By Ronnie Hagood, for The Tribune
ODENVILLE — Friday night saw the kickoff of a new season in a new classification for the Springville Tigers. During the most recent reclassification and redistricting for the AHSAA, Springville was bumped from 5A to 6A by a mere three students enrolled.
Coach Michael Graben on the move up: “We were the last team in 6A, we’re the smallest team in 6A.”
What does that mean for the Tigers? It’s a step up to the second highest classification in the AHSAA, it means games against schools with athletes with major FBS scholarship offers. It also means players like senior quarterback Pearson Baldwin are now Class 6A players and will find themselves playing in front of some of the biggest college recruiters in the nation.
On Friday night, the Tigers opened their season with a 27-14 victory over St. Clair County at Mickey Venable Field. Springville drew first blood, as Pearson Baldwin provided a five-yard touchdown run and Hunter Ambrose kicked the extra point through the uprights for a 7-0 lead.
With 7:16 remaining in the first half, Baldwin hit tight end Ben Bianchi in stride for a 30-yard touchdown pass, the extra point was no good however, making the score 13-0.
Deondre Scott snuck the ball in from the 2-yard line for the first touchdown of the season for St. Clair County, cutting the deficit to 13-7 with 4:30 remaining in the first half.
Springville had one last chance to score before halftime, but Baldwin’s pass to Landon Ho bounced off the receivers hands in the end zone and fell to the ground, keeping the score 13-7 going to the locker rooms.
Coming out of the locker rooms, the Tigers offense didn’t take long to move down the field. On the fourth play of the drive, Daniel Smith carried the ball for the final 13 yards for a touchdown, that put Springville out front 20-7.
Baldwin, after extending the drive with a fourth down conversion, hooked up with Bianchi for a 4-yard touchdown pass to extend the lead to 27-7.
The Saints would not go down quietly, as Joshua Struggs scored with 3:37 remaining in the game for St. Clair County, cutting the lead to 27-14. The ensuing onside kick would be recovered by the Tigers and Springville ran the clock out for the victory.
The win for Springville is the first time the Tigers have won consecutive games over St. Clair County since the 2003-04 seasons. It’s also the first time Springville has won back to back season opening games since the 2004-2005 seasons. After the game, Coach Graben mentioned the struggles the Tigers have had the last decade plus and how games against rivals like St. Clair County often saw Springville on the wrong side of the win-loss column.
“These are games from the last 10 or 15 years, since Springville jumped from 3A to 5A (now 6A) we didn’t win, so its nice to win these games”. “I’ve said this before, in order for it to be a rival, both teams have to win, so it’s kind of nice that we feel like we’ve got a rivalry with them (St. Clair County) again.”
Next Friday night Springville travels to Centre, Alabama to play the Class 4A Cherokee County Warriors. This will be the first time the Tigers and Warriors have played each other.