By Robert Carter
North Jefferson News
We’re past the halfway mark of the high school football season, and it’s time to hand out grades to our local teams. Let’s start with the top of the class...
Tabernacle Christian — A+: Yes, they’re in a league of their own, both figuratively and literally. Most observers thought the Torches would be good, but not as good as last year after the loss of league MVP Fred Goodgame. But eight games into this season, and they are riding a 19-game winning streak, and haven’t been beaten since the 2010 Christian Football Association championship game. They have routed almost every team they have played. They will face their toughest opponent of the season this Friday against Hope Christian, but that has no effect on their inevitable march to a second straight CFA title game.
Fultondale — A–: This is a team that many expected to go to the Class 2A state championship game, with Mr. Football candidate ArDarius Stewart leading the way. They still may reach the Super 6, but a couple of stumbles along the way have made them look mortal. They will not even win their region, but should still make a good playoff run. Stewart is still turning heads, mainly of opposing defenders as he whizzes by.
Mortimer Jordan — B+: The Blue Devils have not had a perfect season by any means, but they have all but wrapped up a playoff spot with two region games left to play, and that’s the best they’ve done in several years. We all expected a healthy Devlin Hodges to pair up with Logan Motte for some big passing plays, but running back Dee Merriweather has been a bit of a surprise, giving the Devils an effective running game.
Corner — B+: Congratulations, first year coach Zac Willis, you’re probably headed for the playoffs — assuming you take care of business against a winless Carbon Hill team this Friday night, or win over struggling Bibb County.
This will be the first time in quite a while that the Yellow Jackets have made playoff appearances in back-to-back seasons. Quarterback Blake Byrd is having a stellar year, and all-state place kicker Troy Elliott keeps doing his thing, such as his 49-yard field goal that proved to be the winning margin in last week’s mild upset over Jemison.
Oh, and there’s the win over rival Hayden that ended a six-year losing streak against the Wildcats.
Gardendale — B: The Rockets have been like Jekyll and Hyde, beating teams they shouldn’t on paper, but also losing to teams they shouldn’t.
A big win over Shades Valley last week keeps their playoff hopes alive, but it will take a win over a stout Hewitt-Trussville squad to get into the post-season, plus a win over a ragged Carver team. This win-out scenario would not have been necessary if Gardendale had simply taken care of a Woodlawn team they should have beaten handily.
Jordan Howard is having a great year at running back, as is Jesse Blackburn at tight end and linebacker
Hayden — D–: And headed toward flunking out. Much, much more was expected out of this Wildcat team, with last Friday’s game with Jordan expected to be a play-in for the post-season. It was, but just for the Devils, as Hayden has inexplicably been winless in seven games.
There is absolutely no reason for an 0-7 record from this team. They have too much talent, but they’ve made too many mistakes, especially on special teams. Something’s got to change in this program.