By David Knox, Sports Editor
Monday was the first day of fall football practice for high schools across the state.
At Hewitt-Trussville, coach Josh Floyd welcomed his third squad of Huskies for their first day. The Huskies, coming off a 6-5 season that saw them reach the Class 7A playoffs, worked in helmets and shorts, as mandated by the Alabama High School Athletic Association for the first two days of practice.
The Huskies looked strong in 7on7 play this summer, and they return wide receiver Noah Igbinoghene, five starters on the offensive line led by Chipper Lartigue, and running backs Grayson Cash and Elliott McElwain. Christian Smith is back to anchor the defensive line with a solid linebacking crew led by Nick Jackson. The secondary is headed by UAB commitment David Acfalle.
Quarterback Connor Adair had a “great summer” according to Floyd, and is primed to claim the job as a transfer from Mountain Brook.
At Clay-Chalkville, Jerry Hood’s Cougars assembled at 7 a.m. to begin their quest toward a Class 6A title. The Cougars are coming off a 14-1 season and a runner-up finish to Spanish Fort in the 6A championship game in Tuscaloosa. They have to replace several key pieces of that team – quarterback Ty Pigrome and receiver T.J. Simmons among them – but they do have five-star wide receiver Nico Collins back and lots of young talent, starting with quarterback Willie Miller.
At Pinson Valley, coach Matt Glover sent his Indians through their first day of drills. The Indians made the playoffs a year ago in a 7-4 season. Only 12 seniors are back, but there are some outstanding players returning, including running back/slot receiver Torrey Hendrix, quarterback Jackie Jefferson, linebackers Zapheth Cunningham and Zeke Lawrence and defensive back C.J. Rudolph.
Per AHSAA rules, Week 1 practice consists of helmets and shorts only for the first two days, with shoulder pads and helmets allowed on the third practice day for a period not to exceed 90 minutes of total practice time, and not exceed 120 minutes on the fourth day. On the fifth practice day, one full-speed contact practice in full gear is allowed, not to exceed 90 minutes.
Week 2 allows alternating days of full-speed contact practice, not to exceed a combined total of 120 minutes. In addition, one intra-squad scrimmage is allowed.
Week 3 allows alternating days of full-speed contact practice, not to exceed a combined total of 120 minutes. One interscholastic scrimmage or contest is allowed in this week, also called “Week Zero,” which is either a jamboree or a regular-season game, on either Thursday, Aug. 18, the first day for a contest, or Friday, Aug. 19.
Hewitt, Clay and Pinson all open on Aug. 19.
All three schools were affected by the reclassification and realignment the AHSAA goes through every two years. Hewitt-Trussville, as the 29th-largest school by the AHSAA’s figures (students in grades 10-12 plus ninth-grade holdbacks), remains in the 32-team Class 7A. However, the Huskies have moved from a region that included mostly Metro Birmingham schools to one that is made up of Huntsville area schools plus Gadsden City.
Clay-Chalkville is the third-largest 6A school and Pinson Valley is the 25th-largest of the 64 Class 6A schools. The Cougars and Indians each remain in Region 6, but they are joined by newcomers Walker, Minor and G.W. Carver, the Rams moving up from 5A. Gone from their region are Shades Valley, Woodlawn and Huffman, which moved up to Class 7A and is in Hewitt’s old region. Gardendale, which looks like the early favorite in the region, and Center Point return. Five of the seven teams in the region made the playoffs last season.
Another change this season: Clay-Chalkville and Hewitt-Trussville won’t meet in football for the first time since 1998, the third year of the Cougars’ existence. At 19 meetings, it is Clay’s most-played rivalry.
Instead, Hewitt will travel to Montgomery Bell Academy in Nashville to open the season Aug. 19, and face a Florida school for the first time when the Manatee Hurricanes of Bradenton visit in Week 2. The third non-region game is at home against Center Point.
Clay’s non-region games include a visit from Florence to open the season, a trip to Bessemer City, hosting Class 7A James Clemens, a Hewitt region-mate, and traveling to Park Crossing for a game at Montgomery’s Cramton Bowl to end the regular season. Park Crossing is beginning just its third year of football, but the Thunderbirds made the Class 6A playoffs last season.
Pinson’s non-region slate includes a tough opener with McAdory, Ramsay, Shades Valley and Pleasant Grove.