Reliance on air attacks will serve local teams well

Published 2:51 pm Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Local football next season will be all about the quarterback-receiver connection, unlike last season when the running backs were dominant. But what will this mean for the fortunes of our local teams?

Expect at least one pass duo—Chilton County High quarterback Taylor Hughes to receiver Kendrick Woods—to make some noise. Hughes and the rest of the CCHS offense struggled early on in first-year coach Brian Carter’s spread system but gained steam late, even winning three consecutive games at one point. The Tigers played their best game of the season in a 41-31 loss to Shelby County High in the first round of the playoffs.

Hughes ended up first in the area with 152 passing yards per game, and Woods was tops among area pass catchers with 70 receiving yards per game. Chilton will lose several key contributors, especially on defense, to graduation, but the real problem is the region the team plays in. Demopolis, Carver-Montgomery and Greenville will again make any hope of hosting a first-round playoff game a tough task, but if Hughes and Woods are clicking the way they were at the end of the year, it’s possible.

Right behind the CCHS stars in both categories mentioned above are Maplesville players. Quarterback Matt Hamner excelled in his first starting assignment in coach Brent Hubbert’s offense, and receiver Brian Bailey was one of the reasons why. Hamner’s completion percentage and Bailey’s yards per catch average and touchdown total were actually way above all other local players. With a year of experience working together and another offseason in Hubbert’s program, this duo will lead the Red Devils to another region title next season—that would make it three in four years.

Maplesville’s cause will be helped by Linden losing All-State running back and linebacker Maurice Tate and Billingsley losing Advertiser Player of the Year Jamar Hopson.

Billingsley, like so many other local teams, will turn more to the passing game. In the Bears’ case, that will be dictated by the losses of Hopson and running mate Tim Simon. So, Billingsley will rely on quarterback Mario Reese to throw to receiver Raphael Brooks to duplicate, or possibly improve on, a successful 2008 season.

Thorsby and Verbena will rely on passing combinations to improve on disappointing seasons. For the Rebels, it will be Andrew Farris throwing to Marcus Bray, and there will be a new coach on the sidelines. The Red Devils, meanwhile, will rely on quarterback Brad Boswell passing to Brandon White. Playoff berths will be the goal for both teams.

After somewhat of a down year in ‘08, look for local teams to return to form—and then some—in ‘09. And if they do it, it’ll be because they’re airing the ball out instead of handing it off.