2nd Annual Walker County Football Media Day
At Mr. Beans BBQ & Steakhouse - Jasper:
FLASH NOTES: Walker County has emerged in regards of playing the most teams from Cullman County than the neighboring counties.
The 2018 season features 10 games for six Walker County schools, three more than the total of seven by Blount and Morgan County.
Sportspage got an inside look at Walker County football Friday by attending the media day, coordinated by the Daily Mountain Eagle and held at Mr. Beans BBQ & Steakhouse. Mr. Beans is better known as "Butter Bean" the former American professional boxer who had 91 victories, 58 by knockout. His trademark was wearing red, white & blue shorts to show his support to the USA.
All head coaches of the seven county teams appeared, along with players, giving their analysis on the upcoming season.
Practice for AHSAA football will begin in 10 days (August 6). The season for each starts on the weekend of August 23.
Jasper is under direction of new coach Bryan Moore. Moore comes to the Vikings after coaching the last three seasons at Eufaula, leading the Tigers to 26 wins against nine losses.
Jasper, formerly know as Walker, has brought back an intense rival to its schedule. The Vikings and Cullman Bearcats tangle for the first time since 2013 with the game on the 23rd at Cullman's Oliver Woodard Stadium.
"Our focus is on Cullman right now," Moore said during his media day segment. "We want to be the best that we can be."
Jasper was only 3-7 in 2017, losing 63-34 to a Gardendale team that was coached by Matt Plunkett. Plunkett is now the head coach at Cullman.
"They made a big hire of getting Matt Plunkett to Cullman," Moore added. "His record (37-22 at Gardendale) speaks for itself."
Jasper dropped from Class 6A to Class 5A for the first time since 2013. The Vikings deal with a county school that will count in the Region 7 standings.
West Point will head to Ki-Ro Gambrill Field October 5. This is the first meeting between the two teams.
Moore said he knew very little about West Point at the present time. That will change once the season begins. Jasper has a rare schedule, with a bye week on August 31 after the Cullman game and before they open regional play against Dora.
"The schedule worked out good for the challenges we have," Moore said in closing.
Sumiton Christian Eagles:
Sumiton Christian will be like Japser in visiting Cullman County to open the 2018 schedule. The Eagles will be at Hanceville on August 24 in the Sportspage Game of the Week.
This game will involve new head coaches. Bart Black makes his debut for Sumiton Christian after coaching on the Dora staff last season. He will match up against Cody McCain, Hanceville's new coach, who spent the past four years in Limestone County at Clements High School.
Black has been at Sumiton Christian in the past, working on the football, baseball and basketball coaching staffs. He is excited to be head coach at a place that means so much to him.
"We have go to focus on what we are going to do."
When asked about Hanceville, Black said he knows very little of them at the present time.
Sumiton will look to run the football in what Black said as they try to improve on a 4-6 record in 2017. The Eagles return to the 2A class after a couple of seasons being placed in 1A.
Sumiton will be back in Cullman County on September 14 for a Region 5 game at Cranford Stricklin Stadium against the Cold Springs Eagles.
Carbon Hill Bulldogs:
Carbon Hill is the third Walker County school to kick off 2018 vs. a Cullman County team. The Bulldogs have a different edge than Jasper and Sumiton Christian, in playing at home on the 24th.
Scott Curd's Bulldogs get the Good Hope Raiders to visit G.W. Keith Stadium. Curd is in his third season at Carbon Hill with the Bulldogs eager to be better than 3-7 a year ago. The Bulldogs have 21 position players back for 2018. "We hope to have a memorable season. The expectations continue each year. We set a goal and hope to achieve it."
Dora is on its way up in AHSAA classification. The Bulldogs enter 5A football for the very first time.
It does not phase coach Bart Lockhart, waiting for his second year to begin in Dora. The Bulldogs were 9-3 in 2017, getting to the second round before bowing out to Saks 31-24 in the second round.
Dora posted a 4-2 record in Region 6, battling strong teams like Fayette County, Haleyville, Cordova, Good Hope, Hamilton and Winfield.
This year, the Bulldogs line up in Region 7 of 5A, getting to deal with Jasper September 7 in the opener at home. Dora defeated Jasper 30-7 to end the 2017 regular season and awaits the rematch, with the stakes much higher as it counts in region play.
Dora comes to West Point on October 12 for regional play. The Bulldogs and Warriors play for the first time since 2009.
