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Lowndes cracks preseason Top 10 poll

Not many high school coaches like to hear that their teams are ranked in the Top 10 in the preseason.

But not longtime Lowndes Academy coach Art Sullivan.

The Rebels are preseason ranked No. 9 among all Alabama Independent School Association teams in the Alabama Sports Writers Poll, that was released on Tuesday.

"I think the ranking will give our kids motivation and make us play harder," Sullivan said. "They can go around and stick their chests out a little, but they better know that they'll have to back it up on Friday night."

Lowndes Academy finished 2004 with a 9-3 record, advancing to the Class A semifinals before being knocked out by Shelby Academy. The Rebels return more than half of their starters from that playoff team, which makes Sullivan believe he can have another successful season this year.

"We've got a chance to be good as long as we fill the holes in the offensive line," he said. "If we can fill those holes with kids who are winners and dedicated to the program, then I think we've got a good chance of being a good ballclub."

Defending AAA champ Bessemer Academy (13-0) begins the season first with 301 points, 19 more than No. 2 Edgewood Academy (11-2), last year’s runner-up to the Rebels.

Four defending state champions have been pegged to repeat.

Class 6A three-time state champion Hoover (15-0) headlines the ASWA poll – the largest in the poll’s 27-year history. Defending 5A state champion Homewood (14-1), Class 2A champion Leroy (12-2) and Class 1A defending champ Sweet Water (13-2) also begin the season on top of their respective classifications.

Only Class 4A defending champ Demopolis (15-0) and 3A defending champ Oneonta (15-0) start the season out of No. 1.

In Class 4A, last year’s runner-up Deshler (14-1) captured 15 first-place votes and 321 total points to edge out No. 2 UMS-Wright (13-1). Demopolis, which had eight first-place votes, is third.

T.R. Miller (12-1) got one less first-place vote than Oneonta but out-pointed the Redskins 307 to 301 for first place in Class 3A.

In Class 2A, Leroy had 20 first-place votes and 319 total points. No. 2 Clay County (12-2) had eight first-place votes and 283 points.

Leroy is one of three teams from Class 2A, Region 1 to be ranked in the top 10.

Georgiana Principal and former Panthers head football coach Keith York said he wasn't surprised to see three teams from Georgiana's region earn a Top 10 preseason ranking.

"I would have to say that Region 1 is the toughest region in the state, no matter what classification," York said.

Sweet Water gather 24 first-place votes in Class 1A with second-ranked R.A. Hubbard getting four, third-ranked Wadley (13-1) and fourth-ranked American Christian, two each.

A total of 32 sportswriters from across Alabama participated in the poll which is compiled by The Birmingham News.

Coach Rush Propst’s Bucs collected a history-making 30 first-place votes and 378 points.

Hoover begins the season with a 24-game winning streak intact, but the string of victories will face a serious test in the season opener. The Bucs take on Nease High of St. Augustine, Fla., in a game to be televised live on ESPN Aug. 27. Kickoff is set for 11 a.m.