By Johnny Sanders, Sports Editor
MOODY – The past two years have been nothing shy of historic for the Moody Blue Devils football team. Jake Ganus has entered the fold at Moody and completely changed the culture there. The 411 Boys/Girls moniker has taken on a life of its own and the people in this small town in Saint Clair County, Alabama are excited about all sports at Moody.
Wednesday was another milestone at Moody as 10 athletes (nine football players and one track star) signed their letters of intent to play at the next level.
The ceremony started with Coach Ganus welcoming everyone and then the players approached the podium one-by-one, thanking God, parents, family, coaches and everyone who helped them get to where they were.
Gavin Baker was up first. The linebacker was second on the team in total tackles with 130, 15 of those were for a loss. Baker played in all 13 games in 2023. Baker is staying in state, signing with Troy University.
Next was Blaine Burke, the Blue Devils’ “do-everything” running back. Burke followed his spectacular 2022 season with 1120 total rushing yards to go with 12 rushing touchdowns. Burke did not only run the ball, but he caught 33 passes for 276 yards and five touchdowns and he even threw twice, one of those being a touchdown. Burke chose Murray State to further his academic and athletic career.
Burke’s backup at running back, Abram Jackson, who averaged 5.5 yards per carry and had three touchdowns on the season, was up next. Jackson was a very serviceable replacement when Burke needed a rest or if he was playing a different position. Abram has signed to play at Hendrix College.
Defensive back Chase Jackson made his name in 2022 as a top player at his position while spending a good deal of 2023 battling a foot injury. Chase still managed 23 solo tackles to go with two interceptions, one of which was ESPN SportsCenter worthy. Jackson also had four fumble recoveries, one of which was returned 99 yards for a touchdown. Jackson signed to further his career at Costal Carolina.
Amon Lane-Ganus was the next one up. Amon came with Jake Ganus from Thompson two years ago and made an immediate impact. Amon is also the son of his head coach. 2023 was not kind to Lane-Ganus as he was only able to play in five games due to a knee injury that he had to have surgically repaired. He had such an impressive 2022 season, however, that he stayed at the top of Auburn’s recruiting list, even after the Tigers’ former head coach was fired and Hugh Freeze was hired to take over on The Plains.
Continuing the trend of defensive backs signing for Moody, AJ Madison was next up. Unlike his previous two teammates, Madison was actually able to play in all 13 of the Blue Devils’ games, tallying three interceptions on the season, which led the team. He also had 68 total tackles, 50 of them solo, and two of them were for a loss of yards. Madison also had a fumble recovery. AJ signed to play at Widener College.
Aidan Robinson was one of three spectacular wide receivers that Charlie Johnston had to throw the ball to last season. A mainstay at Moody, Robinson could always be counted on when the team needed a clutch reception. Aidan finished 2023 with 42 catches for 524 yards and was second on the team with 7 touchdowns. Robinson signed to play collegiate football at Huntingdon College.
One of the quiet leaders of the Moody defense was Zane Smith. Zane, though he was in the top 5 in the state in tackles all season, often had little to say audibly. He let his talking be done on the field. Smith led the Blue Devils in tackles with 188 total and an astounding 145 solo. Zane had two sacks on the season with seven hurries. Smith signed to play at Jacksonville State University.
Bryton Usrey spent the season as Charlie Johnston’s backup quarterback. Bryton played in six games this season, attempting seven passes and completing three for 11 yards. He also ran the ball for an average of 4.8 yards a carry in his six games. Usrey signed to play at Lyon College.
The lone non-football signee on Wednesday may have been the one who stole the show. Talan Smith has Cerebral Palsy and he runs track and plays on the Moody Baseball team. Smith shared his story about how he came to sign with Alabama, citing God as the only way any of it could have happened for him.
Coach Jake Ganus had the following to say about his signees. “These guys, I got to have them for a full two years. This was one I knew was talented and knew there would be some next-level kids. To have nine of them, eventually there will be 12, but the work they have put in has been impressive. Especially with the transfer portal and the way high school recruiting is taking a hit right now. Unfortunately it is a circumstance that we have had to overcome, but our kids have stuck with the process and trusted it and I am really happy for them.”
Seeing his own son, Amon Lane-Ganus, sign, Ganus said, “It has been bitter sweet. The bitter is only because he is leaving. We have been together almost six years now and this is what he has always wanted to do. As a coach and father, it changed my perspective on some things. To be able to sign with Auburn and those coaches, it has been great. Obviously, I am still ‘Go Dogs’ but I will be saying ‘War Eagle’ for him.”