Article by AL.com writer and WNSP guest commentator Ben Thomas
MOBILE, Alabama – The new-look Class 2A features two defending state champions, multiple perennial powers and a slew of double-digit win teams from 2013.
So who comes out on top? Good question.
Tanner has won the last two 2A state titles and is ranked No. 1 in the first ASWA poll. Pickens County went 15-0 and won the 1A title last year. Washington County has been the 2A runner-up each of the last two seasons. Fyffe played in the state semifinals last year and has been in the playoffs each of the last 13 seasons.
It all makes for what should be a very competitive year.
Here are five things you need to know about Class 2A as the season roars toward kickoff next week:
1. Tanner should be poised to make another title run. The Rattlers have speed and size all over the field and coach Laron White, entering his 12th season at the school, has built a budding dynasty. Tanner has played in the last three Class 2A state title games, compiling a 41-2 overall record in that span. Tanner has won 10 or more games in each of the last six years with an overall record of 74-6. The Rattlers have a 24-9 playoff record in White’s 11 years and a 73-6 region record. They haven’t lost a region game since 2009. White is Alabama’s active leader in winning percentage at 84 percent.
2. Pickens County will have to overcome some big changes to be a contender in its first year in 2A. The Tornadoes have a 37-5 record during the last three years and capped a 15-0 season with a 38-18 win over Maplesville in the 1A championship game last December in Tuscaloosa. However, coach Patrick Plott left in the off-season to take the job at Greenville. Defensive coordinator Nick Roberson was promoted to replace Plott. Pickens also must replace Class 1A Player of the Year Jermarcus Brown, who ran for 2,730 yards last season and set an AHSAA single-season record with 51 touchdowns. He ran for 329 yards and three touchdowns against Maplesville. Brown was part of a talented 15-member senior class.
3. Washington County has come up one game short of a state title each of the last two seasons. The Bulldogs lost to Tanner 28-14 in 2012 and 21-13 a year ago. They’ve won 26 of 30 games the past two seasons under head coach Chris Wilson. Senior DeAnthony Holcombe, who scored four touchdowns and intercepted a pass in last year’s semifinal win at Sweet Water, should be the key for Washington County on both sides of the ball.
4. The biggest change in this classification may be Stacy Luker’s departure. The longtime Sweet Water coach left after leading the Bulldogs to five state titles in 12 years. The Bulldogs have lost in the state semifinals each of the last three years – twice to rival Washington County. Defensive coordinator Pat Thompson steps up to replace Luker and has said the style of play won’t change much either on offense or defense for the Bulldogs.
5. This should be a year for new running stars in this class. It had plenty last year, including Tanner’s Hayden Stephens, Mobile Christian’s Tyler Rogers – the Class 2A Back of the Year and Sweet Water’s Jakoby Aldridge. All three of those players have graduated. Holcombe will continue to be a top runner for Washington County. Geneva County’s T.J. Green (1,414 yards, 20 touchdowns), Lanett’s Marlon Bridges (2,310 yards, 34 TDs) and G.W. Long’s Zacc Weldon.