Cordova Blue Devils:
Common opponents remain on Cordova's schedule, with the Blue Devils in Region 5 of 4A the next two years.
The region opener for Jimmy Gay's Blue Devils brings them to James Shabel Stadium September 7 to meet Good Hope.
The first four opponents for Cordova are at Dora, vs. Hamilton, at Good Hope and vs. Fayette County. Dora and Hamilton are now in 5A, with Good Hope and Fayette County to tangle with the Blue Devils in the region.
"We prepare for the same way every week," Gay said. "Every year is rebuilding."
The Blue Devils made the playoffs at 4-6 in regular season last year, but lost in the opening round to the Wilson Warriors from Florence.
In talking about the Good Hope game, Gay complemented Raider coach Alan Scott for turning the program around from an 0-10 season in 2016 to a competitive 4-6 record last season.
Cordova pulled out a hard fought 26-14 win at Good Hope that moved them in direction of a 3-3 season in the region and the fourth seed from Region 7.
"Good Hope plays football the way I like it," Gay said. "Top to bottom, they are the most improved team on our schedule."
While meeting Good Hope in the region opener, the Blue Devils will be back in Cullman County to conclude the regular season. Cordova is at West Point November 2. The Blue Devils and Warriors have never faced each other on the gridiron.
Curry Yellow Jackets:
Curry was reclassified to 4A for the next two seasons after a brief stint in 5A for the AHSAA.
A 4-6 record may not be great to many, but to the Yellow Jackets in 2017, it was the most victories they have experienced since a 5-6 mark in 2011.
"We are looking forward to this year," coach Phillip Smith said. The schedule begins with a new opponent for the opener, followed by a tough county rival.
Curry will play the Addison Bulldogs August 24 at Hudson/O'Rear Field. The series is 14-14-2, but has not been played since 1979, when Addison won 28-21.
A week later, Curry gets Oakman to visit. Oakman has posted seven consecutive winning seasons.
In playing Cullman County teams, Curry is at Hanceville September 28 and hosts Good Hope in 4A, Region 5 on October 19.
Curry and Hanceville meet for the first time since 1981. The Yellow Jackets are 0-4 all time against the Bulldogs.
Good Hope comes back into a regional opponent for Curry since 2015. The Raiders are 3-0 in this series.
Smith said it is different in playing new Cullman County teams this season, than in the recent years of taking on West Point and Fairview.
Smith said this season he doesn't have to worry about trying to contain West Point running back Hunter Persall. Persall and the Warriors edged Curry last season 27-18 that got them into the playoffs and kept the Yellow Jackets out.
Oakman is the only school from Walker County that is without a Cullman County opponent.
Oakman would love to see teams like Hanceville, Holly Pond and Vinemont on the schedule as they did in 2014 and 2015 for region play.
But the Wildcats are in Region 4 of 3A, that is lined up in the South region for playoff purposes. Oakman has made the state playoffs seven consecutive years, but the last two in the South, considering they are located in Walker County, where everyone else plays in the North region.
Head coach Mark Hastings, the most active in the county with 10 seasons under his belt, said playing in the south has not been that bad. The Wildcats have averaged at least eight wins per season since 2011.
This will be a younger team Oakman puts on the field this season. The Wildcats will not start the season until August 31 when they go to county rival Curry.
The 3A, Region 4 schedule starts on September 7 in going to Tuscaloosa to play the Holt Ironmen.
Hastings pointed out regional road trips will be to Holt September 7, at Cordova September 28, at Winfield October 5 and at Greene County the 26th. The Wildcats will go to the cities of Tuscaloosa, Cordova, Winfield and Eutaw to try and maintain success in a strong region.
"You have to do it. There are no options," Hastings said. "It has become routine in some ways. We take suggestions, but we have to do what we have to do."
Media Day created by publisher:
Daily Mountain Eagle sports editor Johnathan Bentley told Sportspage media day was established by his publisher James Phillips in 2017.
"We have had great response from it."
Fans were allowed to come inside the interview room while the schools rotated for over 20 minutes, speaking with Sportspage, Bentley and Brian Hale of the Mountain Eagle, broadcaster Johnny Elmore from 101.5 FM (broadcast of Jasper and Walker County games).
Also an interesting edition was 9-year old Zak McCullar. McCullar asked questions to players and coaches of all schools and showed great intelligence for being astute for such a young age.
McCullar is home schooled and held his own in asking questions in the rotation before Sportspage would take the mic.
