Thompson No. 1 in preseason poll, 5 others earn recognition

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor 

We’re inching closer to fall Friday nights under the lights, and the hype continued to grow with the release of the ASWA preseason rankings for each classification in the state on Sunday morning, Aug. 1.

There weren’t many surprises when the first poll was released with  five defending state champions ranked No. 1 in their respective classification, including the Thompson Warriors locally.

The Warriors have won two consecutive Class 7A state championships and will enter the season as heavy favorites to make it three in a row with the return of one of the most talented starting rosters in the country.

A nationally ranked team by multiple national polls, the Warriors enter the season on an 18-game win streak after going 14-0 last season and a perfect 4-0 in the playoffs the year before.

Thompson has also won 26 of its last 27 games and 35 of its last 37 dating back to 2018 with a combined record of 49-4 since 2017.

This season, they’ll return the Class 7A Back of the Year in Conner Harrell at quarterback after throwing for more than 3,400 yards and 40 touchdowns last year, as well as the Class 7A Lineman of the Year in Jeremiah Alexander, who is a top-15 recruit nationally.

They also get back nationally-ranked recruits Tony Mitchell, Peter Woods and Tre’Quon Fegans as well as state-ranked players like Ryan Peppins, Jaylen Ward and Jax Van Zandt.

The path to repeating, however, won’t be an easy task with region rival Hoover ranked second in the preseason poll and region foe Hewitt-Trussville fourth in the poll.

Another region and county opponent, Oak Mountain, was just outside the top 10 as the only other team to receive votes for a spot. Auburn, who Thompson miraculously beat in the state championship is third, while Central-Phenix City rounds out the 7A top five in fifth.

Thompson was one of two teams from the county to find a spot in their respective top 10 to start the season, while four others received votes in the preseason poll.

Joining the Warriors were the Briarwood Lions, who were ranked No. 5 in the 6A classification.

The Lions went 9-3 last year in their return to the classification, which marked a drastic improvement from their last stint in 6A.

Briarwood finished second in the region and won an opening-round playoff game before losing to Oxford 35-14 in the second round.

The Lions return quarterback Christopher Vizzina for the third year in a row as a starter as well as running back Luke Reebals for his second year as a starter.

Those two make the offense a dangerous threat entering the season, and if the defense is as good as usual despite replacing several key pieces, then they’ll compete for a championship this season.

In addition to Briarwood, the Helena Huskies and Pelham Panthers both received votes for a spot in the 6A top 10, just missing out on being ranked. After the points were added up, Helena is considered the 12th best team and Pelham the 16th best team.

The Huskies are coming off a 7-5 season that included a 2-4 start to the season following two forfeit losses and a 5-1 end to the season, which included a second-place finish in the region and a trip to the second round of the playoffs.

Helena will lose several key playmakers on both sides of the ball, especially in the backfield with the departure of both Marquis Johnson and Kobe Hughes.

The Huskies, however, will return Mac Turner at quarterback as well as several top defenders, including Joel Logan, Iceberk Cave and Joseph Roberto.

Pelham will have the majority of its team back, including quarterback Will Lankford, its top three receivers, several offensive linemen and top defenders.

As the defending region champs, the Panthers should be the favorite to repeat with the best team head coach Tom Causey has had in his tenure at Pelham.

The Panthers are also motivated following two losses by two points to end last season.

Oak Mountain was the 11th team in the Class 7A preseason standings and the only team to receive votes outside of top 10 teams.

The Eagles had their first 4-0 start in school history last season, got off to a 6-1 start, advanced to the second round of the playoffs and came within a yard of likely advancing to the semifinals in a 24-21 loss to Hoover.

They’ll enter this season under a new head coach in Tyler Crane, but the Eagles return Evan Smith at quarterback for his fourth-and-final year as the starter, while the defense should also be improved.

Montevallo was the final team recognized in the preseason poll, earning recognition in the Class 4A poll.

The Bulldogs earned votes after a special first season under Blake Boren last year thanks to six wins in a row following a 0-4 start. They then upset St. Paul’s in the first round of the playoffs before finishing the season 7-5.

That was with an inexperienced team that was forced to replace 95-percent of its production.

This year, the majority of the team is back, and the Bulldogs will be a team to keep an eye on.

See the rankings for each classification below:

CLASS 7A

Team (first-place); 2020 W-L; Pts

  1. Thompson (23); 14-0; 276
  2. Hoover; 11-2; 191
  3. Auburn; 11-2; 188
  4. Hewitt-Trussville; 9-3; 171
  5. Central-Phenix City; 8-5; 140
  6. Theodore; 10-2; 112
  7. Daphne; 10-2; 77
  8. Austin; 8-3; 58
  9. James Clemens; 8-3; 45
  10. Enterprise; 7-4; 36

Others receiving votes: Oak Mountain (7-5) 17.

