Brooke’s High Five
Daily Sports Writer Brooke Milam ranks the area’s top five teams in both Class 4A-6A and 1A-3A:
Class 4A-6A Top Five
1. East Limestone: The Indians return top players in quarterback/free safety Chad Dewitt and running back/linebacker Jonathan Pinque.
Fresh off a 4A quarterfinal run last season, the Indians are looking for more.
Dewitt is the top dual-threat quarterback in the area and has plenty of offensive weapons to work with. A senior class 24 strong has its sights set on the state finals.
2. Hartselle: Enthusiasm is high as the Tigers were within a tipped-ball touchdown of making the 5A semifinals last season. Backed by the best home crowd in the area, the Tigers will be able to squeak out a few close ones by playing off that energy.
Last year’s leading rusher, Marquez Jones, is back after rushing for more than 1,000 yards in 2006. Joining him in the backfield is Montrell Murphy, a 1,000-yard rusher from 2005 who sat out last season. Those two are reason enough for opponents to fear the Tigers.
3. Athens: Golden Eagles lost a lot from its 5A state championship team of a year ago. But when Athens won a state championship in 1975, it tied for the title again the next season.
Todd Pepper, a starting linebacker for Athens last year, is set to take over the reins at quarterback. After losing an influential group of seniors off last year’s squad, the Golden Eagles will have to adjust to a new chemistry with so many key players lost to graduation, but look for them to catch on quick.
4. Austin: The Black Bears ended on a high note last season, beating rival Decatur for the first time since 2001. Down 14-0 in that game, 6A Austin showed no quit in scoring the final 17 points.
The Black Bears also won four of their last five games. One of the most athletic teams in the area returns several key players and is looking for results above its average of 3.3 wins the past three seasons under head coach David Norwood.
5. Decatur: Don’t expect the Red Raiders to have back-to-back down years. Decatur is determined to better last year’s 4-6 finish. The good news for 5A Decatur is the last time it was expected to experience some growing pains was in 2002, after a 5-6 mark the previous season. The Red Raiders rebounded to go 8-5 and make the quarterfinals of the 6A playoffs, playing the likes of Mountain Brook, Hoover, Minor and Vestavia Hills.
Class 1A-3A Top Five
1. Tanner: After several strong seasons under fifth-year head coach Laron White, expectations are that the Rattlers will reload every season. Tanner should score plenty of points this season, returning Jarquise Peoples, who rushed for more than 1000 yards last year, and a base for a strong offensive line.
Opponents have come to expect a tough defense from the Rattlers as well. This team is out to build on last season’s trip to the second round of the 2A playoffs.
2. Addison: A season after winning a 1A state title in 2005, the Bulldogs made noise in 2A last year, going 10-2 and advancing to the second round of the playoffs. Tradition is deep in Addison, and this year’s Bulldogs are expected to back that up. Addison has won an average of 10.4 games in the past five seasons.
3. Hazlewood: With several college prospects on their roster, the Golden Bears should be speedy and athletic as usual. Playing in honor of teammate Michael Langham, who died in an automobile accident July 13, Hazlewood is as motivated as ever. And the 1A program that has won 11 state titles believes its unity will pave the way to another good season.
4. R.A. Hubbard: A big, strong group is expected to live up to the Chiefs’ high standards this season. When these seniors were freshman, coach Lymos McDonald’s team won 14 games and finished runner-up in the state in 1A. Win totals have gone down in the past two seasons, but R.A. Hubbard is still expected to be dangerous every week.
5. Speake: Speake isn’t ready to slow down after a trip to the second round of the 1A state playoffs last season. The Bobcats should compete for the 1A, Region 8 title again this year, among the likes of traditional powers Hazlewood and R.A. Hubbard.
Speake has enough talent back from last season to make another run.
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