Fort Dale, Georgiana poised for playoff run
Paul Finebaum, one of my favorite sportswriters and perhaps the best in the state, if not in the nation, began a practice many years ago where he predicted Auburn and Alabama's up-coming season on the day each team played their A-Day game.
In keeping with that trend, I will break down and make my predictions for Fort Dale Academy and Georgiana High's 2007 regular seasons today, since both of their springs practice are complete, and then break down Greenville High and McKenzie High Saturday following their spring games Friday.
The Eagles made their seventh straight playoff appearance last season before being upended by Bessemer in the semifinals.
Gone from last year's squad are Blake Conway, Cory Johnson, Ty Newton, Mika Jones and Dalton Gregory, leaving big holes for the Eagles to fill.
Conway and Johnson were big-time players for the Eagles in the trenches while Newton, Jones and Gregory were playmakers in both the offensive and defensive backfields.
Davis Watts, who will be a senior in the fall, has emerged as the leading candidate to replace Newton while Blake Mullins will take over for Jones.
Mullins earned significant playing time last season, gaining more than 1,200 all-purpose yards, and should be able to showcase abilities this season without having to share carries.
Barry Boan is back for his senior season, although the junior injured his arm during the Bessemer game which forced him out of contact during spring practice.
Boan is not only a threat from the offensive backfield, but from the linebacker position as well.
The Fort Dale schedule sets up well for the Eagles to make a playoff run and with head coach James “Speed” Sampley calling the shots, the Eagles should be a threat to score from anywhere.
It would be difficult to duplicate last year's 9-1 regular-season record and with Conway, Johnson, Newton, Jones and Gregory all gone, it will be ever harder.
2007 prediction: 7-3
If the Panthers didn't have enough to deal with last year, things just got tougher this season.
Last year, head coach Greg Ennis resigned following spring practice and assistant coach Donald Ray Mixon was promoted to head coach.
A few weeks ago, Mixon was fired as head coach and relieved of his athletic duties just as the Panthers were scheduled to begin spring practice.
Georgiana Principal Joseph Dean took over coaching duties during the spring and his discipline showed as the Panthers dismantled the Class 4A Hillcrest-Evergreen Jaguars during the spring game, 44-13.
Dean shot down the notion of taking over as head coach of the Panthers and a new coach should be named within a matter of weeks.
Whoever the new coach is, he will have a talented group heading into the 2007 season, led by quarterback Andre Paige.
Paige is returning after racking up more than 1,000 all-purpose yards last season and will lead a talented group of receivers.
Terrance Matthews, Chris Shows and Victor Marshall all had a huge game against Hillcrest-Evergreen and all three displayed their versatility and speed.
If the coaching carousel and lack of continuity does not hurt the Panthers heading into the fall, the 2007 season could be one of the biggest.
A win against the Greenville Tigers at home in the season-opening game would propel the Panthers to greatness, but the lack of size in the trenches, coupled with loss of All-County selections Shane Boyd, Derrick Godwin and Cornelius McMeans, will make that hard to do.
The Panthers play in the toughest region in Class 2A, but the Panthers may just be one of the toughest teams in 2A.
2007 prediction: 7-3
Austin Phillips is The Greenville Advocate sports editor and can be reached by phone at 334-382-3111 ext. 122, by fax at 334-382-7104 or by e-mail at email@example.com