New football team preps for 1st year

Published 7:05 pm Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Local football fields are filled each Friday in the fall with players hoping to earn a scholarship based on their athletic ability.

Not many of those players are given a chance to play in college, however, but a new football program based in the county might serve as a sort of second chance for those not ready to give up their football dreams.

The Central Alabama Red Devils, made up of players that graduated from local high schools, will play a practice game Saturday at Marietta, Ga., against the Georgia Steelers and will open their season March 5 when the Clay County Hawks visit (the Devils will play their home games at Maplesville’s George Walker Jr. Stadium).

“It was basically just something I wanted to do,” said Josh Jones, a 2002 MHS graduate who also played at UAB. “I travel around the Southeast doing construction and you see a lot of pro, semi-pro teams, but you never hear about it around here. People like to watch football, and I knew we had the talent.”

The Red Devils will compete in the National Developmental Football League against other teams from Alabama and Georgia.

Central Alabama’s roster includes players right out of high school as well as players in their late 30s. Jones is the head coach, but he will also play linebacker.

The defense should be a team strength, with about 15 players that will see time exclusively on that side of the ball.

The offense has playmakers, especially in the backfield, but Jones said the team is trying to learn a large amount of plays (about 125) in a limited number of practices (because of work schedules, the Devils have only been able to practice on Saturdays and Sundays).

But if nothing else, the Central Alabama quarterbacks should be able to just turn around and hand the football to any number of backs. Former Chilton County star Jeremy Anderson, who led Auburn in rushing yards at its 2008 spring game), will share time with Jamar Hopson, The Clanton Advertiser’s Football Player of the Year for the 2008 season.

Anderson and Hopson will run behind Byron Oliver, the fullback off the Jemison team that played in the state championship game in 1999.

Jones said Oliver weighs about 285 pounds but still possesses the speed that allowed him to excel as a track and field athlete in high school.

Having Oliver out front to block should allow Anderson and Hopson to run free. Jones thinks Hopson has a future beyond the Red Devils.

“He’ll only play for us one year,” Jones said. “Somebody will pick him up.”

And that’s the goal for the program.

“We’re going to get players that didn’t quite get picked up for college and give them another chance to show what they can do,” Jones said.

A schedule and roster can be found at Games will be played at 6 p.m. on Saturdays.

Jones said the program will depend on fans coming out to the games to subsist. Players this season had to spend their own money to purchase equipment.

Still, the Devils are looking forward to the season.

“We’re ahead of where I thought we would be,” Jones said. “Getting started, I didn’t know about the level of talent, but we’ve got some players.”