All six head football coaches of the six high school teams competing in the 2009 al.com Champions Challenge were on hand at the first annual Alabama High School Athletic Association Media Day Wednesday, July 29 at the association state office.
AHSAA Executive Director Steve Savarese and his staff met with news media from across the state in an informative question-and-answer seminar. The six head coaches—Jamey DuBose of Prattville, Al Pogue of Carver-Montgomery, Jamie Riggs of T.R. Miller, Keith Etheredge of Leeds, John Grass of Oxford and Josh Niblett of Hoover, discussed the upcoming preseason classic scheduled for Montgomery’s Cramton Bowl Aug. 21-22.
The expanded 2009 al.com Champions Challenge Prep Football Classic series is hosted by the Alabama High School Athletic Directors & Coaches Association (AHSADCA).
The Prattville-Carver matchup on Friday, Aug. 21, involves two local area teams that finished 13-1 last season. That contest will precede a Saturday doubleheader featuring Leeds vs. T.R. Miller and Oxford vs. Hoover. The defending 3A state champion Green Wave, 15-0 in 2008, plays T.R. Miller, 13-1 last year, at 5 p.m. on Aug. 22. Oxford (8-3) takes on last year’s Class 6A runner-up Hoover (13-2) at 7:30 on Saturday night to conclude the fourth annual event.
“We have three premier matchups that should have tremendous local and statewide interest,” said AHSADCA Director Steve Bailey. “It will be an excellent way to kick off the 2009 football season.”
Carver-Montgomery vs. Prattville
The Wolverines, coached by Al Pogue, won a school-record 13 games in a row in 2008 before falling in a wild 45-41 semifinal at Prichard to eventual state champion Vigor. Prattville, which has won the last three Class 6A state titles and has reached the finals four of the last five years, is 43-1 over its last 44 games.
The Lions of Coach Jamey DuBose enter the contest with a 13-game winning streak after a 15-10 setback to St. Xavier, Ohio, in last year’s Herbstreit Classic in Cincinnati. That loss snapped a 30-game Lions winning streak. Prattville has not lost a game in the state since the 2005 state playoffs.
“We are delighted to be able to add this third game with such local interest to the Champions Challenge,” said AHSAA Executive Director Steve Savarese. “We are committed to making the Champions Challenge the best it can be each year. We feel we have three great games that high school football fans can really look forward to.”
Oxford was scheduled to play Prattville in the third annual Champions Challenge last year, but the game was canceled due to torrential rains that swept through Alabama as a result of hurricane activity off the coast of Florida.
Prattville downed North Gwinnett 36-3 in the 2007 Champions Challenge. In the inaugural event in 2006, Hoover downed UMS-Wright 38-0 and Clay County beat Addison 41-6. All four were state champions in 2005.
Oxford vs. Hoover
Grass has a 90-46-0 career record with other head-coaching stops at Ashville, Albertville, Moody and Spain Park. The Bucs are coached by Josh Niblett (80-32-0), who came to Hoover a year ago from Oxford. This will be the first regular-season meeting between the two schools since Niblett made the move.
Grass coached the Alabama all-stars to a 28-3 win in the 2008 Alabama-Mississippi Classic at Mobile last December. Niblett has been named Alabama All-Star head coach for the 23rd Classic at Ladd-Peebles Stadium next December.
Hoover reached the Class 6A state finals last season under Niblett and fell to state champion Prattville 16-13. A chance to tie the game in the final seconds was foiled when the Lions blocked the Bucs’ field goal try. Niblett won a state title as head coach at Oneonta in 2004.
Hoover has seven state championships in its history, five coming from 2000-2005. The 1982 championship was a crown shared with Enterprise after the two teams battled to a 10-10 tie in the finals. Since that tie the AHSAA has not permitted tie games for varsity contests.
Oxford won back-to-back Class 5A crowns in 1988 and 1989 under the direction of Coach Robert Herring, who moved to Newnan, Ga., and retired after last season with over 300 career wins. Grass was an assistant coach on the 2000 Hoover state championship team and led Spain Park to the 2007 Class 6A state finals, a 14-0 loss to Prattville.
Leeds vs. T.R. Miller
Leeds is coached by Keith Etheredge (31-10-0) and T.R. Miller is headed by Jamie Riggs (235-63-0), currently ranked third for wins among active head coaches in the AHSAA.
Leeds won its first-ever state championship last season with a 34-20 win over defending champion Cordova. The Green Wave allowed only 26 points in the regular season and 66 overall, just 4.4 points per game for the year – the best mark in the AHSAA.
T.R. Miller rolled to a 13-0 record last year before falling to Cordova in the semifinals, 40-35. The Tigers’ tradition runs deep with six state championships since 1969. Riggs has coached the last five, including their most recent in 2002.
“No doubt, we have outstanding teams with great support from their own communities taking part,” said Bailey. “All have proven head coaches who are outstanding individuals and real assets to our state and the coaching profession.”
The al.com Champions Challenge pre-season event kicks off the 2009 AHSAA football season. The regular season will begin the next week with season-opening games Aug. 27-28-29.