By Jake Winfrey
The Cullman Times
Coming off one of the biggest turnarounds in school history, Alan Scott definitely didn’t want to see his Vinemont football squad lose any of the momentum it had gained last year.
With a solid core of returning starters, the third-year Eagle coach was hoping his players would be as eager as ever to build on last season’s foundation when they took to the field for spring practice.
So far, so good.
“I thought we had a really solid spring,” Scott said. “The kids are familiar with the system, and they are really starting to understand what we’re trying to do. We were able to be physical and stayed relatively injury free.”
The Red and White shocked the Cullman County football landscape last fall, going 8-3 on the season and making the playoffs for only the third time in the past 11 years. It was quite a turnaround for a squad that was just 5-13 combined in its 2010 and ’11 campaigns.
To extend their season to November once more, the Eagles will have to replace two of their top departing seniors in running back Ty Jones and quarterback Duncan Hopper.
Jones was a man on a mission in 2012, garnering All-State first-team honors and Cullman County records in rushing yards (2,214) and total touchdowns (33), while time and time again putting the team on his back. Hopper was a steady signal-caller for Scott, rarely putting Vinemont in unenviable positions with bad decision-making.
Despite the two huge losses, Scott is optimistic he has the guys who can step in and produce this coming season.
“T.J. Steele is going to be our quarterback,” he said. “He’s just a sophomore, but we are confident in him. As for replacing Ty, we’ve got a group that includes Bo Wright, John Michael Dye and several other guys. We are slowly finding the pieces of the puzzle. The spring was good for that.”
Vinemont fell to Cold Springs 38-35 in its jamboree game. However, Scott’s squad led after the varsity half 28-16. His team didn’t turn the ball over, and he was able to get a look at a lot of the younger boys coming up through the ranks.
“We’re hoping to fill some roles, so it was good to see them all play,” he said. “Going into our first practices, it was important for us that we didn’t take a step back. We wanted to build on it and find out if we wanted to play physical football. I’m very pleased with how the kids responded.”
Most high school football coaches use their jamboree games to get a feel for how their roster will shape up heading into the upcoming season.
For A.J. Lamar, however, he’ll have to go about a different route in order to find out which players will be making the plays for him when his team hits the gridiron in August.
“We didn’t get to have a game because of all the rain,” the West Point coach said. “We weren’t able to evaluate our players other than the eight practices we had. I think we are going to be fine, though.”
The Warriors are coming off a disappointing 3-7 campaign, where they failed to make the playoffs for a fourth-straight season.
You won’t find Lamar moping, though, as the fifth-year head man has been hard at work molding the 2013 Maroon and White squad that he hopes can build off an upset win over Fairview in the team’s final contest of 2012.
“Offensively, we are still going to be running the option,” Lamar said. “We have seven starters returning on that unit and four returning on defense. The guys we have back have a lot of playing experience under their belts.”
As for any players who stood out in the eight practices, Lamar mentioned defensive end Trent Campbell, offensive lineman Chandler Nelson and quarterback Bryant Farley.
Nelson is a 6’4”, 320-pound wrecking ball on the Warrior offensive line. The senior has already received numerous looks and offers from colleges across the country. Farley will be entering his third season as the starter under center, where he looks to continue off a fine sophomore campaign.
Lamar, however, had the most praise for Campbell.
“We are changing some things on defense and looking at some new guys,” he said. “Trent had a really good spring. He was really hard to block at times.”
With other Class 5A powerhouses such as Muscle Shoals, Russellville and Cullman, the coach knows his team will have its hands full this season.
“It’s going to be tough, but exciting as well,” he said. “Lots of guys on this team want change and want to put West Point back on the map.”
Look out for spring wrapups of the county’s other teams in upcoming editions of The Times.
% Jake Winfrey can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 136 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.