August 25, 2012By Redd Rider of Good Hope High School
Games set for Aug. 24-25 at Cramton Bowl
Six Schools Making Debuts In 2012 al.com Champions Challenge Football Tripleheader
Six high schools will be making their debuts at Cramton Bowl this weekend as the seventh annual al.com Champions Challenge tripleheader kicks off the 2012 high school football season.
The Alabama High School Athletic Association and its coaches arm, the Alabama High School Athletic Directors & Coaches Association (AHSADCA), will host the three contests beginning with Friday night’s clash between 5A powers Muscle Shoals and Spanish Fort at 7 p.m.
The pre-season classic will not count on any of the schools’ season records, but that doesn’t matter to the 514 players and 74 coaches who will be participating. Coach Scott Basden’s Trojans were 11-2 last season and Coach Mark Freeman’s Toros were 9-4 just one year after winning the 2010 5A state football championship.
A doubleheader is slated Saturday, Aug. 25, with Central of Clay County making its debut against Beauregard at 5 p.m., followed by 6A powers McGill-Toolen and Northridge of Tuscaloosa at 7:30 p.m.
Northridge was 10-2 last season but returns powerful junior running back Bo Scarbrough, considered one of the top runners in the Southeast. He missed the last part of the 2011 season with an injury but appears stronger than ever heading into 2012. He had 782 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns on 89 carries last year. He also caught eight passes for 150 yards and two more scores for Coach Michael Smith’s Jaguars.
Junior Tanner Cline will be the starting quarterback. He replaces graduated Brook Burns who passed for 1,561 yards and 17 TDs last season. Cline did see some spot duty, completing 10-of-19 passes for 122 yards. James Cox, who caught 38 passes for 658 yards and six scores last year, also returns.
Smith said his team is excited about kicking off the season in such a prestigious setting. He also said he’s looking forward to it for another reason. He has two sons on his team and his oldest son Hunter is a starting defensive end.
“I am thrilled to death to be coaching in the game but to also be sharing the experience with my sons,” Smith said. “We know McGill-Toolen will be a strong opponent. If you love high school football, then you have to love this kind of matchup.”
Smith, who started the Northridge program when the school opened in Tuscaloosa in 2003, has the rare distinction of coaching teams into the state’s Top 10 at five different classifications. His 1989 Class 4A Greensboro defense set a state record at the time with nine shutouts in 10 regular-season games. His Northridge Jaguars won a school record 10 games last year.
McGill-Toolen (11-2) reached the Class 6A quarterfinals last year within Coach Bart Sessions’ first year as head coach. He does have quite a track record, however. He was defensive coordinator for Daphne’s 15-0 Class 6A state champs in 2010 and served in the same capacity for Prattville’s 2009 state runner-up and 2008 state champion. He was also an assistant for Prattville’s 15-0 state championship team in 2007.
McGill-Toolen reached the Class 6A quarterfinals last year and finished 11-2.
Lineville and Clay County, which merged this summer to form Central of Clay County, each reached the state playoff semifinals last year with the Aggies finishing 10-4 and the Panthers finished 12-2--both losses coming at the hands of Class 3A Handley in a region game and laterr in the 3A semifinals.
Former Lineville head man Steve Giddens is the head coach of the new school and former Clay County head coach Kris Herron is the Volunteers’ defensive coordinator.
Beauregard enjoyed its best season at 10-2 in Class 4A as Coach Smitty Grider became the school’s all-time wins leader in the process.
The al.com Champions Challenge will be broadcast live over the AHSAA Radio Network as well being live-streamed by WSFA TV at wsfa.com. It can be accessed at http://www.theahsaanetwork.com/browse/upcoming as well as the Raycom websites of affiliates WSFA TV 12 in Montgomery, WBRC TV 6 in Birmingham, WAFF-TV 48 in Huntsville, and WDFX TV in Dothan.