Here’s a look at five key games to watch in Coastal Alabama when the 2022 high school football season begins.
Full coastal schedule follows. Jamboree games not included.
GULF SHORES IN ST. MICHAEL
Time/Location: 7:00 p.m., Thursday, Fairhope Municipal Stadium
Last year’s records: Gulf Coast (6-4 overall, 3-4 in Class 6A, Region 1); St. Michael (6-3 overall, 3-3 in Class 4A, Region 1)
In the air: Radio – WNSP-FM 105.5
The weak: The second year for Mark Hudspeth as the head coach of Gulf Shores and Philip Rivers at St. Both won six games in 2021, but neither made the playoffs. … The Hudspeth Dolphins drop from 6A to 5A this season. Gulf Shores will have a new quarterback in senior Brendon Byrd, who transferred from Spanish Fort after starting 27 straight games for the Toros. The Dolphins return all-purpose and DB Ronnie Royal III, who continues to be ranked among the top young prospects in the state. The offense will also include senior RB JR Gardner. Senior DL Caiden Clark will help anchor the defense. … St. Michael got a much-needed practice game last week in Athens, Rivers’ alma mater. The Cardinals will try to build off a season in which they won more games than the program had combined to win in previous years of play. QB Josh Murphy returns along with all-state linebacker Ezra Sexton and senior linebacker Clay Barr. St. John’s defensive front seven Michael has plenty of experience, including 3 of the 4 returning LBs.
BIKER AT THEODORE
Time/Location: 7 p.m., Friday, CA Douglas Field, Theodore
Last year’s records: Baker (7-4, 6-2 in Class 7A, Region 1. Lost at Auburn in first round of playoffs); Theodore (10-2, 7-1 in Class 7A, Region 1. Lost to Central-Phenix City in second round of 7A playoffs).
In the air: THAT
The weak: The first time these two teams have played a non-region game against each other since 1993. Theodore dropped to Class 6A this year, while Baker remained in Class 7A. In a regional game a year ago, Theodore rallied from a 14-0 deficit and went on to beat the Hornets 36-31. The Bobcats have won five straight in the series and lead it 47-8-1. … Baker’s offense this year will revolve around junior quarterback Josh Flowers, the AL.com Coastal Newcomer of the Year in 2021. Flowers started the final nine games of his sophomore season. He completed 108 of 159 pass attempts for 1,992 yards and 20 TDs. He was intercepted only twice. He also rushed for 859 yards and 12 TDs on 115 carries. He is ranked as the No. 1 prospect. 10 junior in the state, according to the 247 composite rankings, and already has an offer from Alabama. … Theodore will continue again with a strong running game and a stingy defense. Since 2016, Eric Collier’s team has allowed an average of just 13.4 points per game. The star on both sides of the ball this year will likely be Southside senior Will James.
SARALAND AND DAPHNE
Time/Location: 7pm, Friday, Jubilee Stadium, Daphne
Last year’s records: Saraland (10-3, 7-0 in Class 6A, Region 1. Lost to Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa in Class 6A quarterfinals); Daphne (5-5, 5-3 in Class 7A, Region 1. Lost at Central-Phenix City in Round 1 of Class 7A playoffs)
In the air: TV – WJTC-UTV 44/WPMI NBC 15
The weak: Saraland leads the short series 4-2. The two teams last met in 2019 with the Spartans winning 49-13. … In a rare twist, the two 2021 quarterbacks in this rivalry switched teams this offseason. KJ Lacey, who started most of his freshman season for the Trojans a year ago, is now at Saraland. Gabe Reynolds, the Spartans’ 2021 starter, is now at Daphne. … Jeff Kelly is 104-34 in 11 years as the head coach at Saraland. The Spartans have won at least 10 games in each of the last four seasons and have been to the 6A quarterfinals two straight years. They lost a pair of stars from 2021 in WR Jarel Williams (West Virginia) and DT Trevon McAlpine (Texas Tech), but this year’s roster includes three highly touted sophomores in Lacey, RB Santae McWilliams and WR Ryan Williams. … Former NFL standout Kenny King is 42-24 entering year no. 7 at Daphne, his alma mater. The Trojans have made the playoffs in five of his previous six seasons. His team returns six starters on offense and seven on defense. WR Stacey Boykins could be a playmaker on the offensive end, while senior DL Johnnie Perdue will anchor the defense.
