ELBA TIGERS (2019 record: 8-4, lost in second round of Class 1A State Playoffs)
The Elba Tigers are returning to Class 2A this season under new head coach Marc Sieving –the longtime Dauphin Junior High coach – who is looking to bring Elba more of the success it has enjoyed in Class 2A in the past.
“Our players have been working hard and are excited to play,” Sieving said. “I don’t know if you can ever say you’re ready but it’s time to go.”
Sieving said the main focus on his first season at the helm in Elba will be to simply get better.
“From the people I’ve had a chance to learn from I’ve learned that it’s important to really focus on us and we’re going to try and improve every week,” Sieving said. “I feel like if we do that we can be a different team at the end of the season than we were at the start and be playing our best football towards the end of the year.”
Sieving said that he’s looking to returning leaders like running back Collin Harrison – who rushed for 1,040 yards and 12 touchdowns last season – and athletic quarterback Jacquez Prince to lead the Tigers in 2020.
ZION CHAPEL REBELS (2019 record: 6-5, lost in first round of Class 2A State Playoffs)
The Zion Chapel Rebels no longer have to worry about New Brockton or Goshen in region play, but as the Rebels move to Class 2A, Region 2 they will now have to contend with powerhouses like Elba, G.W. Long and Geneva County each season.
“I’ve told other folks that we’ve gone from playing in the SEC West to the College Football Playoffs,” Zion Chapel coach Randy Bryant joked of the school’s tough region. “It will be challenging that’s for sure but like I tell our kids, we have to show up and do our part and football isn’t a beauty contest. The best looking team isn’t the team that always wins.”
While the Rebels will have to contend with a tough region, they are coming off the school’s first playoff appearance since 2011 last year. Bryant said that the Rebels every year strive for six wins and a spot in the playoffs.
“We’re looking forward to being competitive,” Bryant said. “We always talk to our kids about wanting to win six plus, that’s our goal every year. That means you have a winning program.”
Bryant, who is in his fourth year at Zion Chapel, returns a number of starters on both sides of the ball, including four starting offensive linemen and 1,100-yard running back Brockston Bragg.
KINSTON BULLDOGS (2019 record: 3-7, missed the playoffs)
As Kinston comes into year two under head coach Rudy Free, the focus has been about finishing.
In 2019, Kinston took a lead into the fourth quarter in three games that ultimately ended up being losses.
“We just have to finish better,” Free said. “We had the lead in three games last season and just didn’t finish it. So, our main goals this year are to finish in the fourth quarter and get to the playoffs.”
Free said that he would be leaning on a big group of returning seniors to lead the way this season. That group includes running back Addison Hudson, who gained 1,125 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2019. Also, Free said he expects big things out of sophomore wing back Hunter Hughes, who moves over to offense from defense.
Leading the way for that rushing attack will be a returning offensive line that paved that way for the Bulldogs to average 300 yards rushing a season ago. All five starters – Jacob Davis, Steve Windham, Gunnar Fleming, John Free and David Free – return in 2020.
“Those guys have a lot of experience,” Free said. “That’s who we’re really going to really rely on heavily this season.”
DOTHAN WOLVES (2019 record: 8-3, lost in the first round of Class 6A State Playoffs)
In year No. 2 of the Dothan-Northview combined Dothan Wolves program, the school moves up to Class 7A to join rival Enterprise in the competitive Region 2.
Expectations are already high for the Wolves, who earned a No. 8 ranking in the Alabama Sports Writers Association’s Class 7A Preseason Top 10 this summer.
Much of those expectations come with highly recruited running back Jaylin White.
White rushed for 687 yards and 11 touchdowns, along with a kickoff return touchdown, in 2019 and has received scholarship offers from a number of Power-5 schools like Arkansas, Ole Miss, Florida, Florida State, Penn State and South Carolina.
The Wolves will have their hands full in 2020 with not only Class 7A, Region 2 foes but their season opener against perennial 7A power Hoover on Aug. 21 was cancelled - as well as week two against Park Crossing - due to COVID-19 related reasons.
CARROLL EAGLES (2019 record: 3-6, missed the playoffs)
The Carroll Eagles missed the playoffs for the second consecutive year in 2019 and now successful Auburn defensive coordinator Patrick Plott has taken over the program.
Plott formerly had successful stints as a head coach at Greenville, Pickens County and Aliceville, including a 15-0 Class 1A State Championship season at Pickens County in 2013. Plott’s last three years have been spent at Auburn turning that defense into one of Class 7A’s top defenses.
As Plott comes to Carroll to rebuild a once dominant Class 5A program, he said the team is taking it one day at a time.
“We’re going to take things one game at a time and that’s the way we will approach it. We’ll give our best every time we go out and play,” Plott said. “Things have been going good so far. Our guys are working hard and learning a lot right now.”
Plott said he’s looking to players like senior quarterback Brandon Robinson, senior running back David Minniefield, junior offensive lineman Riley Jordan, senior defensive lineman Jakerion Ware and linebacker Karmelo Overton to lead the way in 2020.
Plott emphasized that technique was something that will be key for his Eagles this season.
“We have to play with good technique,” Plott said. “Being technically sound on both sides of the ball, especially up front, will be big.”