Teams gear up for fall Friday nights

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 3, 2005

Brantley Head Coach David Lowery has been around the Bulldogs' program long enough to know the expectations.

Not just from the fans. But from the state sportswriter's association.

Predictably, the Bulldogs are ranked in the preseason Top 10. Lowery's team starts the year No. 7 in Class 1A following last season's 13-1 record. Brantley's lone loss came in the semifinal round to Sweetwater, 34-20.

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"That's what I've heard," said Lowery, when asked about the rankings. Then proceeded to rattle of a list of 10 seniors he said would be sorely missed when Brantley opens the 2005 season in Elba on Aug. 26.

Up the road in Luverne, Brad Waggoner takes over for Mike DuBose as head coach of the Tigers. Luverne also garnered votes for the Class 2A poll following last season's 9-3 record.

The Tigers return the entire offensive backfield including quarterback Ryan Brown and tailback tandem Fred Hawkins and Jesse Dixon. The team is going through a summer football camp this week in preparation for the season, which will conclude with a 10 a.m. scrimmage on Saturday. The Tigers open their season on the road at Opp on Aug. 26.

Highland Home Head Coach Bob Farrior said he's been pleased with the attitude shown by his players these first few days of practice. 53 players are dressing out, said Farrior, from JV to varsity.

"All the players have been upbeat and positive," said Farrior, whose team loses eight starters. "We've got pretty good skill players this year."

The Flying Squadron will host Livingston in their season opener.

At Crenshaw Christian Academy, Coach Roland Jones said this year's team will be smaller upfront then last year's which averaged 280-pounds across the offensive and defensive lines. Losing senior linemen like Wallace Kelley (6-foot-5, 315) and Parker Wallace (6-foot-5, 300) will do that.

But Jones feels this year's team will be quicker overall.

"All of our skill players return, plus we have Mike McDonald at running back who transferred over from Greenville," said Jones.

The Cougars open at home on Aug. 26 against Lakeside, but also have a mid-season trip lined up to Panama City, Fla. to take on Arnold School.

When Mobile's Independent Methodist School closed its doors at the end of this past school year, it left a void in CCA's football schedule.

Jones searched for a suitable replacement, but could only find smaller Class A schools willing to be host to his team.

Then Jones got a call from Panama City Beach, Fla. Arnold School is a Florida public school that has the enrollment equivalent to 5A Alabama football program. Arnold coach James Hale, a native of Montgomery, and Jones reached an agreement that will extend over the next four seasons to play each year in Panama City Beach.

"I looked at it as a great opportunity for our kids to play in first-class facility," Jones said.

He said the stadium, itself, has the seating capacity to Cramton Bowl in Montgomery, which can easily hold more than 30,000.

So why cross the state line for a game?

"We were offered by some smaller schools in the state, but I think the opportunity for the kids and the school was hard to pass up."

Making a trip to Panama City Beach would also seem like an unnecessarily long trip for the Cougars.

"It's going to be about a two-hour trip for us, but we travel farther," Jones explained. "We play at Chambers Academy (LaFayette), which is about three hours away."

Arnold also will make the trip worthwhile, since it will pay for Crenshaw Christian's travel expenses. Jones said that Arnold will cover the cost of travel to and from Panama City Beach as well as cover the pre-game meal for the Cougars.

Crenshaw Christian will travel to Arnold this season on Oct. 7. Dates for the remaining three years on the contract have not been decided yet.

Kevin Taylor, sports writer, contributed to this report.