It’s hard to believe the season is only a week away. I remember when I first put that football countdown on the top of the sports pages this season, there were nearly 80 days left. Now, we’re down to 8.
It’s pretty hard to believe. Being a sports editor, I sort of feel like I’m part of this journey with our student-athletes. I was there just getting to know their teams when spring practice started then I learned more and more about them over the summer. Now I’ve spent hours upon hours on the practice fields with them this week.
For the past week and a half, Caleb Turrentine and I have been releasing daily podcasts previewing each team in our coverage. So far, we’ve talked Edgewood, Reeltown, Horseshoe Bend, Central Coosa, Holtville and Elmore County.
We began last week by sitting down with Wildcat coach Darryl Free and I got a chance to talk to him about what it’s like to have high expectations. The Wildcats are ranked No. 11 in AISA in the Alabama Sports Writers Association preseason poll after advancing to the AA semifinals a year ago.
“Last year is over; that’s one thing we’ve tried to tell these guys,” Free said. “We did have some success but with some success, we also have an X on our back now. We’re not going to surprise anybody. They know what we’ve got and it’s going to take more focus from us and more discipline, especially mentally. We think our guys are ready for that.”
On Wednesday’s podcast, I had the opportunity to chat with Eric Shaw, the highly recruited Reeltown Rebel who is returning from an ACL injury. Shaw said he’s back at 100 percent and when I spoke to him Monday, he was itching to get on the practice field for Reeltown’s first official practice.
Shaw, who is a proven leader on the team, also gave us some insight into some of the young guys fans should watch out for this season.
“We got a receiver named Johnny Brown; he’s been putting in work,” Shaw said. “Scooter Brooks is another breakout. We’ve got Iverson Hooks; he couldn’t play last year because of an ACL. We have a lot of young talent that I feel like this year is going to be their breakout.”
We then moved on to Horseshoe Bend and Central Coosa, both of which have struggled the past few seasons but are looking to make changes this year to simplify things in hopes of making improvement.
We then moved back to Elmore County this week, kicking it off with Holtville on Monday.
The Bulldogs received votes in the ASWA preseason poll and they’re looking to crack the top 10 for the first time since 1993. One thing that could help them get there is their balanced offense of having Kolby Potts, JJ Jackson, Hunter Martin and Drew Pickett all on the attack in the backfield.
“It’s a blessing,” Holtville coach Jason Franklin said. “We have four guys that I feel like can really do things with the football. Now we have to figure out how to manage that. Everyone is worried about how we are going to do the quarterbacks but man, we have four running backs so how do we get those four guys the football? It’s a good problem to have.”
Meanwhile, the Elmore County Panthers, who we discussed in Tuesday’s podcasts, have a bit more questions especially after the graduation of star running back DJ Patrick. But Caleb got a chance to sit down with ECHS coach Jordan Cantrell and it’s clear the Panthers are using missing the playoffs due to a tiebreaker as motivation to get to the postseason this year.
“Last year was devastating but we controlled our destiny,” Cantrell said. “If we had won another game, and there were a couple of games where we had the opportunity to do it and we didn’t. That left it in the hands of a tiebreaker and that was our fault. Now it’s a new year though and we’re looking for Marbury.”
Today, we will stop in with Dadeville before heading back to Elmore County as our Inside the Lines Preview Podcast continues every weekday.
The remaining schedule is as follows:
Wednesday, Aug. 14 —Dadeville Tigers preview
Thursday, Aug. 15 — Tallassee Tigers preview
Friday, Aug. 16 — Stanhope Elmore Mustangs preview
Monday, Aug. 19 — Wetumpka Indians preview
Tuesday, Aug. 20 — Benjamin Russell Wildcats preview
That will lead us directly into our Week 0 preview which will be released Wednesday, Aug. 21 in conjunction with our Gridiron Guides.
To listen to the full interviews with our coaches and players and the rest of the preview podcasts, visit us online. We are also available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. If you have any questions for us or special guests, feel free to reach out and we’ll get those answered for you as well.
Lizi Arbogast is the sports editor of The Herald.