Prediction: Montevallo ready to return to playoffs

Published 1:53 pm Thursday, August 10, 2023

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By ANDREW SIMONSON | Sports Editor

MONTEVALLO – Success is now the standard at Montevallo.

That wasn’t always the case, as coach Blake Boren is quick to point out, but over the last five years, the Bulldogs have flipped the script.

Montevallo has now made the Class 4A playoffs in four of the last five years, including two trips with Boren at the helm.

Last year was the lone blemish on that record, but Montevallo is ready to make sure that 2022 was just a blip on their continued rise up the 4A ranks.

Both the offense and the defense are talented once again, and one of the biggest rosters in school history is united under a strong culture, all of which are a testament to what Boren has built at Montevallo.

Of their 15 seniors, three will be key to leading the Bulldogs offense: Braxton King, EJ Morton and Javon Rogers.

King is the signal caller for the second straight season, and he is the perfect combination of track star speed and quarterback arm strength. That makes him a great dual threat quarterback, and Boren’s offense will once again call for both of those traits as King looks to take a leap both on the field and off the field as a leader this year.

Morton will lead backfield after backing up Anthony Martin last year, and he is a bruising back who will help Montevallo establish the run game well. The Bulldogs have succeeded with both physical and quick running backs, and it will be exciting to see what they do with another between-the tackles runner.

Rounding out the group, but certainly not the least important, is Rogers. He has grown into a dynamic player with FBS potential who has elevated the Montevallo program in every way. Rogers said that he loves the people of Montevallo, and he wants to show them that you can be a top recruit without leaving the people you care about the most. He is a hometown hero for Montevallo and will lead the offense.

Joining those three as big contributors for the offense are athletic running back Rozario Conwell, who the coaches are excited about, touchdown machine Christian Tolbert and versatile hybrid tight end Deterrius Cuts. All three are juniors and won’t only be impact players this year, but will continue to be key players next year as seniors.

In front of all of them is a big, strong offensive line anchored by Tyler Mitchell and K’Erius Cockrum, both in just their second seasons on the varsity team but already established as athletic, reliable players. AJ Guizar and Derek Diaz are both solid guards that Boren plans to rely on for years to come, and Kelston Hodges is great at center as well.

On the defensive side, the Bulldogs will be glad to have Charlie Adams back along the line. The school’s all-time sack record is also a two-sport star as a wrestler, and he said that he’s gotten even better thanks to the talented players who he competes against in practice every day.

Mitchell, Guizar and Hodges will all also be solid two-way players on the defensive line. Morton is another player back at both of his positions this year as a linebacker, and he will pair well with Hunter Lutz, who is poised for a breakout senior year, as well as a fully healthy Brannon Hudson.

Rogers and Peyton King will both be athletic leaders in the secondary and look to make big impacts in the coverage and tackling aspects of the game, respectively. Joining them will be Tolbert and Conwell, who have both shown great promise at cornerback.

Speaking of promise, the senior leaders were all excited about the future talent coming up at every position, and they said that they’ve even been pushed to improve by them. That competition will only make Montevallo better now and into the future.

But as for right now, this is a reloaded Bulldogs team ready to make a statement in a difficult region that will require their best effort every single week. All signs point to Montevallo having another strong year capped by a return to the playoffs.

Prediction: 7-3. Montevallo is too good of a program now to have two down years in a row. Both the offense and defense should be in a much better place than a year ago, especially with the talent they have returning. Not everything is in their hands though. If Region 3 was a video game, American Christian and Bibb County would be the final bosses that make you throw your controller. The top two of the region has been a glass ceiling that the Bulldogs haven’t been able to crack through for most of the last decade. Those are both likely losses again this year, but the good news is that Montevallo had close losses against some of the teams around them in the standings last year. They should also be much improved over their non-region opponents, which will likely push Montevallo back over .500 on the year. Circle home contests against West Blocton on September 22 and Sipsey Valley on October 6 on your calendar, because if Montevallo flip those losses into wins, they could easily finish third in the region and make the playoffs for the fourth time in five seasons.