By Donald Gipson
The hottest place on Earth has to be an Alabama
high school football
field in mid-August, as would-be super-stars sweat, groan and grunt
grueling drills, sometimes twice, maybe three times a day.
Coaches quickly find out who can play and
those who can't.
The hot August sun truely separates the men
from the boys.
Since August 11th, young athletes at high
schools all over North Alabama
and hundreds of other high schools throughout the South, have sweated
seemingly, endless practices in order to make their presence felt on
glorius battlefield we call the gridiron.
It's a tough way to pay your dues, but, ultimately
it's the right way.
Friday nights in late August, even up thru
September and into October,
can be hot, humid and fluid draining. So much so, that the Alabama
School Athletic Association has, for several years, mandated extra
breaks in each quarter to help the athletes make it through the night.
All the sweat, the cramps, the throwing up,
the bumps, bruises and the
pain is usually forgotten that first Friday night when these finely-honed
young athletes take the field for the opening kickoff.
Amidst the sounds of the cheering fans and
pretty cheerleaders, the
colorful bands inspiring music and the encouraging words of teammates,
night football becomes the focal point of life under glaring lights
I love high school football. Being on the
sidelines, feeling the
emotional ups and downs, watching the intensity, hearing pads hitting
is a great way to spend a Friday night. Admittedly getting paid for
there is a financial plus.
Each year as I roam the sidelines of high
school football games, I am
constantly asked, "Who gonna win?" "What do you think about this school,
So, a few years back I decided to begin a
This year, thanks to Steve Rousseau and R-Sports.com,
my "piks" are on
Hope you enjoy this weekly attempt at selecting
winners and losers of
area high school games.
"Gipper"Jamborees over; time for
regular season to begin
By Donald Gipson
Do pre-season football jamborees really answer any questions for the
coaches and players involved?
That what Sparkman, East Limestone and Bob Jones football programs
tried to find out this past Friday evening .
As far as winning or losing was concerned, the Sparkman Senators downed
West Limestone 6-0. The Indians from East Limestone and the Bob Jones Patriots
weren't as fortunate. The Patriots were shut out 10-0 by Athens in their
affair at Athens while the Indians fell to the Hazel Green Trojans 14-0.
The Sparkman-West Limestone encounter at Hazel Green was a defensive
battle with both teams showing size, strength and quickness from a defensive
Sparkman coach Obie Childers said following the mini-game, "I thought
we were focused." "Our kids played hard even though we made a lot of mistakes."
Childers was also pleased with his defense. "We got a good effort from
the defensive unit," Childers said.
"Our offensive line blocked well and the backs made some good runs,"
"All in all,it was a good experience," stated Childers. "I hope this
gets rid of opening game jitters."
Sparkman opens their '97 regular season on the road traveling to Sylvania.
The Senators touchdown came on a 40-yard reverse play by Troy Brown
following a West Limestone fumble recovered by Sparkman's Jonathan Dobbins.
In the second showcase game, host 6A Hazel Green dominated 3A East
Phil Cavnar spoke briefly following the game. "Cavnar said, " Hazel
Green has a great football team." "They played well, we played poorly."
The game was shortened a few minutes after East Limestone's Antoine
Caudle was injured. The game was called in a mutual agreement by both coaches
after it took nearly 30 minutes to remove the injured Caudle from the field.
Caudle was carried by ambulance to Huntsville Hospital.
The young East Limestone athlete was kept overnight for observation
but was released on Saturday.
The East defense had to spend a lot of time on the field due to the
Indians offensive mistakes.
The Trojans scores came following a bad snap on a East Limestone punt
and a short punt off the side of Brian Looney's foot deep in their own
territory. Fumbles and other breakdowns in the punting game put the Indians
in holes they just couldn't get out of.
East Limestone travels to Tanner on Thursday to kick off their '97
bid for a playoff spot.
Hazel Green is at home on Thursday, hosting the Buckhorn Bucks.
The Bob Jones Patriots will try to regroup for a Friday night visit
by the Albertville Aggies.
