Knights open season on the road against ranked opponent
Fri. August 24, 2012 at 1:00 a.m. | By Andrew Carroll
TUSCALOOSA | After completing spring practice, summer workouts and fall camp, five AISA football teams in West Alabama are ready to start anew.
Tuscaloosa Academy, coming off a 9-2 season in Robert Johnson’s first year as head coach, travels to Auburn to face Lee-Scott Academy tonight. Marengo Academy plays at South Choctaw Academy in Toxey. Sumter Academy visits Meadowview Christian in Selma.
Pickens Academy plays at home in Carrollton against Sparta Academy of Evergreen. Southern Academy opens at home in Greensboro, facing Wilcox Academy.
Johnson is enthusiastic about the start of a new season, and the players might be motivated to knock off the No. 9 team in the AISA preseason poll.
"We’ve had a very good week of practice," Johnson said. "I think the kids are focused and ready to go. We do have to play a great opponent to start off the season. We’re the underdog, and they’re favored. They’re ranked, and we’re not. I think it does help your mental focus when you start off with that kind of opponent."
Johnson got a chance to see Lee-Scott Academy play in a jamboree against Fort Dale Academy. Johnson said quarterback Jeremy Joseph is 6-foot-6 and has a "rocket arm."
"Another disadvantage for us is that they’ve played in two preseason scrimmages," Johnson said. "But the main thing I like about our kids is the work ethic. They want to get better every day.
"I think we’ve got some tough kids, guys that are mentally tough. I think we’ve got that edge, and we’re going to try to use it to impose our will against the other teams."
Jonathan Plott will start at quarterback for Tuscaloosa Academy, and the game plan might involve getting the ball to Torrence Brown.
"We’re going to try to utilize him in a lot of difference ways, either by throwing it to him or handing it to him," Johnson said. "He has great vision and makes great cuts. He’s a real gritty player, and he’s also a good blocker."
Clay Thomas, a starting halfback and safety, could play a significant role by returning kickoffs and punts.
"I’ve been very pleased with the entire team," Johnson said. "I’m excited about seeing what kind of team we have."
Pickens Academy coach John Gartman said he hasn’t been able to find out much about Sparta Academy, but he liked what he saw when his team played in a jamboree in Mississippi.
"You’re always a little anxious starting off a new season because you don’t know everything to expect out of your opponent, especially one you haven’t coached against before," Gartman said. "I thought we played well in the jamboree, and that should give us some confidence and momentum."
Pickens Academy’s Josh Lewis might not leave the field tonight.
"He’s our best player, our go-to guy," Gartman said. "He’ll be at running back and quarterback on offense and at safety on defense. He’ll do most of our kicking too."
Gartman said Preston McGahey and Cody Scott are new to the varsity program this season, but both have earned starting roles on the offensive line.
"I’m looking for us to be clean and sharp," Gartman said. "That’s why we had the jamboree. It was definitely a point of emphasis for us. I think that if we play well we’ll have a good chance against anybody on our schedule."
Robby James is beginning his fourth season as head coach of the Marengo Academy Longhorns. Shaun Bonds is starting his 11th season at Southern Academy.
Jake Wingo, a former assistant, is the first-year head coach at Sumter Academy, No. 10 in the preseason poll. A former Hillcrest High School athlete, Wingo signed to play football at the University of Alabama, but his career was cut short because of an injury. His coaching staff includes his father, Rich Wingo, a former Alabama linebacker. The elder Wingo was listed as a member of the Hillcrest staff last year, when his younger son, Luke Wingo, was the Patriots’ senior quarterback.
Reach Andrew Carroll at email@example.com or at 205-722-0223.