Thompson starts No. 1, others receive recognition in preseason poll

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor

For the fourth year in a row, the Thompson Warriors will start a new football season inside the top five of the ASWA football rankings, but for the first time, they’ll begin the season atop the Class 7A standings.

The Warriors earned the No. 1 spot in Class 7A when the first rankings of the season were released on Sunday night, Aug. 2. The respect for THS comes after claiming last year’s state championship with a 40-12 win against Central-Phenix City, avenging a loss to the Red Devils a year earlier.

Coming off that state title, the Warriors have good reason to be sitting in the top spot with the return of what many expect to be the best defense in the state as well as several offensive playmakers.

The defense has a player at each level with Division I offers thanks to lineman Peter Woods, linebacker Jeremiah Alexander and secondary player Tony Mithcell. That doesn’t even include productive players like Jax Van Zandt, K’Marion Hambright, Gavin Shipman and Greg Green among others.

In addition to that, the offense returns two of its top receivers in J.B. Mitchell and Tre Roberson, as well as running back Jarrett Crockett. All of those players will get the protection of a senior-laden offensive line.

While a new quarterback will have to step in, likely Conner Harrell or Cade Golden, head coach Mark Freeman is known as a quarterback guru and has coached back-to-back Class 7A Back of the Year winners.

Thompson garnered 285 points in the poll to top Central-Phenix in the No. 2 position with 203 points, while Hewitt-Trussville, Hoover and Auburn closed out the top five in that order.

That puts three teams from Class 7A, Region 3 inside the top five, continuing to make it one of the most difficult regions in the state. Spain Park, Oak Mountain and Vestavia Hills also received votes for a spot inside the top 10 as well, meaning six of the six of the eight teams from the season gained preseason recognition in some form.

The remainder of the Class 7A top 10 featured Fairhope, James Clemens, Dothan, Theodore and Prattville.

Local teams Spain Park and Oak Mountain are entering the season with confidence and excitement due to the talent returning despite both going 4-6 a season ago.

The Eagles return five full-time starters on offense, including three-year starting quarterback Evan Smith and two-year starting receiver Noah Young, while three other offensive players have experience. Defensively, Oak Mountain returns eight starters, showing the experience on this year’s team.

As for the Jaguars, they return two of their top receivers in Jaylen Ward and Cooper Kelley, while new starting quarterback Bennett Meredith already has a Troy offer going into his junior season. The Jags also return their best offensive line in a few years and exciting playmakers at running back.

Spain Park got 18 points, which would put them as the 13th best team, while Oak Mountain earned four points, which puts them as the 16th best team heading into the season.

As for the 6A classification, Oxford, Mountain Brook and Pinson valley took the top three spots.

With Oxford claiming the top spot in the classification, Thompson’s season opener with the Yellow Jackets will now be a battle of No. 1 teams in the two highest classifications in the state.

The Yellow Jackets, like the Warriors, are also coming off a state championship last year with a 14-13 win against Spanish Fort and return a plethora of Division I talent.

The only other local team to be acknowledged in the preseason rankings was Briarwood.

Following a move up from Class 5A to 6A, the Lions are coming off a 12-2 season and an appearance in the semifinals of the 5A playoffs during Matthew Forester’s first year at the helm.

The jump to 6A will be a big one to make, but BCS returns a loaded roster of talent, and if the depth can form and the team can stay healthy, there is a shot for the Lions to contend.

They received eight points from voters, making them the 15th best team entering the season.

Other No. 1 teams included Central-Clay County (5A), American Christian (4A), Piedmont (3A), Leroy (2A), Brantley (1A) and Autauga Academy (AISA).

See the entire top 10 preseason rankings for ever classification below:

CLASS 7A

Team (first-place); 2019 W-L; Pts

  1. Thompson (23); 12-1; 285
  2. Central-Phenix City (1); 12-2; 203
  3. Hewitt-Trussville; 6-4; 186
  4. Hoover; 10-3; 178
  5. Auburn; 9-4; 144
  6. Fairhope; 6-5; 106
  7. James Clemens; 9-3; 59
  8. Dothan*; 8-3; 55
  9. Theodore; 8-3; 41
  10. Prattville; 9-3; 27

Others receiving votes: Austin (7-4) 23, Daphne* (5-5) 20, Spain Park (4-6) 18, Sparkman (8-3) 8, Florence (7-5) 6, Oak Mountain (4-6) 4, Vestavia Hills (7-4) 3, Enterprise (5-6) 2.

CLASS 6A

Team (first-place); 2019 W-L; Pts

  1. Oxford (18); 14-1; 267
  2. Mountain Brook* (5); 8-3; 222
  3. Pinson Valley; 10-3; 160
  4. Blount; 8-3; 151
  5. McGill-Toolen* (1); 11-1; 146
  6. Opelika; 11-2; 141
  7. Eufaula; 9-3; 54
  8. Clay-Chalkville; 10-3; 47
  9. Spanish Fort; 9-5; 38
  10. Gardendale; 8-4; 37

Others receiving votes: Saraland (10-1) 33, Lee-Montgomery* (7-3) 22, Muscle Shoals (12-1) 19, Stanhope Elmore (9-3) 15, Briarwood* (12-2) 8, Park Crossing (5-8) 8.

