Daily photo by Michael Wetzel|
Hazlewood head coach Aaron Goode, left, will be counting on strong leadership from his senior quarterback, Keginald Harris, for the Class 1A Golden Bears.
HIGH SCHOOL COUNTDOWN
Aiming for blue postseason
Hazlewood looks for another blue state title trophy to add to its large collection
Twelfth in a series
By Michael Wetzel
email@example.com · 340-2462
TOWN CREEK — The Hazlewood High football staff and players are the first to say their recent years' results haven't been up to Hazlewood standards.
Sure, each Hazlewood team since the 2000 state championship squad has made the playoffs. But only one, the 2002 team, made it to the quarterfinals when it lost to Parrish 29-21.
But the Golden Bears' track record for Friday night play is impressive. There aren't many coaches in the state who would complain about being a staple in the playoffs.
The Class 1A school in Town Creek has 11 blue state championship trophies in its trophy case in the gym's lobby, the most of any school in the state. Three more runner-up trophies are there, too. In 1995 and 1978, the Golden Bears fell in the finals by a point, and in 1993, they lost by five.
Head football coach Aaron Goode doesn't have to be reminded. He was a member of the 1970 team, which claimed one of those blue trophies. He even shrugs his head at his team's underachieving in recent years. However, he said he sees a change in this year's group, which has him encouraged.
"I feel like this team may not be as talented as the past two, but this one is more of a team," said Goode, who enters his fifth year as head coach.
"During the summer, we talked a lot about winning the state championship while we worked out."
Last year's team went 8-4 before falling in the second round of the playoffs to Donoho 13-12 in Anniston.
Goode said he doesn't have to look far for leadership or go-to guys. And neither do college recruiters.
Senior tailback and defensive back Don “D.J.” Jones has more than a dozen Division I schools knocking on his door. Strong showings at summer camps at UAB and Auburn made Jones no secret in the South. Jones, who is 6-foot-0 and 196 pounds, ran for 1,236 yards in 10 games last year. He posted a 4.38 time in the 40-yard dash at the UAB summer stop.
“D.J. is solid, strong, and he’s a hard, hard worker,” Goode said. “D.J. is my go-to guy. Everybody knows it. He’s being mentioned in the magazines. When you have a horse like him, you ride it.”
Jones’ backfield mate and friend, Keginald Harris, who returns as the team’s starting quarterback and free safety, is drawing big-school attention of his own. Harris is a 6-3, 185-pound senior who excels in the classroom as well. Duke, Mississippi and Mississippi State are the biggest schools looking at Harris.
Another player making an impact on the 2007 team is no longer with Hazlewood. Senior tight end and defensive end Michael Langham was killed July 13 in an automobile accident on Alabama 20.
“Michael hadn’t missed a workout all summer,” Goode said. “He was really dedicating himself to being a better player and a better student. I know the University of Louisville was looking at him for football.”
The Golden Bears aren’t forgetting Langham, either. Each player will wear Langham’s No. 27 on his helmet this season.
It was those summer workouts that have Goode even more optimistic about this coming season. He said he had more players in the weight room and doing agility and conditioning drills this summer than he has seen in years. Thirty-seven players are dressed in purple and gold in preseason practice. Hazlewood had 30 on the 2006 roster and 26 on the 2005 roster.
While Jones may be carrying most of the offensive load, he won’t be alone. Seniors Jeremy Green (6-0, 140) and Ladarius Deloney (5-9, 180) will see plenty of action at tailback. Junior Quintavius Williams (6-0, 205) and senior Carlos Holden (5-9, 185) are listed to share time at fullback.
Chris Ricks’ size (6-3, 180) and jumping ability give Harris a big target at wide receiver or tight end. The speedy senior Kerry Jones (5-8, 140), an all-star basketball player, and junior Dave McCoy (5-9, 140) will double as wide receivers and defensive backs. Sophomore L.J. Hampton (6-2, 182) is listed as the team’s other tight end.
Four of Hazlewood’s five offensive linemen weigh in at 255 pounds or more, a plus for a 1A program.
Senior Jamie Foster (6-0, 256) is back as starting center. Senior Robert Reedus (5-9, 255) and junior Shannon Nance (5-7, 185) will be starting at the guard positions. Junior Amory Willingham (6-2, 260) and ninth-grader Dustin Sanders (6-2, 285) are the team’s mammoth tackles.
Defensively, Goode said his team has to concentrate on “stopping everything.”
Willingham, Sanders, Foster, Williams and Ricks will see time on the defensive line with sophomore Jalan Jones (6-0, 190).
Junior Casey Holden (5-10, 184), Nance and Carlos Holden are the linebackers.
Jones is Hazlewood’s shutdown cornerback. On the other cornerback is McCoy. Deloney will line up at strong safety.
McCoy brings his 38.4-yard average back as punter. Shannon Nance will handle the place-kicking chores again.
Goode said he feels he has the depth and talent to put a new blue trophy in the showcase. He also credits his assistant coaches Darin Liles, Clifford Patton, Mark Nesmith, Tony Harris, Aaron Goode II, Edwin Hampton, Kim Terry, Mike Parker, Nick Vinson and Andre King for their hard work. Former Alabama standouts and Hazlewood graduates Pierre Goode and Antonio Langham also have helped this summer, Goode said.
“We need our kids to stay unified and know their roles on this team,” Goode said. “Last year turnovers hurt us all year. We got injured early, and we had to fight for a regional spot. This year, we’ve got to be good and have a little luck. I know the harder we work, the luckier we will get.”
Goode isn’t pointing to any one game on the schedule as the most important. He said they all are. But when he thinks of winning a championship, he said, he thinks of Class 2A powerhouse Addison.
“I want to be like the Addison team that won it all two years ago,” he said. “They were a team. They didn’t have the greatest athletes on the field, but they were a team, and they played like a team.”
Hazlewood High at a glance
Last year: 8-4. Lost in second round of Class 1A state playoffs to Donoho 13-12.
Head coach: Aaron Goode (26-20 in four years as head coach).
Noteworthy: Hazlewood is looking to improve on back-to-back 8-4 seasons and second-round departures from the state playoffs. ... The Golden Bears will host Hackleburg on Oct. 19 for homecoming. Lawrence County schools will be on fall break Oct. 16-19. ... The Alabama Sportswriters Association has Hazlewood ranked sixth in its preseason poll. Last year, Hazlewood started the season in ninth.
- Michael Wetzel
Hazlewood High schedule, results
8-31 vs. Tarrant
9-7 vs. Speake (R)
9-14 at Shoals Christian (R)
9-21 at Brilliant (R)
9-28 at Muscle Shoals
10-5 at Phillips-Bear Creek (R)
10-12 at Vina (R)
10-19 vs. Hackleburg (R)
10-26 vs. R.A. Hubbard (R)
11-2 at Parrish
(R)-Class 1A, Region 8
at Tarrant L, 42-6
at Speake L, 27-7
vs. Shoals Christian W, 49-21
vs. Brilliant W, 34-0
vs. Muscle Shoals L, 14-3
vs. Phillips-Bear Creek W 18-0
vs. Vina W, 54-0
at Hackleburg W 35-13
at R.A. Hubbard W, 20-16
vs. Parrish W, 41-0
vs. Berry W, 24-8
at Donoho L, 13-12
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