UMS-WRIGHT AT ST. PAUL’S
Time/Location: 7 p.m., Friday, EE Delaney Stadium, Mobile
Last year’s records: UMS-Wright (11-2, 6-0 Class 5A, Region 1. Lost at Andalusia in Class 5A quarterfinals); St. Paul’s (8-4, 5-1 Class 5A, Region 1. Lost to Pike Road in Class 5A second round).
In the air: Radio – Sports Talk 99.5 FM, WNSP-FM 105.5
The weak: This is not a regional game this year with the return of St. Paul’s in Class 6A on competitive balance, but that’s unlikely to take away from the intensity of the “Battle of Old Shell Road.” … UMS coach Terry Curtis enters year no. 24 as the state’s active career leader with 336 wins. He trails overall leader Buddy Anderson by 10 wins. All-state senior RB Cole Blaylock returns for his senior year. He rushed for 1,398 yards and 19 touchdowns on 241 carries in 2021. He also caught 12 passes for 106 yards, returned 17 kickoffs for 511 yards and a TD and returned 29 kickoffs for 406 yards. … St. Paul’s will begin a new era with defensive coordinator Ham Barnett taking over for longtime coach Steve Mask. The Saints will rely heavily on UAB commit Chris Bracy at running back and defensive end. Sophomore Braxton Byrd is expected to replace John Wallace Holladay at QB after Holladay moved to Orange Beach in the offseason. … The series has been tightly contested since it began in 1978. UMS leads 22-21. The Bulldogs have scored a total of 783 points. St. Paul’s has scored 718. UMS has won three of its last four, including a 24-13 victory a year ago.
VIGOR AT BLOUNT
Time/Location: 7 p.m., Friday, Harris-Terry Stadium, Eight Mile
Last year’s records: Vigor (14-1, 6-0 Class 4A, Region 1. Won Class 4A state title); Blount (3-7, 2-5 Class 6A, Region 1).
In the air: TV – MCPSS-TV
The weak: “The Battle of Prichard” will likely have the biggest crowd of the week in the Mobile area. This year, it features two new coaches – Markus Cook takes over at Vigor for John McKenzie. Josh Harris is Blount’s new head coach. … The Wolves have moved up to 5A after winning the 4A crown a year ago. They return nine of 11 starters on a defense that allowed just 12.1 points a game a year ago and held 11 opponents to 14 points or fewer. Reigning Class 4A Lineman of the Year and UAB commit Michael Towner Jr. will anchor the forward unit with Brandon Purifoy at LB and Alcorn State commit Jermaine Holcomb Jr. in secondary. … Harris will try to get the Leopards back on track after they missed the playoffs for just the second time since 2006. Deshune Williams returns at running back and will be joined by Chickasaw transfer Jarius Houston. They will both run behind Mr. Willis Anderson at South Alabama OL. … Vigor rallied for a 22-13 victory a year ago at Ladd-Peebles Stadium and leads the overall series 36-14.
WEEK 1 COASTAL ALABAMA SCHEDULE
Gulf Shores in St
JU Blacksher in JF Shields
Linden in Choctaw County
Baker in Theodore
Bayside Academy in Elberta
BC Rain in Excel
Citronella at Millry
Cottage Hill in Escambia County
Foley in Prattville
JU Blacksher in JF Shields
LeFlore in Chickasaw
Marengo in Washington County
McGill-Toolen at Montgomery Catholic
Monroe Academy at Jackson Academy
Pike Liberal Arts at Mobile Christian
Saraland and Daphne
Snook Christian at Cornerstone Christian
Spanish Fort at Fairhope
St. Luke in Flomaton
Sumter Central at Wilcox Central
TR Miller at Hillcrest-Evergreen
UMS-Wright in St. Paul’s
Energy in Blount
Williamson to Mary G. Montgomery
WS Neal in Georgiana
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