By Donald Gipson
Summer is over. Football, Alabama high school style, is ready to, as
it is said every year, to 'kick-off''.
And, of course, if it's time for Friday night football,it must be time
for "Gip's Piks".
"Pik's" is my annual attempt at picking winners and losers of local
and area high school football games.
My rules are simple.
Rule No. 1 - Have Fun.
Rule No. 2 - Refer to Rule No. 1.
Pick along with me. Have fun. If you have comments, pro or con, you
contact at the Madison County Record at 772-6677 or e-mail me at Gip's
Page @ AOL.com.
By the way, you can get a look at my weekly picks on the Internet at
Of course, "Gip's Piks" will appear each week in your Madison County
Here's a look at week No. One. By the way, I got nearly 80% right in
BOB JONES vs ALBERTVILLE
The Bob Jones Patriots go into the 1997 season with high expectations.
Coming off an excellent '96 year, the Patriots, under head coach Frank
Sadler, should do well. Bob Jones is bigger, stronger and deeper.
Albertville will also be expecting a better season after a down year
But I look for the Bob Jones Patriots to rebound from the Athens jamboree
shutout with a vengence.
Bob Jones - 24,
Albertville - 14
BUTLER vs JOHNSON
A huge, early season city game.
The Butler Rebels will be much improved.
Johnson, city champs in '96, are pre-season favorites to do it again.
To top off the importance of this opening week match-up, it is a designated
It may be too early in the year for either team to be as good as they
In a close one, the Jaugars win by a touchdown.
Butler - 13,
Johnson - 20
DECATUR vs ATHENS
The Athens Golden Eagles, coming off the 10-0 shutout of Bob Jones,
may be heading toward a 5A playoff spot.
Decatur, once a periennial 6A powerhouse, is probably one season away
from returning to being a front runner in the 6A ranks. Athens is tough
to beat at home.
Decatur - 7,
Athens - 24
GRISSOM vs LEE
Grissom fell to a Scottsboro team that looked sharp in the Athens jamboree,
Lee and Huntsville played to 21-21 tie. Lee will be better but not
enough to tame the Tigers. Grissom will be in the hunt for the mythical
city title as well as the area crown.
The Generals first week of regular season play under second year coach
Don Thomas, won't be easy.
Grissom - 31,
Lee - 7
HAZEL GREEN vs BUCKHORN
This will be an interesting game.
The Trojans, responding to their second-year coach, Mike Nave, looked
better Friday than I've seen them look in years.
Buckhorn has changed coaches, again.
My choice could be considered a minor upset.
The Trojans, playing at home, with renewed entusiasm, more athletes
and the right coach, will beat the Bucks.
Hazel Green -
28, Buckhorn - 17
HUNTSVILLE vs AUSTIN
It's common knowledge around town that Huntsville coach Greg Patterson,
is good at covering up his team's strengths and weaknesses in media interviews.
But the well-respected coach may not be able to cover up his '97 Panthers
youthfulness. Huntsville lost 22 out of 24 starters from '96.
Austin is a solid team.
7, Austin - 21
SPARKMAN vs SYLVANIA
The Sparkman Senators have come a long way. Friday night, the Senators
take the first step of what they hope will be their best season in years.
Sparkman defeated a good West Limestone team in last week's jamboree
at Hazel Green, 6-0.
Sparkman's defensive effort was strong. A big defensive line will take
the Senators a long way this season in their quest for a winning record
and a trip back to the playoffs. They have to travel to Sylvania, a team
that I don't know anything about.
But I have faith in the Senators.
Sparkman - 27,
Sylvania - 13
EAST LIMESTONE vs TANNER
What a way to start the year. This week, Tanner. Next week, Hazelwood.
That's what the East Limestone Indians face the first two weeks of
They will play both of these teams tough. That's the East Limestone
Unfortunately, the Tanner Rattlers are next to unbeatable on their
home field. East will use these opening week's games to toughen up for
the area race.
- 13, Tanner - 24
NEW HOPE vs SECTION
My blind pick.
New Hope - 7,
Section - 14
MADISON COUNTY vs MADISON ACADEMY
George Bennett, the Madison Academy coach, is one of my favorite people.
