News from the Tennessee Valley Sports

Decatur head football coach Jere Adcock, upper right, addresses his players following Wednesday’s practice. The team is preparing for its annual contest with crosstown rival Austin. The game is Friday at 7 p.m. at Ogle Stadium.
Daily photo by Jonathan Palmer
Decatur head football coach Jere Adcock, upper right, addresses his players following Wednesday's practice. The team is preparing for its annual contest with crosstown rival Austin. The game is Friday at 7 p.m. at Ogle Stadium.

Shades of 2005 team
2007 Red Raiders squad winning with chemistry

By Brooke Milam · 340-2460

When Decatur High head coach Jere Adcock and his assistants glance around Earl Webb Fieldhouse, it takes them back to 2005.

In the huddle after practice as Adcock looks into his players' eyes, he sees the same qualities he saw that year, and nearly every week this season, he has seen similar results to 2005 on the scoreboard: Wins.

"Those guys in 2005 were under the radar, and they just found ways to win," Adcock said.

Both finished region champions, but the Red Raiders of 2007 and the 2005 team are not just similar in the win category.

As Class 5A Decatur (8-1) prepares to face crosstown rival 6A Austin (4-5) on Friday at 7 p.m. at Ogle Stadium, Adcock said his team reminds him of the Red Raiders' last region championship team in 2005 — a team that began the season without much hype, but went undefeated in 6A, Region 8 and made it to the second round of the state playoffs.

Decatur played one of its most hyped games of the year in the final game of that regular season, hosting then three-time defending 6A state champion Hoover.

This year’s Red Raiders have a big one to cap the regular season this year as well, preparing for the city rivalry game with Austin.

The 2005 team beat Austin 31-6 and the current Red Raiders have a 17-14 loss to the Black Bears from last year to avenge.

A win for the Red Raiders this week also would match Decatur’s 2005 team for the school’s most regular season wins since 2000.

“For us, it’s not a big surprise,” 12th-year Decatur offensive line coach Richard Armstrong said.

“I think a lot of people looked and didn’t see the big names and all the hoopla and didn’t think we’d do much this season. People tend to judge a team by the individual players and don’t look at the kids at face value, and chemistry many times is more important than having blue-chip players.”

Both the 2005 and 2007 teams started the season unranked and both far exceeded expectations of those outside of the Decatur’s fieldhouse.

Decatur missed the playoffs last year for the first time since 1996, but it did not let last year’s disappointments hinder this season’s potential.

“We had a good off-season, and they haven’t looked back since,” 17th-year Red Raiders defensive coordinator Lee Cagle said.

The 2005 team didn’t break into the poll until the fourth week of the season, becoming No. 10 in the midst of stringing together its first five wins by a total of 15 points.

This season Decatur wasn’t ranked until Oct. 3, moving to No. 9 the week after beating 6A Sparkman 19-13.

“That showed a lot for the kind of character they had,” Adcock said.

“This group has been a lot the same way. They’re more talented offensively, but the Russellville game and Sparkman games were good examples of their character.”

This year’s Red Raiders have beaten a pair of highly ranked teams and have outscored opponents by a combined 292-138. The wins have been convincing, but Decatur has pulled out some close ones as well.

The Red Raiders’ 24-23 overtime victory at then-No. 2 Russellville on Oct. 12 was the first overtime contest any of the current Red Raiders had ever played in.

Decatur beat 6A Sparkman 19-13 midseason and also knocked off then-No. 1 ranked J.O. Johnson 30-20 in the third week of the season.

Neither the 2005 Red Raiders nor this year’s team had a seasoned veteran quarterback returning, but both produced.

In 2005, Decatur tight-end-turned quarterback Jesse Perrin led the Red Raiders to the second round of the 6A state playoffs in his first varsity season at the position and was named The Daily’s Class 4A-6A all-area quarterback.

Similarly, sophomore quarterback Ben Neill brought little
experience to the position, but has excelled in his first year as a full-time varsity starter, throwing 20 touchdown passes this season.

“In 2005 and this year, really there were no stars, just a good workman mentality and good chemistry,” Adcock said.

“That year, there were several no-name people that no one knew much about outside this field house that had super seasons that year.”

In 2005, Perrin, defensive lineman Alex Cooper, linebacker Kenny Austin and running back Steve Shackleford were named permanent team captains, an award voted on by the players and usually reserved for three outstanding leaders. A tie in the voting spoke to the depth of leadership on that team and Adcock said the Red Raiders have a similarly strong group again this season.

“There are those teams where people say, ‘He’s the guy,’ but this is one of those teams where they all have their ways that they have led this team.”

Cagle said the Decatur staff stops short of saying this year’s Red Raiders are a team of overachievers.

Instead, it’s a group of players doing what the coaches and community have come to expect of Decatur teams.

“I’d say not for one second is this a team of overachievers. It’s a team of kids that work hard and love football and they’re reaping the benefits,” Cagle said.

Adcock agreed that this season has been a journey worth the ups and downs, adding that this year’s team will have a special place in the coaching staff’s memory, just like their fellow Red Raiders of 2005 and so many other squads.

“What we’ve experienced with these kids and the growing process that we as coaches have been able to watch and be a part of with these guys has been a blessing for us,” Adcock said.

“These kids have done more for us than we’ve done for them.

River City rivalry

Who: Austin (4-5) vs. Decatur (8-1).

When: Friday, 7 p.m.

Where: Ogle Stadium.

What to read

Thursday: This year’s Red Raiders mirror Decatur High’s 2005 region champions.

Friday: One last advance look at the matchup.

Saturday: Complete coverage from the game.

Brooke Milam

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