This is the second in a series of stories on high school football teams in the Bi-Cities. Coming Monday: Chattahoochee County
By Joseph Myers
Special to the Ledger-Enquirer
For the Glenwood Gators, the 2011 regular season wasn't much to write home about.
Glenwood went 6-5 and 3-3 in Region 1-AAA of the Alabama Independent School Association, earning a No. 4 seed for the state playoffs. However, the Gators caught fire in the postseason, winning two straight road games to advance to the state championship, where Glenwood lost to Bessemer Academy, 35-21.
Now, a new season is on the horizon for Glenwood, and Gators' second-year head coach Jason Allen is optimistic his team can build on its 2011 postseason success.
"What a lot of people don't know is that we lost three people during the regular season with knee injuries and a fourth with a broken leg," said Allen, whose team opens its season Aug. 24 on the road at Bessemer Academy. "It took us that long to find our identity. We kept working on things and we finally got the right people in the right places and the light came on for us."
Allen said there were a number of reasons for the late playoff run.
"We did a better job of coaching and many other things and I'm glad we got it going before it was too late," Allen said. "The regular season was incidental in terms of what we accomplished last season. Hopefully, we can learn from the regular season last year and try to scale things back to where we don't struggle so much early on."
The Gators have 34 players in practice right now and the roster includes 19 seniors, which Allen points to as a strong point of this year's team.
"Practice is going pretty well," said Allen. " We've got 19 seniors, so we're a veteran football team. We've got a lot of maturity, but we also have a lot of new guys. We feel good about the core of our team."
Mission No. 1 of preseason practice has been to find a way to replace the production provided by All-State running back Xavier Bond, who rushed for 2,255 yards and 37 touchdowns in 2011. Bond signed with Division II member Catawba (N.C.) College and Allen said the Gators' offense will have to change its focus to continue to be successful.
"You don't replace a guy like Xavier," said Allen. "But we've got four or five guys who we feel capable of being productive in the backfield. We're going to be a running-back-by-committee situation. We're going to have a different offensive philosophy. We've got a good fullback in Luke Dougherty (6-1, 235) who's getting Division I looks, and he'll be our feature back. So, we'll be going more in that direction instead of having a true tailback. We'll look different."
Glenwood's offense won't just have to rely on Dougherty and a committee of tailbacks, though. Quarterback Brandon Dailey is back for his third season as the Gators' starting signal-caller and Michael Swann -- the defending Class 5A state champion in the high jump -- has transferred in from Russell County and will play wide receiver for Glenwood.
"We feel really good having a three-year starter at quarterback in Brandon Dailey," said Allen. "He's the unquestioned leader of the team, has a great work ethic and wants to be successful. We feel like we have a really special kid in Michael Swann from Russell County. He's an extremely athletic kid with good speed and good hands. We just have to put all the pieces together."
Allen said line play on both sides of the ball will go a long way towards determining how successful the Gators will be this fall. That being said, Allen has liked what he's seen from his offensive line thus far in practice.
"We feel good about our offensive line," said Allen. "We have a lot of size -- we should average about 260 pounds across the front -- and we just need to work on our technique. The offensive line has got to progress and we'll be as good as they'll let us be.
"I think how good we'll be starts on the front on both sides of the ball," Allen added. "We've got to get quality play there and we want to be more physical at the point of attack. We lost some good guys up front on both sides of the ball, but we've replaced them with some good players, too. We just have to get the same intensity and effort."
Prior to the opener at Bessemer Academy, Glenwood will host a scrimmage against GISA member Deerfield-Windsor Aug. 16 at The Swamp. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
The Gators open their season with two straight road games (at Bessemer Academy and at Evangel) before their home opener Sept. 7 versus Kingwood.
Nickname: Gators Head Coach: Jason Allen Region: AISA 1-AAA Last seasons record: 8-6, 3-3 AISA 1-AAA Last seasons playoff record: 2-1, def. Tuscaloosa Academy 56-33, def. Morgan Academy 62-42, lost to Bessemer Academy 35-21.
Aug. 24 at Bessemer 8 p.m. Aug. 31 at Evangel 8 p.m. Sept. 7 Kingwood 8 p.m. Sept. 14 at Edgewood 8 p.m. Sept. 21 at Lee-Scott 8 p.m. Sept. 28 Lyman Ward 8 p.m. Oct. 5 at Macon-East 8 p.m. Oct. 12 Tuscaloosa Academy 8 p.m. Oct. 19 Hooper Academy 8 p.m. Oct. 26 Crenshaw 8 p.m.