Daily photo by Brennen Smith|
Ardmore's football players gather for a brief pep talk during a recent practice.
HIGH SCHOOL COUNTDOWN
Ready for an encore
After going from 0-10 to 8-3, Ardmore Tigers aim to add even more victories to their total
Seventh in a series.
By Brooke Milam
firstname.lastname@example.org · 340-2460
ARDMORE — A breakout season for Ardmore High last year under new head coach Tracy Malone included a trip to the state playoffs and breathed new life into the program.
But afterward, it left one lingering question: "What's next?"
The Tigers are familiar with the phrase. It's on their T-shirts as a constant reminder, and the team breaks every huddle by saying, "What's next?"
"I think they're probably getting a little tired of it, actually," Malone laughed.
Ardmore rebounded from 0-10 in 2004 for an 8-3 record last season in Malone's debut season on the job.
The Tigers advanced to the Class 4A state playoffs, emerging out of powerful 4A, Region 7 before losing to eventual state champion Guntersville 35-0 on the road in the first round.
"Last year, there wasn't very many expectations," Malone said. "There wasn't a lot of recent tradition, and the thing our community needed was a good, positive kick in the tail. Our players bought into it, then the students, and it kind of steamrolled from there."
And just so the Tigers don't get comfortable with last year's success, Malone makes sure his team is focused on following up on the standard set last season.
"People may still wonder if it's a fluke," Malone said. "But we're striving to take the next step."
So, what's next for the Tigers?
"To advance in the playoffs and a region championship would be nice," senior offensive/defensive lineman Jordan Angus said.
To do so, Ardmore will have to fight off perennial powers North Jackson and East Limestone, who have claimed the top two spots in 4A, Region 7 for the past three years.
"We understand we are trying to close the gap on North Jackson and East Limestone, and anyone in our region that says any different isn't being honest with themselves," Malone said.
It’s new ground for Ardmore, which received votes in the Alabama Sports Writer Association preseason poll, proving that the Tigers opened some eyes last year.
“Our kids aren’t used to that,” Malone said. “But I think they are handling the expectations well.”
But Malone’s Tigers have hit some roadblocks early, mainly the loss of Derrick Green. He was an honorable mention all-state running back last season when he rushed for 1,629 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns. But he has moved to Kentucky for his senior year.
Still, the Ardmore community expects another good season, and the Tigers said they are ready to deliver.
“Everybody around town is expecting great things from us,” Angus said. “I don’t think it was a one-year thing.”
At 6-foot-3, 260 pounds, Angus is the Tigers’ most experienced lineman and will lead an untested offensive line that Malone said could end up being a force.
Quarterbacks E.J. Barnes, a senior, and junior Clay Wales played in every game last year, and Malone said the pair would be used equally again this season.
“E.J. is more mobile, and Wales is a stay in the pocket and pass kind of guy,” Malone said. “Both bring something different to the table, and with what we’ve lost in the backfield, the quarterbacks are going to have to play well.”
While Malone thinks his offense can put up decent point totals, five returning starters on defense will offer a solid core that, along with the kicking game, should be the team’s strength.
Senior veteran Landon Curtis returns at running back and inside linebacker, while senior Travis Toone and junior Jake Marlow also offer depth to the Tigers’ linebacker corps.
“On defense, I think we should be able to pull our weight,” Curtis said. “It might not be as talented a group as we had last year, maybe, but we’ve got the right people in the right places, and that should be able to help us win games.”
Other key players on defense include senior cornerback Drew Cagle and the addition of junior safety T.J. Duncan, who has never played varsity football but Malone names as “one of the best athletes in the school.”
And while the kicking game has been a hodgepodge effort in the past, this season will feature three soccer-style kickers in senior Brendan Walker and sophomores Kevin Shelton and Owen Kilmurry. Malone said kickers have charted about around a 92 percent success rate on extra points and field goal attempts this summer.
So, what’s next for the Ardmore Tigers? With one successful season to build upon, Malone said his team is clear on what taking the next step means.
“We’ve gotten some name recognition,” Malone said. “Now it’s time to win when it matters.”
Ardmore High at a glance
Last year: 8-3. Lost in the first round of the Class 4A state playoffs to eventual state champion Guntersville 35-0.
Head coach: Tracy Malone (8-3 in one season at Ardmore).
Noteworthy: Ardmore could face the same stumbling blocks this season as it did last year. The Tigers’ only losses last season came to North Jackson, East Limestone and Guntersville — all teams that are ranked in the top 10 again in this year’s preseason poll. ... Senior Jordan Angus will return to anchor the Tigers’ offensive line after suffering a broken collarbone eight games into last season. Angus, who boasts a 4.0 grade point average, will lead a line that Malone said is inexperienced but much stronger than last year’s unit. ... Ardmore was a lost tie-breaker away from hosting a playoff game last season, playing in 4A, Region 7, which is known as one of the most powerful regions in the state.
Ardmore High schedule, results
8-31 at Elkmont
9-7 East Lawrence (R)
9-14 at North Jackson (R)
9-21 Columbia (R)
9-28 West Limestone
10-5 at Madison County (R)
10-12 East Limestone (R)
10-19 at Priceville (R)
10-26 at DAR (R)
(R)-Class 4A, Region 7
vs. Elkmont W, 42-21
at East Lawrence W, 35-7
vs. North Jackson L, 51-7
at Columbia W, 18-12
at West Limestone W, 32-6
vs. Madison County W, 37-14
at East Limestone L, 28-6
vs. Priceville W, 7-6
vs. DAR W, 28-7
at Clements W, 20-14
at Guntersville L, 35-0
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