CLASS 6A

Team (first-place); 2020 W-L; Pts

  1. Pinson Valley (21); 12-2; 268
  2. Spanish Fort; 11-4; 207
  3. Clay-Chalkville (2); 11-2; 192
  4. Opelika; 9-3; 140
  5. Briarwood; 9-3; 139
  6. Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa; 9-3; 102
  7. McGill-Toolen; 7-3; 91
  8. Mountain Brook; 11-2; 57
  9. Eufaula; 9-3; 41
  10. Oxford; 11-2; 23

Others receiving votes: Hartselle (7-4) 20, Helena (7-5) 10, Saraland (11-3) 9, Carver-Montgomery (7-4) 6, Homewood (7-5) 3, Pelham (8-3) 2, Fort Payne (7-4) 1.

CLASS 5A

Team (first-place); 2020 W-L; Pts

  1. St. Paul’s (23); 15-0; 276
  2. Faith-Mobile; 11-2; 182
  3. Pleasant Grove; 11-3; 161
  4. Pike Road; 11-1; 152
  5. Guntersville; 10-1; 133
  6. Central-Clay Co.; 11-2; 102
  7. Leeds; 9-3; 99
  8. UMS-Wright; 8-5; 82
  9. Alexandria; 11-2; 31
  10. Russellville; 10-3; 28

Others receiving votes: Andalusia (7-4) 25, Tallassee (3-7) 22, Center Point (7-4) 12, East Limestone (6-4) 4, Fairview (10-2) 1, Sylacauga (7-3) 1.

CLASS 4A

Team (first-place); 2020 W-L; Pts

  1. Gordo (16); 13-2; 246
  2. Handley (7); 12-1; 203
  3. Madison Aca.; 10-1; 196
  4. American Chr.; 13-1; 157
  5. Williamson; 7-4; 122
  6. Jacksonville; 7-4; 68
  7. West Limestone; 11-2; 66
  8. Mobile Chr.; 9-2; 60
  9. Vigor; 5-5; 58
  10. Etowah; 9-4; 48

Others receiving votes: Jackson (6-5) 18, St. James (7-4) 16, Anniston (4-7) 13, Montevallo (6-5) 13, Deshler (6-5) 11, Madison Co. (8-3) 7, Bibb Co. (10-3) 6, Brooks (6-5) 2, Good Hope (10-2) 1.

CLASS 3A

Team (first-place); 2020 W-L; Pts

  1. Fyffe (21); 15-0; 270
  2. Piedmont (2); 12-2; 206
  3. Catholic-Montgomery; 12-2; 177
  4. Hillcrest-Evergreen; 6-5; 121
  5. Montgomery Aca.; 13-1; 118
  6. Slocomb; 10-2; 81
  7. Plainview; 10-2; 80
  8. Ohatchee; 11-2; 68
  9. Flomaton; 8-3; 58
  10. Opp; 8-4; 55

Others receiving votes: Bayside Aca. (8-3) 28, Thomasville (10-2) 20, Reeltown (5-5) 12, Dadeville (6-4) 5, T.R. Miller (9-3) 5, Daleville (1-9) 3, Oakman (7-4) 2, Excel (2-8) 1, Southside-Selma (6-5) 1.

CLASS 2A

Team (first-place); 2020 W-L; Pts

  1. Mars Hill Bible (17); 13-2; 255
  2. Lanett (6); 10-3; 223
  3. Abbeville; 12-2; 169
  4. Clarke Co.; 8-3; 158
  5. North Sand Mountain; 11-2; 131
  6. Geneva Co.; 8-4; 105
  7. Spring Garden; 12-2; 74
  8. Elba; 6-4; 62
  9. Westbrook Chr.; 10-2; 53
  10. Falkville; 8-3; 43

Others receiving votes: Red Bay (9-2) 33, West End-Walnut Grove (4-6) 3, B.B. Comer (9-2) 1, J.U. Blacksher (3-7) 1.

CLASS 1A

Team (first-place); 2020 W-L; Pts

  1. Brantley (19); 13-1; 261
  2. Sweet Water (1); 8-3; 192
  3. Pickens Co. (1); 11-4; 186
  4. Linden (1); 14-0; 162
  5. Maplesville (1); 10-2; 143
  6. Decatur Heritage; 9-3; 130
  7. Millry; 8-3; 86
  8. McKenzie; 8-3; 52
  9. Cedar Bluff; 6-5; 38
  10. Loachapoka; 5-6; 33

Others receiving votes: Berry (11-2) 23, Florala (8-3) 4, Winterboro (9-2) 1.

AISA

Team (first-place); 2020 W-L; Pts

  1. Pike Liberal Arts (23); 10-2; 276
  2. Glenwood; 10-1; 198
  3. Escambia Aca.; 10-2; 186
  4. Autauga Aca.; 2-7; 160
  5. Chambers Aca.; 12-1; 141
  6. Bessemer Aca.; 8-3; 111
  7. Tuscaloosa Aca.; 2-7; 86
  8. Macon-East; 8-5; 66
  9. Patrician; 8-2; 42
  10. Morgan Aca.; 8-3; 27

Others receiving votes: Crenshaw Chr. (10-3) 8, Sparta (6-4) 8, Abbeville Chr. (10-3) 1, Monroe Aca. (6-5) 1.