Prediction: Boren, Montevallo hopeful to continue playoff streak
Published 10:58 am Thursday, August 4, 2022
By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor
MONTEVALLO – Heading into year three under head coach Blake Boren, expectations continue to grow for the Montevallo football program.
The previous two years, the Bulldogs have won seven and eight games, respectively, and now look to create even more momentum during the 2022 football season.
One of the clearest differences in the program the last two seasons has come on the defensive side of the football where the Bulldogs have gone from giving up 35.5 points per game in 2019 to 22 or less the last two years.
Mix that with a group of athletic playmakers on offense, and you’ve got a recipe for success.
There will be some key athletes to replace this season on both sides of the ball, but a good nucleus returns to lead this year’s team, as they hope to take the next step into competing for a region title with two of the state’s best Class 4A teams in their region.
One of those big replacements will come at the quarterback position with the departure of Kial Cottingham.
Already one of the state’s best athletes going into last season as an All-State defensive back, Cottingham shifted to quarterback a season ago. Despite injuries early, he was able to finish the year with 608 yards passing and 385 yards rushing, while still contributing heavily as a defensive back.
With his injury, however, Braxton King was able to get experience as a sophomore.
Coming back for his junior season, he now has more confidence in his game as a speedy quarterback who will also be relied upon to help the Bulldogs achieve a major goal this season—throwing the ball more.
In order for the team to be more balanced, that expectation will be placed on his shoulders this season.
That will be especially important with the departure of the county’s single-season rushing record holder.
Joseph Anderson set that mark a season ago with 2,346 rushing yards and 29 touchdowns, which makes him a huge piece of the team that will be missing.
Tasked with replacing him will be another physical player in Anthony Martin. A player who has been in the offense for three years, he knows what to expect and won’t shy away from the position.
He’ll also get help from EJ Morton and Peyton King, who are two athletic players who can make players miss.
The passing game, however, should take a lot of pressure off the run game should King come along because of the receivers back on this year’s team.
Possibly the strongest group on the team this season, Javon Rogers and Jaydien Rutledge are two tall and speedy receivers who started last season.
They’ll both be go-to targets, while Christian Tolbert will also play a key role out of the slot.
Up front, the Bulldogs will return three starters in Jaylen Williams, Jaylon Hudson and Brantley Burk all returning for their senior season. That group will be important for the success of the offense, while Derek Diaz is a promising sophomore who will provide help.
On the other side, Charlie Adams will anchor the defensive line while RJ Smith will also return as a starter. Both had an impact a season ago with Adams totaling 43 tackles, six tackles for loss and five sacks, while Smith has a frame of 6-foot-4, 340 pounds and will be tough for any opposing line to handle.
Joining them will be Williams and Hudson as key contributors, as well as Ben Locks. That group should hold down the position, while Hunter Lutz and Nylan Goode will add depth.
Backing that group up will be a strong group of physical linebackers that include Morton, Burk and Martin as three of the strongest players on the team. They’ll also get help from Brannon Hudson, who is a 6-foot-2, 210-pound sophomore who will fit with that group perfectly, while Spencer Adams will take a step forward.
In the secondary, Martin and Adams will rotate between linebacker and defensive back, while Rogers and Peyton King should also fill important roles. Tolbert and Tim Waters could also end up playing a role as the season goes along.
The place-kicking game will continue to be handled by Locks, while punting is still up in the air heading into the season.
Prediction (8-2): Despite losing some of the team’s best athletes going into the season, there is still plenty of reason for optimism surrounding the Bulldogs. Not only do they have athletic playmakers ready to step in, but the schedule sets up perfectly for them to gain confidence early in the season and be ready for their biggest challenges in the final four weeks. The only way Montevallo struggles is if there is a lack of focus in fall practice, during game weeks or on game nights. The team will be talented enough to compete in every game they play, it just boils down to being fundamentally sound and physically ready. Depth could also be a concern for Montevallo, but if the team stays healthy, they should be in the same position this year of battling American Christian and Bibb County for the top three spots.