Varsity football begins with plenty of storylines

Published 3:14 pm Thursday, August 20, 2015

High school football begins Friday night in Chilton County with four local teams taking the field for their first games of the year.

Chilton County High School will host Sylacauga, Maplesville will host Ragland, Jemison will visit Shelby County High School and Thorsby will visit Holtville.

All games begin at 7 p.m.

Other local teams won’t play their first games until next Friday, Aug. 28.

The Clanton Advertiser helps you prepare for the season with Kickoff 2015 magazine, which will be available in the Thursday, Aug. 27 edition of the newspaper, in time for the annual rivalry showdown between CCHS and Jemison, which will host this year’s game.

Check on Friday nights during the season for the latest from the gridiron, and see the Weekend editions of the newspaper for full coverage.

Also, “like” The Clanton Advertiser on Facebook for updates as the games progress, and look for the Kickoff Weekly special section in the newspaper each Thursday of the regular season.

Below are the top four storylines to monitor this season:

1. Can Maplesville repeat as state champions?

The Red Devils were dominant during an unbeaten run in 2014, outscoring opponents by an average of 49-8 per game. Though several important players from that team will have to be replaced this year, most expect a similar performance from MHS, as the team was ranked preseason No. 1 in Class 1A by the Alabama Sports Writers Association and received all 31 first-place votes. Repeating as champions won’t be an easy task, as the Devils face several traditional powers, including Billingsley (the only other local team ranked, at No. 8 in Class 1A), Linden, Tanner, Sweet Water and Northview (Fla.), their state’s defending 1A champ.

2. New faces at area’s largest programs

Van Clements, a former Jemison quarterback who graduated in 2005, takes over as coach for the Panthers, replacing Jacob Hogan after two seasons. There’s no better way to start a tenure at Class 5A JHS than a strong performance against rival Chilton County High School, and Clements and the Panthers will have that opportunity early, as the Tigers visit Panther Stadium on Aug. 27. Across the sidelines will be Brian Bradford, who is looking for dramatic improvement in his second season as coach. CCHS won only two games last year in Class 6A but suffered several close losses.

3. Replacing a workhorse quarterback

Tyler Smith was the face of Isabella football the past three seasons. The quarterback rushed for more than 1,400 yards in each of those seasons, not to mention leading the Mustangs in passing while also playing in spots on defense. Smith’s time at the helm also included playoff appearances the past two years. Now he’s gone. Isabella fans will see a different face behind center for the first time in a while, and it will be difficult for whoever replaces Smith to produce the same kind of numbers. The new quarterback may not have to be Superman for the Class 1A Mustangs to have success, however, as coach Scott Booth said this year’s squad will feature talented youngsters.

4. Push to the playoffs

2014 marked an incredible turnaround for Thorsby. Having won only four games in the past three seasons, the Rebels reeled off six consecutive wins at one point on their way to a 7-4 finish and a playoff berth. Class 2A THS will look to continue that momentum this season. Another local team experiencing a turnaround is Verbena. The Class 1A Red Devils went 4-6 last year and missed the playoffs, but with a talented team returning, this could be their year to make a move. Thorsby and Verbena square off in Thorsby on Aug. 28, with the winner claiming a head start on a successful year.