Football season comes to close for Butler County teams

Published 9:00 am Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Football season officially came to a close for all varsity squads in Butler County, though one team’s season lasted a week longer than the rest.

Georgiana (7-4) reached the first round of the Alabama High School Athletic Association Class 1A playoffs, but suffered a 47-12 loss to No. 6-ranked Leroy on Friday.

“I’m definitely proud of the way my guys responded this entire season,” Panthers head coach Berry Bess said. “It didn’t end the way we wanted, for sure, but going 7-4 after coming off an 0-10 season, that’s a huge turnaround. It should give my young guys a lot of confidence, hopefully the confidence they need going farther. Most of them have never been to the playoffs, and we’re playing a lot of ninth and 10th graders, going to the playoffs young and tasting defeat. Hopefully, in the future, we’ll figure out a way so we don’t have to taste it anymore.”

The Panthers started the season 6-0, a fast-enough start to land Bess on the radar as an AHSAA Coach of the Year finalist in Class 1A, but a 3-game losing streak in the toughest part of Georgiana’s schedule put the team in a must-win situation in Week 10 against Pleasant Home.

With many key pieces returning in 2023, Bess said he talked to his players about the potential for strong playoff runs in the future.

“Just making the playoffs gives my guys more games,” Bess said. “We’re guaranteed 10 games in a season barring any injuries or sickness, but to get an extra game, that’s an extra week of practice, it’s big for the program, and it’s something to build on.”

Fort Dale Academy (4-6) finished just short of the Alabama Independent Schools Association Class 3A playoffs, but the Eagles display of resolve in a 35-19 comeback victory over Escambia Academy ended their season on a positive note on Oct. 28.

“It took us a while to figure it out, coming from the season we had last year,” said Fort Dale head coach Eric Folmar after the victory. “We still didn’t quite have the culture where we wanted it to start the season … The last month of the season was completely different. That’s what we talked about with changing the culture and the shift that we’ve had the last five weeks.

“It’s unfortunate. We caught a couple bad breaks with the tiebreakers and had a couple teams win some games we didn’t think they were going to win, but I think we’re playing as good as anybody else in 3A. It’s a shame we don’t get a chance to continue playing in the playoffs, but I couldn’t be more proud of the way we’ve played and the adversity we’ve overcome.”

McKenzie (1-8) finished its season with a 31-0 loss to Elba in Week 10. The Tigers’ lone win of the season came Oct. 14 against Kinston, where they prevailed 38-22. Head coach Ezell Powell, in his first season with McKenzie, will have to reassess the talent coming back and the growth in his younger players heading into the 2023 season.

Powell wasn’t the only head coach in Butler County to struggle in his first season with a program. Greenville head coach Patrick Browning entered the 2022 season with a chance to build another contender a season after turning Pike Road into a 5A state champion.

Unfortunately, the Tigers weren’t able to build on the momentum of a thrilling 25-19 OT finish against Park Crossing in Week 0.

Greenville’s struggles included a 9-game losing streak, with the Tigers held to single-digit scoring in five of those losses. Despite those woes, Greenville still remained mathematically alive for playoff contention until Week 7, where a 42-7 loss to Rehobeth ensured the Tigers wouldn’t advance to the postseason in 2022.

One bad season doesn’t take away a championship pedigree, and Browning will surely get several seasons to instill the formula that made Pike Road a success in Greenville.