 8-3; 119
  8. Goshen; 12-2; 118
  9. Sulligent; 12-2; 60
  10. Aliceville; 7-5; 48

     Others receiving votes: Thorsby (8-3) 33, Abbeville (9-3) 26, Addison* (10-3) 23, North Sand Mountain* (8-3) 21, Cedar Bluff* (8-4) 18, Daleville* (6-5) 11, Vincent (5-5) 10, New Brockton (5-6) 6, Collinsville (4-6) 4, Houston Co.* (8-3) 4, J.U. Blacksher (6-5) 1.

     *–Ohatchee, North Sand Mountain and Daleville played in 3A last season. Addison, Cedar Bluff and Houston Co. played in 1A.

CLASS 1A

Team (first-place); 2017 W-L; Pts

  1. Lanett* (30); 15-0; 369
  2. Sweet Water (1); 13-1; 260

3 (tie). Pickens Co.; 12-3; 199

3 (tie). St. Luke’s*; 10-2; 199

  1. Linden; 7-4; 140
  2. Maplesville; 11-1; 135
  3. Brantley; 8-4; 118
  4. South Lamar; 10-4; 95
  5. Elba*; 8-3; 75
  6. Marengo; 9-4; 47

     Others receiving votes: Millry (5-6) 24, Falkville* (7-4) 18, Hackleburg (10-2) 16, Lynn (11-1) 16, Mars Hill Bible* (7-4) 15, Isabella (10-2) 12, Spring Garden (8-4) 11, Georgiana (11-1) 8, Decatur Heritage (8-3) 4, Florala (3-6) 4, Wadley (12-1) 2.

     *–Lanett, St. Luke’s, Elba, Falkville and Mars Hill Bible played in 2A last season.

AISA

Team (first-place); 2017 W-L; Pts

  1. Autauga Academy (28); 12-1; 362
  2. Tuscaloosa Academy (2); 8-2; 281
  3. Escambia Academy; 12-1; 244
  4. Monroe Academy (1); 13-0; 213
  5. Bessemer Academy; 8-6; 184
  6. Glenwood; 7-5; 152
  7. Patrician; 9-4; 99
  8. Chambers Academy; 12-1; 96
  9. Pike Liberal Arts; 7-5; 82
  10. Lakeside; 7-4; 29

     Others receiving votes: Cornerstone-Columbiana (6-5) 10, Coosa Valley (3-8) 8, Pickens Academy (6-4) 4, Abbeville Christian (5-8) 2, Success Unlimited (new team) 1.