By David Knox, Sports Editor
TRUSSVILLE – The Hewitt-Trussville Huskies, at 4-0 and ranked near the top of the Class 7A rankings, are looking to go where they have never gone before.
New Market, Alabama.
That’s because the Huskies’ road to their first state football championship runs through the small community in northeast Madison County where Buckhorn High School sits. It is their first visit to the community of about 1,500 some 17 miles northeast of Huntsville on Winchester Road.
The Huskies and Bucks have met just once in football. In 2010, the two teams met at Jack Wood Stadium in the first round of the Class 6A state playoffs. Hewitt-Trussville won 24-17 in double-overtime. That game ended regulation tied at 10. Carr Tigner scored from the 3 for the Huskies in the second overtime and the Hewitt defense stuffed the Bucks’ power running game on fourth down from the 2 for the thrilling win.
Now they are region-mates in Class 7A’s Region 4.
Buckhorn has been playing football since 1961. The school opened in 1958 when New Market and Riverton high schools merged. Though New Market is tiny, just a Census-Designated Place in the Huntsville-Madison Metro Area, the Madison County school is not – it’s indeed in Class 7A, the 31st-biggest school in the state, just ahead of Huffman and below Mountain Brook. Hewitt is ranked 29th.
The Bucks on the field in 2016 are 2-1 in their first season under John Holladay, 1-1 in region play. Holladay, who most recently coached at Walker, has returned to coaching after a two-year absence following an on-field incident with an opposing coach after the first game in 2013. In 18 years, the UAB graduate is 132-67 overall. His teams have made the playoffs the last 14 seasons.
He owns a 2-0 record against Hewitt-Trussville. As Clay-Chalkville head coach in 2005-06, his Cougars beat the Huskies 30-14 and 27-0.
This year, the Bucks are led by Holladay’s son Jackson at quarterback. Jackson Holladay was Walker’s starting quarterback last year and moved to play his senior season for his dad – who incidentally played quarterback for his father in high school. At Walker, he passed for over 1,000 yards as a sophomore and for nearly 2,400 as a junior.
The Bucks opened with a 35-15 win over Hazel Green in the Cotton Classic, lost to Sparkman 29-22, and beat Huntsville 28-14 last week. In the win over the Panthers, Dallin Woodley rushed for 202 yards on 21 carries, scoring on a 38-yard run, and returned a kick 88 yards for another touchdown. Woodley rushed for over 200 yards against Hazel Green and for over 150 against Sparkman.
The Bucks also feature four-star linebacker Will Ignont, who moved back from Florida’s IMG Academy to play for Holladay. The 6-foot-2, 238-pound senior was credited with 6.5 tackles and six quarterback hurries in the win over Huntsville. He also lines up as a short-yardage and goal-line back.
The Huskies beat Grissom easily last week, as Connor Adair went 14-of-18 passing for 224 yards and four touchdowns in just one half of play in the 62-13 win. Grayson Cash scored touchdowns rushing and receiving and Elliott McElwain rushed for two TDs as the Huskies built a 56-13 lead at halftime and sat the starters down for the rest of the contest.
It figures to be tougher Friday inside Tommy R. Ledbetter Stadium off Winchester Road. Holladay’s boy Jackson can pass, and Holladay’s boys have a running game to go with the air attack. Defensively, Ignont leads a group that frankly should perform better than it has. It had to overcome the offense giving the ball away six times against Huntsville and did so by shutting out the Panthers in the second half.
It looks like another shootout along the lines of Manatee-Hewitt.
The Huskies were ranked No. 3 in the state before last Friday’s win, and are off to their first 4-0 start since 2001. The Alabama Sports Writers Association poll is released early Wednesday. A guess here is that Hoover and Spain Park will probably swap the 2 and 4 spots in the poll after the Buccaneers’ convincing win over the Jaguars and the Huskies will stay where they were at No. 3. Top-ranked McGill-Toolen was idle last week. Spain Park might slide farther down, but it’s hard to see the voters not giving No. 2 to the Bucs.