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Plenty worth watching this high school football season

In this space on Sunday, I went over a few observations for area teams Billingsley, Chilton County High, Jemison and Thorsby. This week, I’ll skim over Isabella, Maplesville, Marbury and Verbena. First, though, I want to put in a plug for our high school football preview edition, which will be included in Thursday’s newspaper.

There’s only so much analysis one can give in the 575 words in this space. The preview will be much more in-depth – 20 pages of high school football content and nothing else. The preview will feature group photos of all eight area teams plus cheerleaders, but I think the best thing about the preview will be the action shots taken from practices and preseason games around the area and the insight provided by the area’s coaches. Conclusions can always be drawn about how a team might perform by talking to your neighbor or your cousin, but no one else offers, in the same package, all eight of our coaches talking about their teams. They usually know what they’re talking about.

Also this year, our preview will include a preseason all-area team. This is, as far as I know, the first time we have done one of these. The team that could be created if all the best players from our eight teams were put together is impressive.

But, on to the initial purpose of this column. Isabella should continue the remarkable turnaround begun last season. From no wins in more than two years to five wins in one year, the Mustangs were the surprise story of the year. The next step is a playoff berth, and the team is poised to take that step because almost everyone returns from last year’s squad.

The other story of 2007 was Maplesville’s continued success. I don’t think as many people give this year’s team a chance to make a deep playoff run (the Red Devils are ranked No. 10 in Class 1A to begin the season), but I think those people are too focused on the guys that graduated instead of the guys that are still wearing red. Look for the Devils to be a strong, fast, well-coached team once again.

If any other area team could match what Maplesville lost to graduation, it would be Marbury. No less than six of last year’s Bulldogs are now preparing to play college football. One of those, offensive lineman Josh Tatum, is competing at a Southeastern Conference school in Ole Miss. Coach Kyle Glover’s cupboard isn’t bare, however. Running back Charles Averhart and receiver/defensive back brothers Wesley and Pierre Warren will make the “wow” factor hang around Marbury a little longer. And there are enough Bulldog linemen, who are less likely to get publicity, to give Marbury another successful year.

The fewer players a team has, I think, the bigger the gap between best-case scenario and worst-case scenario can be. I won’t hazard a guess about how many wins Verbena will end up with, but I do know this: there are several Red Devils no one wants to line up against. That’s no one, not other 1A schools, 6A schools or anybody in between.

It’s starts with defensive end Marshall McGaskin (6’4”, 234). He will also try his hand at fullback this year, you know, because he really needs a running start before he hits someone. Then there’s lineman Jonathan Dennis (6’2”, 294), and, to top things off, there’s lineman Jason Ray (6’2”, 304). Ray dominates, and he’s just a junior.