With 10 games for Walker County teams vs. Cullman County teams, Bentley was pleased of that item. "I look for close games on the schedule. It creates rivalries with Cullman County being right next to us here in Walker County."
Photo 1: Jasper coach Bryan Moore with Viking players. Jasper opens the season August 23 at the Cullman Bearcats.
Photo 2: Sumiton Christian coach Bart Black with Eagle players. Sumiton opens the season August 24 at the Hanceville Bulldogs.
Photo 3: Carbon Hill coach Scott Curd with Bulldog players. Carbon Hill opens the season August 24 vs. the Good Hope Raiders.
Sportspage photos by Johnny Thornton
AHSAA All-Star Volleyball
At Auburn University Montgomery
North 25 22 22 21
South 19 25 25 25
South wins series 3-1
North leads all time series 14-7
TIME OF MATCH: 1:42
MVP'S: Breylee Linder - North, Kenya McQuirter - South
FLASH NOTES: Down 1-0 in the match, the South was able to get strong play at the net from its MVP, Kenya McQuirter of McGill-Toolen, plus Mikaela Grubb of Enterprise that turned it around vs. the North.
The South went up in the second set at 10-9 and never trailed the rest of the way. Grubb scored on a serve with McQuirter providing a block that made it 17-11. A kill by McQuirter moments later, gave the South a 21-16 edge.
An error by the North allowed the South to score the set point and even the assignment at a victory apiece.
In game three, both went after one another as the South scored an ace on a serve by Kayla Champion of Providence Christian that gave them the lead to stay at 20-19. A kill by McQuirter closed out the third game and the momentum was clearly on the side of the South.
The fourth set stayed in the pattern of intense and tight. A service point and a kill from McQuirter moved the South to a 12-10 lead. The North would go down 16-11 and put on a rally to close to 22-21 when Emma Jarrett of Bob Jones scored from the service line.
But the momentum was broken by the South on three service points from Lillie Fromdahl of McGill-Toolen and the match winner on McQuirter's 16 kill of the series.
Linder, from Florence, worked her way to MVP honors for the North, handing out 22 assists and accounting for five digs. Linder recorded seven consecutive points on serve in the first set that carried the North to a 25-19 triumph.
Juliana Hamer of Chelsea led the North with seven kills, Kiara Hill of Bob Jones had six. Catherine Klop of Bob Jones tallied 14 digs with Jarrett of Bob Jones having eight.
Team North was coached by Kayla Woodard from defending 1A champion Addison, along with Lyndsey Crumpton of Danville. Sue Marshall served as the administrative coach, representing Randolph from Huntsville.
Photo 1: Addison coach Kayla Woodard right at coin flip before all star match Thursday.
Photo 2: Team North during a timeout in match with the South at AUM.
Photo 3: North MVP Breylee Linder of Florence.
Photo 4: South MVP Kenya McQuirter of McGill-Toolen
Sportspage photos by Johnny Thornton
AHSAA All-Star basketball
At Acadome - Alabama State University:
North 22 17 14 13 - 66
South 14 15 16 12 - 57
MVPs: Annie Hughes - North, River Baldwin - South
FLASH NOTES: Hartselle PG Moriah Taylor got the North going with a three on its first possession. The game was back and forth for the first 4:30 with a tie and four lead changes.
Team South went ahead 12-10 with 3:11 left in the first. The rest of the quarter belonged to the North as they finished on a 12-2 run and had a 22-14 first period advantage.
A North basket by Ariana Powe off an assist by Annie Hughes gave them a 31-21 lead at 4:13. From there, they kept the advantage to arms length and headed to the locker room with a 39-29 cushion at intermission.
Team North shot 48 percent in the first half while Team South was 12 of 20 for 60 percent. But the South took 14 fewer shots than the North in the first half and only tried one three-pointer. The North had 5 of 12 from downtown that allowed them to build the advantage at double figures through 16 minutes.
The South could never reduce the lead to less than seven points in the final half. They trailed 49-42 at 2:03 in the third, with the North answering on a FG from Abby Davis of Phil Campbell inside the final minute. The third came to a close with the North on top 53-45.
Hughes raised the lead to 62-51 with a steal and basket with 3:41 remaining. The North never allowed the South to get a serious comeback together with the North hitting four of four from the line in the last minute to maintain a decent margin.
