Two thrillers highlight best of the football season

Published 8:52 pm Wednesday, November 4, 2009

On Friday, we will begin looking ahead to the first round of the state football playoffs, which will include local teams Chilton County, Jemison and Maplesville.

Before we do that, though, let’s spend some time looking back at the regular season.

Below is a compilation of the best and worst of the 2009 season. It was a great year, so there is only one worst category, and I think you all will agree with me.

Best game, large school division: Just like last year, the Highway 31 Throwdown kicked the season off in dramatic fashion.

Trailing 19-12, Jemison took possession of the football on their own 36-yard line with 2:22 remaining in the game, and the first pass attempt was intercepted by CCHS’s Anthony Atchison.

Looking back, the game was Jemison sophomore Javae Swindle’s breakout game, as the county’s leading rusher scored two touchdowns and intercepted a pass on defense.

The game also set the tone for the Tigers, who have relied much more heavily on the run this year than last year.

Oh, the game, which was played in a constant downpour, also set the tone for the weather the rest of the season. More on that later.

Best game, small school division: There is no way I could leave out Thorsby’s 32-30 overtime win over Isabella.

As I predicted beforehand, the game was wildly entertaining because both teams had already been eliminated from playoff contention. So, the seasons of two teams came down to one rivalry game, and it didn’t disappoint.

Isabella scored five touchdowns to Thorsby’s four, but the difference was that the Mustangs couldn’t convert on any of their point-after tries while the Rebels earned 8 points solely on 2-point conversions.

Fittingly, the last play of the game saw the Thorsby defense stop Isabella just short on an attempted 2-point play.

Best hit: That would be the lick Thorsby’s Eric Camarillo laid on a Winterboro defender during a reverse play last week. It was the kind of hit you see on Sundays.

The Rebels didn’t come close to winning the game, but Camarillo’s display woke up a sluggish sideline.

Best uniforms: I’m cheating here because I didn’t actually see them, but I’m picking Jemison’s all white get-up.

I was a fan of the Panthers’ white helmets the minute I saw them. What I wanted to see, I wrote early in the season, was white jerseys on top of white pants.

Since the team did it, Jemison gets the award.

Best stadium: Once again, it is Chilton County’s Tiger Stadium. Hands down. Maybe I’m a little biased because this stadium is a dream for someone covering a game for a newspaper. I park by the emergency gate at the south end zone and have a short walk to the field, and the sidelines are spacious.

Even if you’re just watching from a fans’ perspective, though, you have to agree the tunnel and the shrubs that spell out “CCHS” are pretty cool.

Best person to know: Former CCHS coach Don Hand. Tiger Stadium might have lost its spot in the category above if not for Hand. The gate by my parking spot was locked before the Greenville game, and I was preparing to walk all the way around.

But that’s when Hand said he still had a key from his coaching days.

And what is anyone going to say to Hand? He’s a legend—and played a big part in building the stadium into what it is today.

Best team: Maplesville. The Red Devils lost only one game, at Linden, and something tells me they might win the rematch if it comes to that.

After somewhat of a down year in 2008 (and how many programs would call a winning record and a playoff berth a down year?) coach Brent Hubbert has Maplesville back where it was in 2007 and ‘06: among the state’s elite teams.

Worst conditions: I suppose a case could be made for the Billingsley-Dallas County game on Oct. 31—in which most of the lights went out, forcing both teams to all but abandon the passing game—but I’ll go with…any Friday night this season when the games were played in the rain.

There are plenty to choose from.