— posted by Michael Cummings
Hartselle travels to Athens tonight for a matchup of traditional Class 5A powerhouses. Both teams made the playoffs last season, but both also have plenty of holes to fill this year.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Athens’ Golden Eagle Stadium. Follow me after the jump for a few quick thoughts on what should be an entertaining game.
New faces, big places: Hartselle lost some important players to graduation, including starting quarterback Will Lang, a 2010 all-state selection who threw for 26 touchdowns and only three interceptions. Honorable mention all-state running back Malcolm Fossett is also gone after running for 21 touchdowns and nearly 1,500 yards his senior season. Junior Deacon Aldridge is ready to take over at quarterback, and Blake Slayton will lead a committee of running backs. Fortunately, most of the offensive line returns, including Will Swann, Dylan Thompson and Chris Brown.
New faces, Pt. 2: Athens also got hit hard by graduation. Team leader and starting quarterback Stephen Rivers is now at LSU, and 1,500-yard running back Ryan Horton also graduated. Like Hartselle, most of Athens’ experience returns on the lines. D.J. Buchheister and Alex Perkins return on the offensive line, and senior Kamarine King and sophomore Trey McWilliams are back on the defensive line. Senior linebacker Sam Allen and sophomore defensive back Johnny Anderson also return to their respective starting spots.
Long history: Athens leads the all-time series 29-27-2, according to the Alabama High School Football Historical Society. But Hartselle has won the last five, including a 38-13 victory in 2010. Athens’ last win came in a 23-13 decision in the third round of the 2006 playoffs. Athens won the 5A state title that year.