Not just as a coach but as a person, too.
Lamar Frith, the MCHS coach is a great guy and he has been building
a pretty good football program out at Gurley.
The Mustangs had a horrendus year in '96. 1997 will be better but against
- 33, Madison Academy - 7
The first week is always interesting. Usually you can depend on some
upsets and some funny bounces. But that's part of what makes high school
football so much fun. It's not for money. It's for pride.
Too bad the NFL has forgot what pride is.
|IT'S GREAT TO BE BACK-
After traveling in Florida and a three day stint in the
Gipson family is glad to be back in Alabama.
We have a piece of advice for you if you're considering
It's highly over-rated, over priced and as a tourist on
the island we
visited, you were at the mercy of the locals.
If we said no once, we must have said it a hundred times
to the multitudes
of ldies wanting to braid your hair, find you a place to eat or take
It was an experience that I don't want to do again. At
least not in the
One thing I did find interesting about the Grand Bahama
Island was the
absence of high school sports, with the exception of basketball.
Basketball is the sport in Freeport. There was some talk
of starting up a
I can't i,agine, at least I don't want to imagine, life
Friday night football (which is just around the corner) is an American
tradition. The bands, the cheerleaders, the players and the energetic
atmosphere of a high school football game is an American treasure.
Friday night football, Alabama-style, is gearing up for
In a few short weeks, the sound of marching bands, highschool cheerleaders
and pads smacking against pads will fill the air of thousands of high
football stadiums throughout the United States.
Locally, Bob Jones, Sparkman and East Limestone are all
At first glance, the Patriots appear strong but 6A competition
tough and Bob Jones will have thhands full.
Sparkman should be stronger while East will have some
big shoes to fill.
At Hazel Green, Coach Mike Nave begins his second season
Buckhorn has a new coach and will face a tough schedule.
New Hope and MCHS
In the city, Johnson looks to be the best. Butler should
be stronger. Lee,
under a new coach, still has a tough task ahead putting it's once formidable
football program back together.
Grissom and Huntsville always seem to be in the thick
The Panthers, under veteran head coach, Greg Patterson,
has to find a way
to fill 20 out of 22 starting positions, losing most of their starters
It will be a dogfight in both the city and county with
Bob Jones and
Johnson leading the pack.
Look for a pre-season breakdown of all the local high
teams right here on "Gips Page".
And don't forget the Friday night High school football
scoreboard here on
the Internet and on WTKI AM 1450.
"THE GIPPER" IS NOW ONLINE
Donald Gipson, better known in some local sports circles as "The Gipper"
is bringing his unique outlook on sports of all types to the Internet.
Now you will be able to read Gipson's weekly sports column right here on
the R-Sports Web Site. Gipson has covered high school and college sports
for more than twenty years throughout the Southeast. "The Gipper", a free-lance
writer for the Huntsville Times and the Madison County Record, will take
you on the sidelines, in the lockerroom, courtside, in the dugout, the
19th hole, or wherever it takes to report a good sports story. >From the
Little League to the "Big Dance", from Friday night football to Saturday
morning recaps, Gipson's humor and insight into the personal side of the
human drama of an unfolding sports story will keep you "on-line". You will
also be able to hear "The Gipper" and a variety of sports personalities
each Saturday morning on WTKI-AM 1450 and "On-Line"
at 8:30 am. Facts, features and fun will be key elements as you follow
"The Gipper" on his rounds of the sports scene in North Alabama. Gipson
invites you to respond to his comments and columns. This fall, look for
Gipson's weekly prediction column, "Gip's Piks". Each week, "The Gipper"
will pick winners and potential upsets from highschool football games from
around the state. You may agree or disagree, you may laugh or maybe even
cry at Gipson's blend of sports coverage. But most of all, you will enjoy
Note: If you have comments, scores, news listings or sports announcements
you want published on the internet, mentioned on one of our radio shows,
or just want to tell me something, click on "The
Gipper" for email.
Or, mail to GipsPage@aol.com
Back to R-Sports.