This is the third in a four-part series previewing offensive and defensive players to watch, top storylines and top teams in 2015. Coming Friday: Top local teams to begin 2015.
Every new football season offers its own intrigue and suspense. This year in the Bi-City, it is no different.
Regions lack favorites, new stars replace old stars and teams have legitimate chances at making runs at state titles.
The following is a look at some of the best storylines facing the area as we get closer to the start of the season.
The Region 1-AAAAA race
Last season, Harris County surprised a lot of folks by winning Region 1-AAAAA over Carver, which was a favorite entering the season.
Leaning on a combination of quarterback TaQuon Marshall and running back Tae Crowder, Harris County was one of the most dangerous offenses in the entire state.
But those two have graduated, and once again talk about the region is centered around Carver and its roster full of talented players.
Carver, of course, has high aspirations in its second season in Class AAAAA, but one Harris County player said recently that he expects to surprise a lot of people.
And this isn’t to assume that there won’t be newcomers to the region race this season. Shaw, for example, is a team that expects to be in the conversation, as well. With a prolific quarterback and some adjustments made with new coach Chuck Stamey at the helm, the Raiders expect to surpass the four wins they’ve had in each of the past two seasons.
Northside made the playoffs last year and hope to be in the region conversation again this season.
The new coaches
Four teams will enter the season under new leadership. Three of those four are coached by individuals who have never been head football coaches.
Brookstone’s Scott Pethtel has a long history of coaching, but Pacelli’s Alan Griffin, Shaw’s Chuck Stamey and Spencer’s Pierre Coffey will be leading sidelines for the first time (Griffin has already spent time as the Vikings basketball coach).
The question is not about any of these coaches’ credentials. Pethtel has 30 years at the high school and college levels. Stamey played at Valdosta State under great offensive minds like Hal Mumme, Mike Leach, Guy Morriss and Dana Holgorsen. Griffin helped rebuild Pacelli into a state contender alongside Randy Grace, and Coffey coached four years at Carver with Dell McGee and Joe Kegler.
But having the ability and getting the results are two different things. It will be interesting to watch how their respective teams respond this season, because they each have the potential for success.
Every year, teams must replace some of their best players when they graduate. So this is nothing new. Still, some departed players were among the most impactful in the area over the past few seasons.
Take Harris County, for example. Quarterback TaQuon Marshall and running back Tae Crowder, among a host of talented offensive linemen, produced one of the most prolific offensive attacks in Class AAAAA. At times, the team’s ground game was unstoppable, helping the team to more than 40 points in seven of its 12 games.
Central, meanwhile, lost the main cog in its offensive attack, do-it-all athlete Traveon Samuel. He was the leader throughout the team’s impressive run through the regular season, but when he got hurt in the playoff opener, the offense was slowed and failed to recover in a second-round loss to Prattville.
Other teams will face similar tasks of replacing their own stars, and how they do could make or break their respective seasons.
Central’s title chase
Every team is chasing a state title, and more than just Central can lay claim to that potential entering the 2015 season.
But a look at the Red Devils’ roster indicates an opportunity to do something incredibly special this season, even with the loss of Samuel on offense. They have enough weapons on offense and arguably sport one of the most talented defenses in Alabama.
As with the new coaches, though, having the ability and getting the results are two different things entirely.
We caught a glimpse of what Central could do last season, when it became one of the hottest teams in the state for the majority of the regular season. If it can catch fire and sustain it again in 2015, it may be in for a special season.