CLASS 5A

Team (first-place); 2019 W-L; Pts

  1. Central-Clay Co. (12); 13-2; 244
  2. Pleasant Grove (8); 13-2; 238
  3. St. Paul’s* (3); 8-4; 199
  4. Ramsay; 10-3; 177
  5. UMS-Wright* (1); 14-0; 126
  6. Guntersville; 8-3; 81
  7. Andalusia*; 10-4; 76
  8. Faith-Mobile; 11-1; 75

9 (tie). Alexandria; 8-3; 45

9 (tie). Fairview*; 9-3; 45

Others receiving votes: Tallassee (5-4) 23, Center Point (9-4) 16, Fairfield (3-7) 7, Pike Road* (11-1) 7, Carroll-Ozark (3-6) 4, Demopolis (7-4) 4, Sylacauga (8-3) 1.

CLASS 4A

Team (first-place); 2019 W-L; Pts

  1. American Chr. (8); 11-2; 206
  2. Bibb Co.* (9); 12-1; 205
  3. Vigor* (4); 4-7; 188
  4. Etowah*; 9-2; 153
  5. Jacksonville (3); 12-3; 119
  6. Deshler; 9-4; 116
  7. Gordo*; 12-1; 73
  8. Madison Co.*; 10-3; 66
  9. Madison Aca.*; 5-6; 65
  10. Anniston; 9-5; 61

Others receiving votes: Williamson (7-4) 50, Good Hope (8-3) 28, Geneva* (8-3) 20, Cherokee Co. (6-4) 6, Priceville (8-4) 6, Mobile Chr.* (9-5) 4, St. James* (10-2) 2.

CLASS 3A

Team (first-place); 2019 W-L; Pts

  1. Piedmont (24); 14-1; 288
  2. Fyffe*; 15-0; 215
  3. Hillcrest-Evergreen*; 7-5; 173
  4. Catholic-Montgomery*; 12-1; 163
  5. T.R. Miller; 9-5; 136
  6. Providence Chr.; 10-2; 130
  7. Pike Co.; 10-1; 66
  8. Walter Wellborn; 12-2; 53
  9. Reeltown*; 13-2; 50
  10. Flomaton; 11-2; 42

Others receiving votes: Ohatchee* (10-1) 31, Opp (4-7) 14, New Brockton* (5-6) 4, Collinsville* (12-2) 2, Excel (3-7) 1.

CLASS 2A

Team (first-place); 2019 W-L; Pts

  1. Leroy (18); 11-3; 269
  2. Lanett* (4); 14-0; 217
  3. Mars Hill Bible*; 14-1; 176
  4. Randolph Co.* (2); 11-2; 169
  5. Red Bay; 12-1; 141
  6. Ariton; 10-3; 103
  7. G.W. Long; 10-3; 86
  8. Luverne; 11-1; 53
  9. Addison; 8-3; 39
  10. Spring Garden*; 11-2; 39

Others receiving votes: Clarke Co.* (2-8) 33, Elba* (8-4) 15, North Sand Mountain (9-4) 14, Falkville* (7-5) 5, Westbrook Chr. (8-4) 5, Highland Home (3-7) 3, J.U. Blacksher (9-3) 1.

CLASS 1A

Team (first-place); 2019 W-L; Pts

  1. Brantley (16); 11-2; 261
  2. Sweet Water (7); 11-2; 227
  3. Pickens Co.; 11-3; 182
  4. Maplesville (1); 9-3; 175
  5. Linden; 6-5; 128
  6. Decatur Heritage; 12-1; 123
  7. Cedar Bluff*; 7-4; 110
  8. Notasulga; 6-5; 79
  9. Southern Choctaw*; 4-6; 30
  10. Marengo; 6-5; 21

Others receiving votes: Fruitdale (5-6) 20, South Lamar (10-2) 10, Donoho (9-2) 2.

AISA

Team (first-place); 2019 W-L; Pts

  1. Autauga Aca. (18); 9-2; 264
  2. Bessemer Aca. (3); 11-3; 221
  3. Glenwood (2); 9-4; 166
  4. Chambers Aca.; 11-2; 124
  5. Pike Liberal Arts; 3-8; 120
  6. Escambia Aca.; 9-4; 117
  7. Tuscaloosa Aca.; 8-4; 109
  8. Monroe Aca. (1); 9-3; 100
  9. Edgewood; 9-3; 83
  10. Jackson Aca.; 3-7; 32

Others receiving votes: Crenshaw Chr. (10-1) 16, Lee-Scott (5-6) 8, Sparta (2-7) 8.