Mark Clark: First week of high school football was . . . interesting

Mark Clark: First week of high school  football was . . . interesting

Well, the first week of high school football for the 2020 season is now behind us. To say the very least, it was interesting – very interesting. Of the four local schools covered by The Citizen of East Alabama, only two played games. The other two were off and one of them will play its first game tomorrow night. The other school will have another week before it takes the field.

Let me explain those last two sentences a little better. Smiths Station was supposed to play Russell County this past week, but the Warriors forfeited the game to the Panthers a couple of weeks ago. Russell County decided to hold off on beginning the season on the field until September 4 due to recent information it received about the current pandemic. By doing so, Smiths Station was awarded a forfeit victory and stands at 1-0 as it prepares to face 1-0 Gardendale tomorrow night at Panther Stadium. Gardendale beat Sparkman 22-7 in its season opener. Russell County is once again idle and will play its first game in one more week on the road at Park Crossing. Park Crossing lost its opening game to Auburn 46-7. The Thunderbirds, coached by former Central Defen-sive Coordinator L.C. Cole, will play at Dothan tomorrow night.

Something of note for Smiths Station fans, the quarterback for Gardendale, Will Crowder, is a West Virginia commit. In his team’s win over Sparkman last week, Crowder completed 10 of 17 passes for 120 yards with a touchdown and ran for another 69 yards. Crowder is also the punter for the Rockets. L.T. Sanders, a junior running back, had 123 yards with a TD and caught two passes for another 27 yards for the Rockets.

Central was scheduled to play Peach County, Ga. to start the season, but could not play the game after the GHSA moved the opening of its member schools back two weeks and left the Red Devils with an open date. Central had planned to hold an intra-squad game last week, but things changed when Dothan cancelled its game with Hoover because of a player contracting the coronavirus. When that happened, Hoover started looking for another opponent. Central agreed to play the Buccaneers when the Hoover school agreed to travel to Phenix City for the game. When Peach County was unable to play the Red Devils, it left Central with only three home games.

With the two schools agreeing, it gave the state its marquee contest for Week 1 of the season – No. 2 ranked Central against No. 4 ranked Hoover. Hoover won the game 45-35. Central opened the game by scoring on its first two drives to lead 14-0. After Hoover tied the game, Central scored to take a 21-14 lead. Again Hoover scored to tie the game, but trailed 28-21 at the half to the Red Devils. Hoover scored the game’s next 24 points to lead 45-28. Central actually had a chance to tie the game at 35-35, but a touchdown for the Red Devils was taken away on a taunting call. Central scored late in the game to make the final score 45-35.

Central’s offense was entertaining and showed it can play a two quarterback system as it has in recent years. Junior Caleb Nix earned the starting nod against Hoover and guided the Red Devils to their 14-0 lead. With the score tied at 14-14, senior Trey Miles stepped in to guide Central on its third scoring march and to regain the lead. Nix came back in just before halftime to break a 21-21 tie with a touchdown pass to Jackson Meeks. Nix also led Central on its final scoring drive of the night which ended with his third touchdown pass of the night – this one to Marquevious Terry. Overall, Nix was 13 of 30 for 212 yards with three touchdown passes. He also ran for 60 yards and a touchdown for the Red Devils. Miles finished the night 11 of 17 for 124 yards with a touchdown. Meeks caught 12 passes for 218 yards with three touchdowns. 

The biggest AISA game was also played in Phenix City last week when the No. 2 ranked Glenwood Gators met No. 3 ranked Bessemer at Sammy Howard Field in a rematch of last season’s AAA Championship Game. Bessemer won last season’s title game 49-22. Glenwood won the rematch game 37-25. Glenwood ran over Bessemer for over 400 yards. Gator quarterback Jackson Griner led the Gators with 221 yards and scored three touchdowns on runs of nine, 41 and eight yards. Kye Robichaux ran for 184 yards with a 10-yard touchdown run. Glenwood will be on the road to face No. 4 ranked Escambia Academy.

Perhaps the most interesting thing in the first week of high school football was how well fans at the local games observed the wearing of masks and social distancing. That was not so for one game in Utah where the Athletics Director of American Fork High Jeremy Lewis paused the game because fans were not wearing masks and not sitting in assigned seats. He threatened that the game would not resume until masks were put back on and people were in the proper seats. Fans did finally comply and the game resumed. American Fork defeated Timpview 31-21. It may not be pleasant to wear a mask outdoors or to sit so far apart from other fans, but if you want to see high school foot-ball played, it is the requirement set by local school systems. Hopefully, no one is taking this situation lightly here in Alabama or in Utah or anywhere else that wants to be able to watch high school football in 2020. Maybe next season things will be different and we can all get back to normal.

 Mark Clark is a local sports writer for The Citizen of East Alabama.