By Zach Steele
Anyone else get nostalgic this time of year? I always tend to replay the events of the year in my head and since I had the great privilege of being the anchor for Tribune Sports Live this year, I thought I’d look back on some of the more noteworthy stories in local high school sports from 2015.
The 7A baseball “area of death”
Want to know how hard it is for the Hewitt Huskies to make the playoffs in 7A? For a long stretch during the spring, all four teams in Hewitt’s area were in the top 10 in their classification. Hewitt was ranked No. 1 for several of those weeks. The Huskies lost several tight ballgames with Mountain Brook and Spain Park, and missed the playoffs for the first time under head coach Jeff Mauldin. Hewitt battled through injuries and still won more than 20 games in 2015. I expect them to be back with a vengeance in 2016.
The Zac Thomas Injury
The Hewitt Huskies were rolling through their 7A region until star quarterback Zac Thomas broke his leg in two places against Hoover. Zac is a special talent and along with running back Jarrion Street, the Husky tandem rolled over and through their opponents. After Thomas’s injury in week 9, the Husky offense still played well in the regular season finale against Clay, but sputtered in a first round playoff loss to James Clemens of Madison. Until that point, the Huskies were arguably one of the top teams in 7A and a contender to win the school’s first ever state title in football. The Huskies will have lots of shoes to fill after graduating one of the most talent laden classes in school history.
The Hewitt Basketball Debacle
2015 was a year everyone associated with Hewitt basketball would like to forget. The Huskies finished the 2014-2015 at 7-23, and that is the best part of the story. After the resignation of Mike Dutton, many thought the administration would promote longtime assistant and hometown favorite Jeremiah Millington. What followed set off a firestorm in Trussville, as Hewitt passed on Millington and hired Jim Sanderson, son of Alabama legend Wimp Sanderson. Jim has a Small college national title to his name, and is widely regarded as one of the best basketball minds in the state. Unfortunately, he never coached a game at Hewitt, as he was relieved of his coaching duties in September. Complaints from a few parents on the Sanderson’s “harsh” coaching methods led to his demise. This was followed by a civil rights complaint which was just a ridiculous and feckless as the reason for Sanderson’s dismissal. Parents, players, and Trussville citizens showed up at the board meeting to protest the removal, but the superintendant and school board took no action. To this day, no one has clarified the situation on Sanderson’s dismissal.
My opinion on this is well documented, but I believe the ordeal, from the “resignation” of Athletic Director Karen Johns to the removal of Sanderson, was handled in such as way that our school system and city became a punch line around the state. The situation also shows some glaring problems with the way our school system manages its business. My only hope is that some positive changes come from this mess.
The Clay Chalkville Juggernaut
Jerry Hood’s Cougars spent the better part of the 2015 season dominating everyone, playing only one game in the regular season that was close in the fourth quarter. The Cougars again made it to the 6A championship game, but lost a nail biter to Spanish Fort. Cougar quarterback Ty Pigrome was magnificent the entire season, throwing for 44 touchdowns and just four interceptions. He completed 65 percent of his passes for 3,080 yards. He also rushed for another 1350 yards and 18 more touchdowns, averaging over 8 yards per carry along the way. He wound up as the Gatorade Alabama player of the year. He had a host of weapons at his disposal, with T.J. Simmons and Nico Collins at receiver. Both of those guys are blue chippers that will likely wind up down the road in Tuscaloosa. The Cougars were by far and away the best offense I have ever seen in high school football. They will also have some mighty big shoes to fill on offense in 2016.
There you have it. Those are the four things I remember most about our local sports year. I hope that everyone has a safe a prosperous 2016.