August 25, 2010 10:53:00 AM
This time it counts.
After playing a jamboree like a regular season game this past Thursday, the Sulligent Blue Devils tee it up for good this Thursday.
Sulligent kicks off its regular season at home against the Hamilton Aggies after beating the Smithville Seminoles 27-18 in a jamboree.
Sulligent (of Alabama) had to play the jamboree like a regular season game because Smithville (of Mississippi) scheduled it as its season opener. Alabama schools don''t begin their season until this week whereas Mississippi schools started this past week.
"I hope it''s a positive for us," Sulligent coach Dwight Bowling said of playing the jamboree like a regular season game. "They saw what it''s like to play a complete game in the heat. We were in decent physical condition. I felt like we held up pretty good. That''s going to be a positive for us going into Thursday night."
In other season-opening games in West Alabama that kick off Friday, South Lamar hosts L:amar County, Pickens County entertains American Christian Academy, Aliceville entertains Greene County and Pickens Academy welcomes Restoration.
Sulligent will attempt to snap a 10-game losing streak to Hamilton. The Blue Devils haven''t beaten the Aggies since claiming an 18-13 victory in 1997.
Hamilton won eight-straight years from 1998-2005, the teams didn''t play in 2006 and 2007, and the Aggies won again in 2008 and 2009.
"It will be a tough ballgame, it is every year," Bowling said. "This is my third attempt at them and we haven''t beaten them yet. We''ve got close the last two years. They beat us 40-38 last year. We missed a two-point conversion that could have put it into overtime. We''d like to get over that hump."
The Blue Devils will have the task of trying to tackle a running back they were accustomed to blocking for when they host the Aggies. They will be opposed by Steven Stewart, who transferred from Sulligent to Hamilton for his senior season.
Stewart was Sulligent''s leading rusher last season, carrying the ball 168 times for 1,063 yards and 17 touchdowns. He also caught 20 passes for 258 yards, and completed 5-of-10 passes for 124 yards and three touchowns with one interception.
He also contributed on the defensive side of the ball for the Blue Devils last season, being credited for 41 tackles and intercepting four passes.
"For someone who played here his whole career, it''s going to be different seeing him in the maroom and white over there." Bowling said. "That may give our guys a little more incentive to try to shut him down."
Bowling had an opportunity to see Stewart and the Aggies play in a jamboree of their own this past Friday.
"They''re powerful on offense with a good passing attack," Bowling said. "Of course with Steven there, the rushing attack is pretty good, too."
To make up for the loss of Stewart in the backfield, Bowling has moved Ishmael Riggins from the offensive line to fullback. Riggins rushed for 183 yards and the Blue Devils had 346 yards as a team against Smithville.
Riggins fumbled twice in the opening quarter, but Bowling said that was from inexperience and that Riggins will improve as the season goes along.
Riggins was followed in rushing by Wesley Parson with 122 yards.
"We were able to run the ball," Bowling said. "I was really pleased with our offensive rushing attack. I was not too pleased with our passing attack. I think we were only 1-of-11 passing so we''ve got improve there."
Bowling said the Blue Devils don''t have any players injured and they''re ready to play a game that counts on their record.
n American Christian at Pickens County: The Pickens County Tornadoes kick off their season after beating South Lamar in a jamboree this past Thursday.
Pickens County returns five starters on both sides of the bal from last year''s team that made it to the semifinals of the Class 2A state playoffs and finished 12-2.
This season, Pickens County has dropped to Class A.
"We''ve just got a lot of inexperienced players in important positions," Pickess County coach Scott Marchant said. "It''s going to take some time and unfortunately it''s trial by error and time will tell.
"I think we made some improvements in the jamboree, but we saw a lot of areas that we need to fix. Hopefully they''ll make those improvements this Friday night. We have so few returning starters it will be a challenge for us to get our feet under us and get that experrience."
Pickens County will attempt to extend its winning streak to three games against American Christian after winning 26-0 last season and 42-20 in 2008.
Marchant got an opportunity to see American Christian play in a jamboree this past Friday.
"Playing up against a good 2A opponent will hopefully get us ready for the season," Marchant said. "They''re very coached and disciplined. Everything they do, they seem to do it the right way. They do it 100 perccent with great intensity. They seem to have a lot of attention to detail. They really impressed me."
n Greene County at Aliceville: Eddie Hill will make his debut as the coach of the Aliceville Yellow Jackets and he can''t wait.
"We''re ready for (the start of the season)," Hill said. "We''re tired of beating up on each other. We''re ready to get started. I wish we were playing (today)."
Alicville may have to begin the season without fullback Jeremy McMullen, who suffered a shoulder injury.
"We think we might hold him out this week and hold him out until the next game when we play Sipsey Valley," Hill said.
Aliceville, which made the state playoffs and finished 5-6 after a 4-0 start last season, has never lost to Greene County. The Yellow Jackets claimed an 8-6 win last season to extend their streak to six games in the series.
"We watched them (in a jamboree) against Tuscaloosa Central and they beat Tuscaloosa Central," Hill said. "They''ve got a pretty good ballclub. We''re going to have our hands full. We''ve just got to play football."
n Restoration at Pickens Academy: John Gartman will make his debut as Pickens County''s coach as the Pirates play Restoration for the first time in school history.
Gartman was hired on July 3 after stints as an assistant coach at Morgan Academy and Montgomery Macon-East and has had a month and a half to prepare the Pirates for their season opener.
"I like our chemistry and morale," Gartman said. "I think it''s been real good. We had several days of two-a-days and had a lot of physical practices and I think that''s brought us together. I think the chemistry and morale we have is as good as any team I''ve ever been a part of."
Restoration, of Fairfield, Ala., played eight-man football before moving up to 11-man football two years ago.
"They''ve got a lot of reeal good athletes with a lot of speed," Gartman said. "Last year they only lost by two points to Patrician, which won 1A. Bessemer, which played in the 3A state championship game, beat them in the last minute. They''ve got a good team. They were real good last year and they''ve got a lot coming back."