The North shot 91 percent from the line, making 11 of 12. Taylor scored twice from the stripe with 25 seconds left as she closed out the game scoring four points, handed out two assists and picked up two steals.
Hughes, a senior at Pisgah who has committed to play at Auburn, was four of eight shooting, two of four in treys and two of four from the line. That earned her MVP honors for her unit.
Baldwin, a 6'5" center from Pleasant Home, was an easy choice for South MVP. The future Florida State player scored 14 points on 6 of 7 shooting, two of two at the line, pulled down 10 rebounds and blocked three shots.
"We jelled quickly," Taylor said of her North teammates. "We did a good job of talking to each other. One of our things was get their guards to turn the ball over." The North forced 23 turnovers and had 11 steals, with several leading to easy scores.
North 22 11 9 15 - 57
South 16 9 18 18 - 61
MVPs: Malik Tyson - North, Jaykwon Walton - South
FLASH NOTES: Unable to hold on to the advantage after a 33-25 lead at the half, the North was outscored 36-24 in the 2nd half by the South, suffering a 9-point third quarter that put them behind.
Photo 1: North MVP Annie Hughes, South MVP River Baldwin.
Photo 2: North PG Moriah Taylor in 1st half at Alabama State Acadome.
Photo 3: Referee Scott Rutherford from Tri County Association of Cullman, working the AHSAA varsity all-star game Wednesday night at Alabama State University.
Sportspage photos by Johnny Thornton
22nd AHSAA All-Star Sports Week
Tuesday in Montgomery:
Soccer (G) @ Emory Folmar Complex:
South 0 0 - 0
North 0 2 - 2
North: Lexi Duca goal (Emery Mills assist) 34:52 in 2nd
North: Mills goal 9:27 in 2nd
MVP's: Emery Mills - North, Adriana Wright - South
Soccer @ Emory Folmar Complex:
North 1 1 - 2
South 0 1 - 1
North: Logan Frost goal (Jack Bapst assist) 25:00 in 1st
South: Joseph Quinn goal 19:38 in 2nd
North: Price Leonard goal 16:11 in 2nd
MVP's: Price Leonard - North, Joseph Quinn - South.
Team North claimed winning honors in the soccer encounter, under steamy conditions, with both teams performing well in the second half to take the event.
The North girls outshot the South 10-4 in the second half, getting goals by Duca and Mills to break a scoreless first half.
Sarah Adair of Mountain Brook was on goal for the North in the first half, fighting off nine shots by the South. Brianna Burroughs from Tanner took over in the second half, keeping the South off the scoreboard, with four stops and tremendous assistance from her teammates.
Mills, the North MVP, is from Madison Academy. Wright, the MVP of the South, plays at Northview School in Dothan.
A goal by the North in the varsity clash 15 minutes into the half on a shot by Logan Frost off an assist from Jack Bapst put them up by 1-0 when the contest reached intermission.
But the South played determined soccer and evened the score when Joseph Quinn stole the ball, then drove it into the net, making it 1-1 with 19:38 remaining in the match.
Just over three minutes later, Price Leonard went down the left sidelines, worked his way into scoring position and blasted it by William Blake that turned out to be the game winner.
With lighting a distance away, the game finished as the North held off a South threat late to cap off a very entertaining evening of all-star soccer in the capitol city.
Leonard for the North stars is from Westminster Oak Mountain in Birmingham. Quinn, the South MVP, plays at Spanish Fort.
Cullman's Joel Sanchez had a brief night. The Bearcat defender played just three minutes of the first half, leaving the game with a leg injury. Sanchez was seen limping by Sportspage during the postgame ceremony.
In other all star games Tuesday:
BASEBALL: South won the opener 3-2 at Riverwalk Stadium, scoring the game winner in the 7th on a passed ball. The North earned a split with a 6-2 victory in the nightcap.
SOFTBALL: Team South threw a 3-0 shutout in the opener at Lagoon Park. The North settled the score by a come from behind 5-4 win in game two, scoring in the last of the seventh.
CROSS COUNTRY: Girls 7:30 a.m., Varsity 8:00 a.m. at Auburn Montgomery.
BASKETBALL: Girls 5:00 p.m., Varsity 7:00 p.m. at Alabama State University.
Photo 1: North girls MVP Emery Mills with Rodney Stidham of the AHSADCA.
Photo 2: North MVP Price Leonard of Westminster Oak Mountain with Rodney Stidham of the AHSADCA.
Sportspage photos by Johnny Thornton