Daily photo by Michael Wetzel|
Volunteer assistant coach Everette Mayes, right, gives instructions to R.A. Hubbard's massive offensive line. The Class 1A team has two linemen tipping the scales at 260 pounds or more. Hubbard fell in the second round of the state playoffs last year.
HIGH SCHOOL COUNTDOWN
Hopes high at Hubbard
Eight straight trips to playoffs not good enough for Class 1A powerhouse Chiefs
Fifth in a series
By Michael Wetzel
firstname.lastname@example.org · 340-2462
COURTLAND — Back-to-back trips to the second round of the state high school football playoffs are enough to keep smiles on the faces of players and fans alike. But not so at R.A. Hubbard High.
The Class 1A Chiefs have posted 7-5 seasons the past two years and have landed in the state playoffs the past eight years under the direction of head coach Lymos McDonald. He said the school's winning tradition doesn't allow his staff and players to be content with simply making playoff appearances. They aren't satisfied until the state presents the school with the blue trophy at season's end.
"A lot of programs might be satisfied with the success we've had recently," McDonald said. "But here at Hubbard, the bar is set high. Most people don't understand the importance of tradition. It comes with added pressure and it comes with strengths. We wouldn't want it any other way. Eight straight years in the playoffs is nice, but here 14-1 is not a good season if we don't win the whole thing. We expect much more. We expect to be undefeated every year."
R.A. Hubbard won the state title in 1999 and was a finalist in 2004. In 2001, the Chiefs fell in the semifinals. McDonald's team was close last year, too. In the second-round loss to Cedar Bluff, McDonald said his team had a first and goal at the 3-yard line and fumbled before losing by five.
McDonald, who played football at Alabama State, smiles when he thinks about the 2007 version of the Chiefs. But he said his talented players may not be the missing ingredient to going deeper into the playoffs.
"For the first time in a few years, I have a great group of assistant coaches," McDonald said. "It seems I get a group together and the assistants move on to other programs, but this year might be the best I've had."
Hubbard staff assistants Andy Bradford and Stephen Coleman are joined by volunteer assistants Rickey Johnson, Everette Mayes, Douglas Young and Kevin McDonald.
"Having this bunch of guys allows us to opportunity to do a lot of teaching. We can get back to the basics and playing aggressive football," said McDonald, 74-28 going into his ninth year as head coach.
Graduation took eight players
Graduation cost the Chiefs eight players from last year, including Devans Orr and Chad Orr, who are suiting up for Alabama State. However, five or six starters on each side of the ball return, McDonald said. Returning is starting quarterback LeBrandon Key, who also saw action at wide receiver and cornerback. The 6-foot-2, 160-pound senior is confident about directing the offense and playing behind a "big and physical" offensive line that includes two players weighing more than 270 pounds, a luxury for any Class 1A lineup. Senior center Ramsee Miller (6-2, 280) will team with senior left tackle Brannon White (6-2, 270) in opening holes for junior tailback Tecumseh Garth (5-10, 175) and senior running back Jeffery Napier (5-10, 200). Others with blocking chores are sophomore guard Thomas Birgans (6-3, 230), junior guard Terry Clopton and sophomore right tackle Desmond Hampton (6-3, 230).
McDonald has a project player in 5-foot-6, 260-pound senior fullback Josh Williams. Williams, who played as a 280-pound offensive guard two years ago as a sophomore, is better every year, McDonald said. "He's our battering ram," coach said. "He should be able to get us some tough yards in short yardage situations and help the line open some holes. Like always, we are going to be a running team. We will run the ball to set up the pass."
When the Chiefs are passing, the targets will be senior Jarvious Gholston (5-11, 170) and Marikess Harris, a ninth-grader who "showed great hands in the spring," McDonald said.
"At wide receiver, we are probably the most talented and most inexperienced," McDonald said.
He added sophomore Mykmyk Ingram (6-21/2, 200) could become Key's favorite receiver before the year is out.
Another weapon is Mr. Versatility, senior Dontae Robinson.
At 5-foot-11, 225 pounds, Robinson will see plenty of time at tight end and wide receiver. Robinson's name can be found on the roster as linebacker and place-kicker, too.
Defensively, McDonald said, the Chiefs will continue to be aggressive.
Senior Gregory Young (5-10, 210) and Napier return as starting defensive
Williams returns as nose tackle. Junior inside linebacker Josh Draper (6-3, 220) is a three-year starter and Robinson, an outside linebacker, will be counted on to stop the run.
Garth will use his speed and instincts at strong safety. Key will be the shutdown corner, McDonald said.
What is it going to take for R.A. Hubbard to return to the pinnacle of Class 1A football?
More points and
fewer mistakes, McDonald said.
"We've got to put more points on the board," he said after his 2006 team
averaged 19 points per game.
"We've got to win the close games. Last year, we had a lot of small mistakes — delay of game, broken assignments — that cost us.
"We need to continue to fine tune our offense and have a sound defensive game plan."
Looking over this year's schedule, which finds Hubbard opening at Class 2A power Addison on Aug. 31, McDonald sees "three or four games we should win and five or six that could go either way."
"Every game for us is big," he said.
"Winning a championship is always a possibility at Hubbard."
R.A. Hubbard at a glance
Last season: 7-5, lost in second round of Class 1A playoffs to Cedar Bluff 19-14.
Head coach: Lymos McDonald (74-28 entering his ninth year as coach).
Noteworthy: Senior center and college prospect Ramsee Miller (6-foot-2, 280 pounds) was a member of The Daily’s honorable mention all-area golf team. ... A playoff team for the past eight straight years, the Chiefs have never won the Class 1A title as R.A. Hubbard High. The school changed its name from Courtland High in 2004. ... R.A. Hubbard opens the season ranked 11th in the Alabama Sportswriters Association Class 1A poll with 52 points, five behind 10th-ranked Donoho. The Chiefs’ first home game is Sept. 7 against Brilliant.
Michael Wetzel, Daily Assistant Sports Editor
R.A. Hubbard High schedule, results
8-31 at Addison
9-7 Brilliant (R)
9-14 at Phillips-Bear Creek (R)
9-21 Speake (R)
10-5 at Shoals Christian (R)
10-12 at Hackleburg (R)
10-19 Vina (R)
10-26 at Hazlewood (R)
(R)-Class 1A, Region 8
vs. Addison L, 7-6
at Brilliant W, 33-7
vs. Phillips W, 33-14
at Speake W, 20-0
at Munford L, 26-19
vs. Shoals Christian W, 22-16
vs. Hackleburg W, 30-13
at Vina W, 18-12
vs. Hazlewood L, 20-16
at Tarrant L, 38-0
Class 1A playoffs
vs. Sulligent W, 28-20
at Cedar Bluff L, 19-14
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