This story via Coach Earl Lewis
Friday night will be a historical moment in local sports history when all three Sylacauga area high school football teams tee it up and kick off in the first round of the 2019 AHSAA football playoffs.
Yes, Sylacauga High, Fayetteville High, and B.B. Comer High all reside in the same zip code, and their mail all comes through the Sylacauga Post Office. Therefore, all three can be called local teams. SHS will be making its 26th appearance in the playoffs. Comer is appearing for the 15th time; and Fayetteville, which has only been playing football since 1997, is making its third playoff appearance.
Actually, five Talladega County teams are in the 2019 playoffs (others are Lincoln and Talladega), but having all three local teams in together is something for everyone to be proud of. Since each school is in a different classification, there are no rivalries involved. Therefore, Sylacauga, Comer, and Fayetteville fans can all feel comfortable cheering for each other.
2019 is a year of memorable “firsts” for the three local schools.
You may have heard the discussion a few weeks ago when all three of our schools had big wins on the same Friday night, and that Friday night just happened to be Friday the 13th. So, they overcame the jinx of Friday 13th, and all won on the same night for the first time in history. SHS took down Moody; Comer beat Glencoe; and Fayetteville defeated Coosa Central. Now, all three have extended the 2019 season into the state playoffs.
The Aggies will be renewing an old rivalry when they travel into Calhoun County to visit the Alexandria Valley Cubs at Lou Scales Stadium – also known as “Death Valley”. SHS has a 3-5-1 record against the Cubs in a series dating back to 1933. The Aggies lost four in a row before winning 7-6 in 1937. Skipping forward to 1954, Sylacauga won 22-13 in a classic and won again 32-7 in 1955.
Alexandria won in 1956 here at Legion Stadium 15-13 in a game filled with oddities. First, a cloud of smoke and fog rolled in from Rumsey’s saw mill and temporarily cut visibility almost to zero. As the game progressed, Alexandria’s kicker missed two extra points, but later hit a game winning field goal.
The 1954 game was a great one featuring two good teams. It was one of the three toughest outings for the undefeated ’54 Aggies. The Valley Cubs ran the old Georgia Tech Belly Series, and they had a magician for a quarterback named Jack Clark and a bull of a fullback named Raymond Calloway. A third All State player for the Cubs was end Ted Boozer. Calloway and Sylacauga’s All State fullback/defensive end, Ralph Moseley, had a memorable collision. Moseley emerged with a broken nose that resulted in him wearing a fierce looking, full, facemask for the rest of the season.
The final game of the series in 1957 matched two outstanding teams again. The Don Machen, Wayne Ham, Joe Harris, Doug Lewis led Aggies went 8-0-1, and the 13-13 tie with Alexandria caused them to finish second to Lanett in the Birmingham Post Herald state championship poll. They were still named Regional/State Champions by the Birmingham News. That game had an oddity also. Alexandria’s coach, Lou Scales, accused Aggie players of wearing sharpened cleats, and the game officials had the SHS players lay down on the field with their feet up while the officiating crew checked for sharpened cleats. They found none.
The 2019 game between the Aggies and the Valley Cubs should be a good one. The Cubs aren’t there by accident. They finished second to Etowah in their region with a 7-2 record, the only losses coming to Etowah and Chilton County, a team the Aggies beat by one point. They have four State and nine Region championships in their portfolio.
Their head coach is Todd Ginn, son of the legendary Larry Ginn who coached the Cubs to State Championships in both football and basketball during his 21 year tenure. They will be operating from a Wildcat style offense geared to the run game. Defensively they will feature a 3-3 stack alignment regularly which evolves into a 6-1 frequently.
Death Valley is a tough place to play, and the Aggies are headed into a hostile environment. Coach Matt Griffith leads his team into the game with an 8-2 record, the only losses coming to top ten teams Mortimer Jordan and Clay Central. Griffith is in his 15th season at the Aggie helm. He is looking for his 99th win as the SHS coach, and he is taking his team into its 11th playoff appearance, 8 in succession. The Aggies are led by 22 seniors and two running backs, Jordan Ridgeway and Maleek Pope, each of who have rushed for over 1,200 yards.
Crosstown neighbor, B.B. Comer has come miles this year under the leadership of Coach Adam Fossett. The Tigers are 5-5 which is major improvement over recent years, and they have won key games as needed.
Last Friday, they clipped Fayetteville 37-21 in a game they had to win to make the playoffs. They were led by junior speedster Raphaele Johnson who ran for 249 and four TD’s. Three of the scores came by long distance jaunts of 52, 59, and 72 yards. He had support from the Carmichael brothers and by a stingy defense.
That is the good news, but there is some not so good news also. The Tigers finished fourth in what is probably the toughest 3-A region in the state and are facing a tough opponent on the road in Fultondale, a team that has beaten the Tigers in two previous meetings. The Wildcats finished first in 3-A Region 5. They have nine region championships on their resume’. The fourth place team is always the underdog to the winner of the opposite region, but Comer has been full of surprises all year, so don’t count the Tigers out.
Our other local playoff entry, the Fayetteville Wolves, had already clinched a playoff spot before the loss to Comer. Obviously, Coach John Limbaugh’s crew would have enjoyed beating Comer; but the game had no bearing on the Wolves playoff aspirations. They finished fourth in their region which matches them up with an always tough Luverne team that has a history of several state championships. They are 10-0 as they prepare to host Fayetteville. The Wolves have been led all year by the duo of Pacey DeLoach and Blake Machen. Both take snaps at quarterback, and the versatile Machen is also a capable wide receiver. DeLoach hit 14 of 24 passes for 141 yards against Comer.
One completion was a 24 yard TD strike to Machen. Luke White had a 65 yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
Whatever happens in the “second season”, all three of the teams, fans, and coaches can be proud of the 2019 season’s accomplishments.
All three have made strides forward, and the future is bright. No organization is better than its leadership, and coaches Griffith, Fossett, and Limbaugh are definitely special in their abilities and leadership. Go Aggies! Go Tigers! Go Wolves!