New coaches, defending champs

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 17, 2007

The &8220;Big Story&8221; lines in our part of the world regarding high school football are new coaches and defending champions going for another crown.

Southern Academy (Greensboro) in AISA AA and Sweet Water AHSAA 1A bring to mind an old piece of juvenile jocularity. You probably last heard this in the first or second grade, but it&8217;s a golden oldie and it goes like this: Pete and repeat are sitting on a fence, Pete falls off, who&8217;s left?

Answer: Repeat.

OK, Pete and repeat are sitting on a fence; Pete falls off, who&8217;s left?

Answer: Repeat.

Get the picture? It goes on ad nausem.

In 2006, the Cougars and Bulldogs claimed the prize; went the distance; claimed &8220;the big enchilada&8221; (for our Hispanic fans); took names and kicked donkeys; added more hardware to the trophy case; ran the table; in other words won state championships in their respective divisions.

Shaun Bonds and Southern&8217;s win over Lowndes made it a &8216;three-peat&8217;; Stacy Luker and SWHS made it two of the past three (2004, 2006).

Can they do it again?

Sure they can, the job is really simple.

If one subscribes to the unfathomable logic and prophetic genius of one of the world&8217;s greatest sports prognosticators, Homer Simpson, all Southern and Sweet Water must do is &8220;score more points than the other team in every game and the trophy is yours for another year.&8221;

D&8217;oh!

It was right there before us all the time and we never saw it.

Simple &8212; yes; easy &8212; no.

Both schools took hits from the graduation factor. SWHS returns Anthony Landrum and Drew Luker for their senior season but must replace Tuscaloosa News West Alabama all-stars Dominic Holt, Jacques Lockett and Ty Glass. Southern academy returns speedy Matt Bouler, Chad Milner, Johnny Kynard, Matt Ballard, James Broussard and Thomas Weeks; however, their losses off this all-star are significant as well. It is important to note that The Tuscaloosa News named Landrum as the West Alabama 1A Player of the Year and Bouler as the West Alabama AISA Player of the Year.

The jury is in the box and in session for both of the above schools, especially Southern as they go for &8216;fo&8217; in a row&8217;. Depth and returnees are vital factors in high school ball and specially AISA and IA where the number of available studs on campus are a precious and rare commodity.

Sweet Water has the dubious honor of a being ranked No. 1 in 1A in the sportswriter pre- season poll. This designation can more times than not work against you. For instance, you beat a team 30-0 compared with your winning the prior season 40-0, suddenly the experts load up on the band wagon saying &8216;they&8217;re not as good as last year&8217;. The No. 1 pre season ranking also puts a bull&8217;s eye on you. Average opponents aspire to super human strength and performance just to &8216;knock the king off his throne.&8217;

John Essex, Linden and Sunshine have new coaching staffs. It will be an adventure for players, coaches and fans as they get to know each other, gear up and build trust in each other for 2007.

Demopolis welcomes new faces to the sidelines this fall as well.

Doug Goodwin departed for Russellville and took coaches Freddy Lawrence, Dusty Davis and Matt Geohagen with him. Goodwin and staff had a really nice run at DHS as they made the playoffs every year; were regional champs several times and ran the table and won a state championship in 2004.

Tom Causey is the new &8216;sheriff&8217; in the river city. Causey comes from Andalusia where he won the hearts and minds of that school as well by going 24-19 in a four-year span. It is worth noting that eight of those losses were in the first year of his reign with the Bulldogs. Causey took over for Paul Woolley in 2004 and the record shows progress in each campaign (2003 was 2-8; 2004 was 5-6; 2005 was 7-4 and 2006 was 10-4).

Causey and staff will find the cupboard far from bare as opposed to his first year at Andy. Causey states &8220;Demopolis is known around the state for having great football teams and great fan support. These kids are some of the most athletic kids I have ever been around. I don&8217;t know that I&8217;ve coached a group with as much speed and size as theses kids have. They play hard and are not afraid to hit people&8221;.

Demopolis in 2006 was a young team. Their roster listed 70 players with 41 being freshmen and sophomores. They were young and were forced to grow up fast. Week two of 2006 was a reality show as McAdory soundly whipped the Tigers and the following week in a four OT game they were on the short end of 48-42 matchup with Shelby County. For the first time in many years DHS was sporting a losing record and were 0-2 in the all important regional play category.

However, the royal blue and white Bengals regrouped and proceeded to win seven in a row and advance to the playoffs. Along the way were two of the most exciting come from behind victories I have personally had the opportunity to observe. I would attribute this to solid coaching and great character from the youngsters playing the game.

The excitement is building.

Every town and school is feverishly waiting for their respective season opener (AHSAA will begin Thursday, Aug. 30 and the &8216;privates&8217; start the week prior).

It&8217;s going to be good and it&8217;s going to be fun so I say let&8217;s get going.

Until next time, play hard; play for fun; play to win.

Mike Grayson is contributing columnist to the Times.