August 26, 2014 5:00:10 PM
ALICEVILLE, Ala. -- Aliceville High School football coach Charles Moody has been eagerly anticipating seeing Jaterrius Steele and Jeremy McMullen in the same backfield.
His wish finally came true Friday night in the Yellow Jackets' season-opening 33-21 win over Paul W. Bryant.
McMullen rushed for 119 yards and Steele added 100 more as the Class 3A squad used a powerful performance from its offensive line to take down a highly-regarded Class 6A opponent.
"When the running backs gets more in-tuned to what they are doing, we are going to be a dangerous team," Moody said. "The offensive line has four seniors and a two-year starter who is a junior. It is a veteran group. They know what they are doing. We think we can really punish some people on the ground once we get some games under our belt."
The Aliceville offensive line includes seniors Isaiah Wilder, Luke Mobley, Wesley Little, Devious Taylor and junior Anthony Brown.
While Moody expected a strong performance from this unit, the fourth-year coach has been just as excited about the return to the lineup of McMullen. McMullen lost his junior season after tearing an ACL during spring practice after his sophomore campaign.
"It just felt really good to be out there helping my teammates again," McMullen said. "Some days were tougher than others, but I always wanted to make it back for my senior year. Sometimes, you don't realize how much you love football until you have it taken away for a little while."
Moody felt like McMullen continued to lead even from the sidelines a year ago.
"He is one of our hardest workers, so there was never a doubt he was going to come back stronger than before," Moody said. "(Steele) had a really strong season last year but you need to have options. When our running game was limited last year, we didn't have a lot of other options."
Sophomore Jamar Richardson also had a solid varsity debut with the Yellow Jackets. Playing some tailback and at a slot receiver, Richardson accounted for 100 all-purpose yards.
"To really have three players go over 100 yards against a Class 6A opponent is a pretty big deal for us," Moody said. "We had some turnover issues last year (31 in 11 games). What we showed Friday night is how good we are capable of being when everybody does their job and we don't have mistakes."
For McMullen, the timing is right for Aliceville to turn the corner and make some noise in the Alabama High School Activities Association Class 3A ranks - a move up for the squad after previously competing in Class 2A.
"(The offensive line) has really lifted a lot of weights during the summer," McMullen said. "You can tell they are stronger. Hopefully, they will be able to open up some holes. The last couple of years we have been a passing team. This year, we should have some balance because the line should be able to block better."
On defense, Aliceville held Bryant to 106 yards of total offense. The Yellow Jackets again relied on the aggressive, fly-to-the-ball mentality that Moody has been stressing since his arrival at the school.
"We tackled really well," Moody said. "It was probably our best job of tackling since I have been here. The line controlled Bryant's rushing game. Our defensive backs played well. They did a good job of keeping assignments and staying with their man."
Moody said the defensive backs were the standouts of the victory. That group includes Richardson, seniors Cody Davis, Stephon Dunner and Daquan Curry.
Aliceville will now attempt to knock off its second higher-classification opponent when it plays at Class 5A foe Wilcox Central Friday night.
"There are a new opponent for us, so we really don't have anything," Moody said. "We are searching for film and trying to put together a scouting report. But to be honest with you, the main thing right now is worrying about your team. You want to see how much you can improve from week to week. So our focus and our energies are on our team. Hopefully, we will grow some more before we play again."