Teams take different approaches to spring

Published 6:25 pm Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Back on the gridiron: Jemison football players practice Tuesday at Panther Stadium. The team—like several other local squads—will forgo a spring practice game in favor of an intrasquad scrimmage on Friday.

Spring practice will conclude Friday for local football teams, but the approaches taken by the squads have differed.

Chilton County High School and Billingsley will end the practice period with an exhibition game, while the others instead will opt for intrasquad scrimmages.

CCHS will visit Calera at 7 p.m. Friday, and Billingsley will visit Elba at 6 p.m.

Chilton lost 27 seniors, including 16 starters, from last year’s team, according to coach Brian Carter.

“We’re looking for guys that are stepping up to fill the spots vacated by the ones in front of them,” Carter said. “I’ve been pleased with this spring, and we’ll see how we do Friday night and go from there.”

BHS coach Joe Nettles said he wanted to see his players use the practice period to improve their attitudes.

“The biggest thing we’re trying to do right now is get tougher,” Nettles said.

Billingsley’s primary quarterback a year ago, Devin Hardy, suffered an injury during baseball season that could keep him out of action this fall. Hardy’s absence would be combined with the loss of three starters on the offensive line.

“We’re going to be really young,” Nettles said.

The 2010 season was one of remarkable production from three local quarterbacks: Jemison’s Scott Clements, Thorsby’s Andrew Farris and Maplesville’s Matt Hamner.

All three will graduate this month, creating opportunities but also casting doubt on the upcoming season.

Jemison, at least, has a signal caller with experience on this year’s roster. Rising senior Trey Bryant started two games last season when Clements went down with an injury.

Bryant will team with one of Jemison’s best ever groups of offensive ball handlers (running back Javae Swindle and receiver Eddie Hubbard were both candidates for The Clanton Advertiser’s Player of the Year honor last year) to form a potent offense–if an offensive line can be completely rebuilt.

“We’ve got to find five guys that can play together there and make 22 (Swindle) look good,” assistant coach Jon Clements said.

The Panthers are practicing without a head coach having been named to replace Brad Abbott.

Maplesville coach Brent Hubbert has opted this spring for more time spent in meetings than practicing in full pads.

Hamner wasn’t the only crucial player lost off the MHS roster, but Hubbert said the losses open the door for younger players.

“We lost a lot of touchdowns,” Hubbert said. “We’re trying to find our identity right now–or create one.”

Thorsby’s quest to replace Farris was complicated by the school’s baseball team, which included many football players, advancing all the way to the semifinal round of the state playoffs, meaning those players were unavailable for football practice.

“We’ve been trying to get what we could done without everybody out there,” THS coach Billy Jackson said. “We’ve got a lot of new faces because we lost a bunch offensively and defensively. We know what we want to do, we’re just trying to find guys who can fit into that.”

Jemison, Thorsby and Isabella will each hold a scrimmage at 1 p.m. Friday.