Looking ahead to football season
By Caleb Suggs
For the Enquirer
Schools in Morgan County are coming off one of their best football seasons to date, with eight of its nine teams making the playoffs.
What does 2023 hold for Morgan County? Here’s the top story lines to watch:
It’s a new era in Decatur
You’ll have to go back to 1995 to find what a Decatur football program not run by Jere Adcock was like.
For reference, the last player to play for Decatur that would have been alive then would have been 2014 at the latest.
Adcock did a lot for Decatur, winning 187 games, which ranks second all time in school history. He trails only H.L. Shorty Ogle, for whom Decatur named its stadium.
But as much good as he did, 2023 is a new year, and it’s time for a new chapter of Decatur football.
Aairon Savage is the new man in town and he knows all about winning at a high level. Savage was a member of Auburn’s 2010 National Championship team. He also has college coaching experience at Western Illinois, Louisiana-Lafayette, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Georgia State, Northern Iowa, Arkansas Tech and Army and spent time as a graduate assistant at Georgia Tech and Auburn.
But what will a Savage-run team look like? There’s no way to know for sure, as this is his first head coaching job.
It’s almost ironic that Decatur’s first head coach in nearly 30 years is a rookie, but that’s what makes Decatur possibly the most interesting team to watch in 2023.
Can Hartselle continue its QB hot streak?
Another season, another new signal caller for the Hartselle Tigers. It’s becoming a new tradition, although head coach Bryan Moore might be OK with some continuity.
Landon Blackwood is expected to be the team’s starting quarterback, and when he takes the field this season, he’ll do so as Hartselle’s sixth quarterback in as many seasons.
Quarterbacks coach Will Lang, who started at QB for Hartselle in 2009-10, has done a great job developing new guys each year. The Tigers have won at least seven games in five of those six seasons and have been to the playoffs in every one.
The most recent two seasons have been the best. In 2021 JT Blackwood, Landon’s older brother, threw for 2,180 yards and had 26 total touchdowns while leading the team to a 10-1 record. Last year, Jack Smith threw for 2,480 yards with 36 total touchdowns while leading the team to a 12-1 record.
Can the younger Blackwood replicate that success? It’s a tough ask, but history suggests he just might.
Will Priceville take the next step?
Ever since Chris Foster took over in 2018, Priceville football has gone nowhere but up.
Foster started with an 8-4 season, just the school’s second eight-win season at the time. He’s led the team to 10-win and 11-win seasons in the past two years. That includes the school’s first-ever undefeated regular season in 2022.
Priceville’s only real blemish under Foster was a 6-4 season in 2020, which was still a great season by previous Priceville standards.
In the last couple of seasons, the Bulldogs have continued to take steps forward. In 2021 they advanced to the second round of the playoffs for the first time. In 2022 they had the school’s first undefeated regular season and first back-to-back playoff appearance.
In 2023 Priceville is looking to take the next step and get to the school’s first-ever quarterfinal game.
Will Decatur Heritage rebound?
Year 1 for new coach Nikita Stover wasn’t exactly smooth sailing. The Eagles finished 4-6 and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2013.
Of course, it was a tough situation from the start. Heritage had to replace several players, including QB Brayden Kyle, who holds the state record for touchdowns in a season.
Given the team’s youth, Stover was basically handed a blank canvas.
Now in Year 2, he returns with a more experienced team.
Savarious Evans led the team with 825 yards rushing and six touchdowns as an eighth grader. He also had 62 tackles.
Jaxon Thomas (646 yards receiving, 6 TDs, 422 yards rushing, 5 TDs) is also back, as are plenty of other starters.
Decatur Heritage never lacks for talent these days, and with added experience, the Eagles are poised for a big bounce back.