September 9, 2010 8:27:00 AM
On his way to becoming a head coach, Josh Harper learned a lot about football from Rusty Funk.
Harper will get a second chance at 7 p.m. Friday to show what he learned when his South Lamar Stallions play host to Funk's Marion County Red Raiders in an Alabama High School Athletic Association Class A, Region 5 game.
Harper hopes to fare better than his first game against his mentor last season when the Stallions lost 40-0 in Guin, Ala.
Harper succeeded Funk at South Lamar last season after Funk was relieved of his duties. He also was one of Funk's assistant coaches at Columbus High School from 2004-05.
"I enjoyed working for him," Harper said. "He was a good boss. He kept me straight. That's one of the things I appreciated about it. We both worked hard at our jobs. I learned a lot of things from him. I continue learning from him by watching his team on film and trying to figure out how to stop them. That's the thing about being a head coach, you pick up a lot of things from a lot of different folks."
South Lamar (1-1) is coming off a 27-20 victory against Lamar County and a 41-20 loss to Hubbertville, and Marion County (1-1) lost to Hackelburg 37-14 and beat Brilliant 23-6.
It will mark the first time Funk will coach against the Stallions in Millport, Ala., after he left the school. He was relieved of his duties despite a 9-4 record and making the playoffs in 2008, his only season as South Lamar High's football coach.
"It means a lot (to return to Millport)," Funk said. "I love the people in Millport. We had a good time down there. We made a lot of friends. It's an enjoyable place to be. There are some good folks down there, and I look forward to seeing them again."
Funk also will look forward to matching strategies with Harper.
"He (Harper) and his family are some fine people," Funk said. "I enjoyed Josh a lot. He's a hard worker and good football coach.
"He is definitely a friend of mine. You never had to worry about him. He always had great initiatives. He was a great hand to have along. He absorbed everything we did and tried to do, and he's done a good job with it."
The Stallions are focused on avenging last season's loss to Marion County, but Harper said it won't be easy.
"The first thing that sticks out to me is the size of their defensive front," Harper said. "They're so big up front that that's the key to their defense. They're pretty quick. The quarterback is their biggest playmaker. They've got a big fullback, and with coach Funk they like to establish that fullback. He's got a good fullback to establish one with. They're going to be salty and they're going to be gritty. They're going to come after you."
The Stallions also are determined to bounce back from last week's loss at Hubbertville.
"We can't do like we did last week when we turned the ball over five times and basically gave the game away," Harper said.
n Lamar County (1-1) at Phil Campbell (1-1): The Bulldogs will attempt to improve to 2-0 in AHSAA Class 2A, Region 8 when they play the Bobcats.
Lamar County began region play last week with a 54-6 victory against Cherokee in Vernon, Ala.
Despite the convincing victory, Lamar County High coach Ken Adams wants to see his team play better against Phil Campbell, which lost its region opener to Colbert Heights.
"We've still got a long way to go," Adams said. "We're still in the first semester. We're still trying to learn how to play and how to play hard.
"We need to improve in every phase, execution being one of them. We've just got to trust what we're telling them and trust that they're going to do it when they get out there."
Phil Campbell is a new region opponent for Lamar County. The teams haven't met since Lamar County claimed a 26-8 playoff victory in 2005.
n Lexington (1-1) at Sulligent (1-1): The Blue Devils can move ahead of the Bears in the AHSAA Class 2A, Region 8 standings with a victory Friday night.
Both teams are 1-0 in the region. Sulligent defeated Hatton 10-7, while Lexington beat Red Bay (Ala.) 26-21.
Lexington is a new region opponent for Sulligent. The teams haven't met since Lexington claimed a 40-13 playoff win in 1998.
"They look pretty good on film," Sulligent coach Dwight Bowling said. "It's going to be another tough test. They're a traditional power. They were 11-2 or something like that last year. They were pretty good.
"They're not as big as some of the teams we've been playing. Hatton last week was huge. They're not a lot bigger than us. We match up pretty well size wise. That will be different for us."
Sulligent beat Hatton after losing to Hamilton (Ala.) 43-0 in its season opener.
"It gave us a little confidence because Hatton has a good football team," Bowling said. "I feel like they'll be one of the four teams in the playoffs. It was good to be able to beat them. In a close ballgame and to be able to figure out a way to win, we lost all of the statistical categories, but won the game, so that was good. Our kicking game was better than theirs, and that was the difference in the game."
Bowling is still looking for better production from his offense.
"We're still struggling," Bowling said. "That's what I told the guys (Monday) at practice. We've got to be more productive. We're sort of lethargic on offense and can't get anything going. We're playing pretty good defense, but offensively we're not productive near enough. We've got to improve there."
n Pickens County (2-0) at Keith (2-0): Something will have to give when the Tornadoes travel to Keith for an AHSAA Class A, Region 4 game.
Both teams are 1-0 in the region.
The game will be a rematch of last year's first-round playoff game that saw Pickens County earn a 57-24 victory.
"We've got some experience with Keith," Pickens County coach Scott Marchant said. "I think they used to be in our region a couple of years ago in 2A and they dropped down to 1A with us.
"He (Keith coach Harry Crum) runs the same offense he did last year. He's a Wing-T guy. He's a good coach, and he coaches the Wing-T real well.
"We're just trying to stay focused and try to continue to get a little better every day and every play. I feel like we are making some progress."
n Montevallo (0-2) at Aliceville (1-1): The Yellow Jackets will attempt to improve to 2-0 in AHSAA Class 3A, Region 4 when they host the Bulldogs.
Aliceville won its region opener by beating first-year school Sipsey Valley last week.
"The one positive thing is we're 1-0 in the region," Aliceville coach Eddie Hill said. "I think the next two ballgames are region games. If we can win these next two games we could be sitting 3-0 in the region. That's why we're going to have to work real hard. The coaches are working real hard trying to break down film to see what we can do for them."
It will be the first time for Aliceville to play Montevallo, which has lost to Calera and Greensboro.
Aliceville beat Sipsey Valley after a season-opening loss to Greene County.
"It kind of helped lift our spirits a little bit," Hill said. "We were down after we lost the game to Greene County. We had a good chance to win, but turnovers cost us that ballgame. I think now the kids understand they can win if they apply themselves. We're still not where we need to be, but we're not where we were, either.
"Offensive line play still has a long way to go, but they have vastly improved since the first game of the season. It's just coming off the ball and following the blocking scheme. We can't sit there and wait. We've got to come off the ball and block people like you're supposed to block."
n South Choctaw (2-1) at Pickens Academy (0-2): The Pirates get their third chance to help coach John Gartman get his first win as head coach at the school after losses to Restoration and Springwood.
"It's very important," Gartman said. "We're 0-2 and we're disappointed with that. We've played some real good teams. We had a chance to win both of those games, and we feel like if we can start off this week and win some