By Rob Ketcham
The Cullman Times
The playoff picture hasn’t been complete without Fairview each of the last six falls.
A great deal of that string of success can be attributed to coach George Redding, an offensive juggernaut who’s worked wonders since arriving in Aggie land back in 2007. The run also has to do with lack of turnover, though, a trend that began to decline in 2013 and dipped to its lowest levels yet this spring.
At any given time during Fairview’s jamboree against West Point, there was generally a maximum of two starters from last year’s squad on the field. In one offensive instance, it was just the center and running back. Everyone else had either served as a backup or was a newbie altogether.
“That’s a lot of new faces, man,” Redding said. “But we’re going to try to get it together, get it back on track and get it rolling. We just need a good summer.”
The coach spent much of the spring session working on plugging the massive holes left by the Aggies’ recent graduating class. They lost all of their inside linebackers, a few linemen and most of the secondary.
And that’s just on defense. The Purple and Gold offense is moving forward without three linemen and a trio of receivers.
“We’ve got some really good guys I think’s going to be able to come in and fill those spots,” Redding said. “It’s just a matter of getting enough reps and enough time in at each of those positions in order to get where we need to be.”
It’s not all gloom and doom for Fairview, however. There’s a wealth of talent in the limited returners the program does have, particularly at quarterback (Hayden Maples), running back (Austin Harris) and wide receiver (Bailey Strong). Harris capped off his sophomore season with a smidgen less than 1,500 rushing yards, 16 total touchdowns and an All-State honorable mention.
Sambo Woods is expected to receive more responsibilities after starting at outside linebacker and shining on special teams as a freshman. Woods is stepping into the Aggies’ spot at H-back, which was previously occupied by the ever-reliable Ethan Widner, a Faulkner signee.
“Ethan was a three-year starter, so that’s not an easy role to step into,” Redding said. “We ask a lot of those guys to be able to come into the backfield as well as play out on the perimeter. He’s looking at coming in and giving us more of an impact at that position.”
An injury to Maples’s throwing hand allowed the Purple and Gold coaching staff to get an early look at Ragen Ashley and Preston Moore during their spring game. Redding sees a ton of promise in both tykes.
“I believe what Ragen brings to the table is going to be so good,” Redding said of Ashley, who hit Jackson Smith in stride for a 70-yard touchdown. “You’ve got to remember, he’s still a pup. He’s still a ninth-grader just now fixing to be a sophomore.”
If Ashley’s a pup, then Moore’s a runt. The eighth-grader took a few snaps in the second quarter when Ashley was roughed up.
“He’s a dynamic player who’s going to be the kind of kid that’s going to be able to make plays,” Redding said. “And he showed little flashes of that, too.”
The Aggies, coming off a 5-6 campaign that included a postseason berth, are shifting from Class 4A to 5A with usual region rivals Guntersville and Douglas. They’re also familiar with new Region 7 mates Butler and Madison County, but not so much with Boaz, Etowah and Randolph.
Fairview’s non-region schedule should look mostly similar. It’ll open against Hanceville, take on Holly Pond at the midway point and close with Vinemont instead of the customary county clash versus West Point.
“We’re going to play who’s on our schedule, try to line up and do it how we usually do — try to play the highest level as possible,” Redding said.
% Rob Ketcham can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 138 or at email@example.com.