Movin’ on up
Class 2A, Region 4
Coach Lanny Jones (5-5 in one season at Isabella)
Last year 5-5 regular season, 3-4 region
Key losses DE Garrett Payton, LB Stephen Huddleston
8/29 at Jefferson Christian
9/12 at Vincent*
9/19 American Christian*
9/26 at Verbena
10/3 at Pickens Co.*
10/10 Hale Co.*
10/17 at Thorsby*
10/24 Shades Mtn.*
10/31 Lamar Co.
* region game
Key game Fultondale. Isabella will find out quickly how well it can compete in Class 2A.
Key player Kelsey Gardner, receiver and defensive back. Isabella won five games and barely missed the playoffs by playing solid defense and conservative offense. That won’t change, but a few more big plays by the guy that had more than any other Mustang in 2007 would go a long way toward making 2008 memorable.
Isabella last year broke its 23-game losing streak in a big way: the Mustangs won not once but five times.
Then, just when everything starts looking up, a reclassification moved the Mustangs up to Class 2A and into Region 5, home to perennial powers American Christian, Fultondale and Pickens County High.
Lanny Jones’ team, most of which will look the same as last season, is undaunted because of an attitude it found last season somewhere along with all those wins.
“Our guys right now are carrying that attitude of they don’t want to lose,” Jones said. “That’s the biggest thing.”
Junior Allen Edwards will be the starting Isabella quarterback for the third year.
“He runs the offense well,” Jones said. “The biggest thing is whatever we call, he knows what to do.”
The Mustangs hope to get as much production out of the Brian Donovan/Norman Craig combination as they
did last season, when the duo rushed for more than 1,500 yards and 19 touchdowns. When the team is full
strength, junior Sean Haigler and sophomore Brandon Green will split time at fullback.
Haigler’s and Green’s work at fullback will allow senior
Del Green to move to tight end, a position Jones thinks will better utilize Del Green’s versatility. Edwards’ passes will also
find their way to seniors Kelsey Gardner and Brandon Veazey and junior Adam Jones, who the Isabella coach said had a productive offseason.
All five starters return at this unit, which has allowed
Jones and his staff to install more zone blocking schemes to complement the man blocking the Mustangs relied on in 2007.
Back in their familiar spots are junior left tackle Hunter Mims, junior left guard Blake Lawley, senior center Blake Green, senior right guard Zac Ellison and senior right tackle Matt Hardy.
Ellison and Brandon Green will swap sides of the football and play defensive tackle. Flanking them will be defensive ends Austin Haigler, a sophomore, and Willie Stacy, a junior. As a sophomore, Stacy tallied an area-high 12 sacks.
Hardy will play middle linebacker. Lawley, who led the team last year in tackles with
94, will play one outside spot. The other will be manned by Edwards until Del Green can return from an injury.
“We’re undersized for sure, but we have a lot of quickness,” Jones said about his front seven. “Sometimes that quickness might be harder to block than just size.”
Donovan and Veazey will line up opposite the other teams’ receivers, though Jones said backups are necessary here because of the roles Donovan and Veazey play on offense. Gardner will be the free safety, and Craig will play strong safety. All four are returning starters.
Stacy will try his hand, or foot, at kicking off and placekicking. Hardy was the punter last year, averaging more than 34 yards a kick, and will be again this year. Donovan and Craig will be the primary return men.