Sports

Spartans Finish Successful Season

Chris Yeager's Spartans exceeded expectations this season

By Will Hightower

The Friday after Thanksgiving, Hoover finished Mountain Brook’s season with a 44-20 win to advance to the state championship game. But just getting to the semifinals was a huge accomplishment for these Spartans, who no one expected to even make the playoffs.

In an 11-3 season that included a playoff win over rival Vestavia, Mountain Brook exceeded all expectations. Junior quarterback Edward Aldag was extremely efficient all year. Senior wide receiver John McCrary stepped up with touchdown catch after touchdown catch. And senior cornerback Walker Cox returned numerous kicks for touchdowns, playing lockdown defense on the side.

“We have a great group of seniors and juniors. There is a team energy and chemistry that I have never seen before as a coach,” said Chris Yeager, Mountain Brook’s head coach.

The energy showed all year as the Spartans more than doubled their 2009 win total, winning enough games to secure home-field advantage for the first three games of the playoffs.

Mountain Brook jumped out to a 17-0 lead against Northridge in their first round game, fueled by McCrary catching his fourteenth touchdown catch of the year. But the offense uncharacteristically gave Northridge the ball four times after turning it over only five times all year, letting their opponent back into the game.

After Northridge made the score 17-7, they were driving to score again when senior linebacker Mel Wilcox jumped on a fumble to seal the victory. Senior running back John Beck contributed 148 yards on 29 carries in the win, setting up a rematch with Vestavia.

The Rebels handed the Spartans a 17-14 heartbreaker in the regular season, giving Mountain Brook added motivation. The second game was another classic, turning into a defensive chess match. Both teams drove into their opponents’ territory but couldn’t come up with points early on, carrying a scoreless tie into halftime.

McCrary caught a 21-yard touchdown pass from Aldag to score the only points of the game, giving the Spartans a 7-0 lead that they wouldn’t give up.

“Our defense played out of their minds,” commented McCrary. Junior Harry Reich forced a fumble and fellow junior Michael Resha recovered it, stopping a Rebel drive in the first half. The defense also had a monumental goal line stand early on that contributed to the shutout.

The win over Vestavia was a major step for the Spartans, who moved on to a third round matchup at home against Gadsden City. The Spartans won that game also by a scored of 20-13, controlling field position all night. Beck scored all three of Mountain Brook’s touchdowns, two on receptions and one on the ground.

But the talent of Hoover proved too much for Mountain Brook in the state semifinals at Regions Park. A devastating 44-20 loss ended the Spartans’ successful season.

Entering this year, the team wasn’t supposed to even have a winning record. Now, no one is doubting the power of these Spartans.

 

Alabama & Auburn Preview

With Jay Barker and AL DelGreco

By Dan Starnes and Will Hightower

To mark the beginning of football season, we were  fortunate  to sit down with Jay Barker and AL DelGreco to preview the  Alabama and Auburn seasons. Jay and Al can be heard along with Tony Kurre weekday mornings from 6 a.m.-10a.m.  on The Opening  Drive on JOX 94.5 FM.

Alabama

Jay Barker

Jay Barker

Q: The Tide only returns a couple of starters on Defense for 2010. Can the defense be as     dominant as they were the last two years?

Barker: The key question is the secondary. Most of these guys  are household names. They have played a lot, but they have not played together. What kind of chemistry they have as starters will go a long way toward determining their success.

Q: Can Josh Chapman replace Terrance Cody at Nose tackle?

Barker: He’s huge, not tall, but very big. While Cody was a mountain, Josh is a tump. He is experienced enough to make a big difference. The key to that position is to have a great push. He is very strong and is able to do that.

Q: Will this year’s Alabama team be a team known for its offense? Greg McElroy is a senior, the Heisman trophy winner returns, Trent Richardson returns, and this figures to be Julio Jones’ last year and he is one of the best receivers in the conference and country.

Barker: Coach Saban wants them to be explosive. I think you will see them take more shots. Although, one school of thought is that with a less experienced defense, you would want them to have more sustained drives and keep the defense off the field.

Q: Do you see any similarities to this year’s team and the 93 team, besides being defending national champions?

Barker: They are  both run dominant, defensive dominant teams. Like the 93 team this team has a lot of players returning on offense.

Q: Are there any teams in the Western division that can provide a legitimate challenge to the Tide?

Barker: The west is always a challenge every week. Arkansas looks to be good, with a great quarterback, Ole Miss with Jeremiah Masoli joining the team should be strong, Auburn could surprise a lot of  people and challenge this year.

Q: Can Alabama repeat?

Barker: They have a great shot; they certainly have the talent. It should come down to chemistry        and how the ball bounces for them. You always have to have a few breaks.

Q: Are there any story lines we missed that you’d like to mention?

Barker: Greg McElroy is undefeated as a starting quarterback. It is really amazing what he is  accomplishing. He manages the game and makes big plays when necessary.

Auburn

Al DelGreco

Al DelGreco

Q: Many coaches have a big year in year two Do you see this as being a big year for Gene Chizik?

DelGreco: I think we will certainly be better than we were last year for a number of reasons. Chizik just needs to keep doing what he’s doing, and keep winning games. A big part of determining whether this second season will be successful is if we have a few breakthrough wins – we are 0-8 vs. Arkansas, Georgia, LSU, and Alabama in the last two years. Chizik must go 2-2 or maybe just 1-3 in these games.

Q: Last year Auburn had three losses by one touchdown or less. Will they be able to win a few of those games and improve on the win total this season?

DelGreco: Yes. Most of last year’s issues in close games were depth issues. An SEC game is like a 15-round boxing match. You keep wearing on the other team, just pounding them to death, and whoever gets tired first loses. I fully believe that we will have a better record because the wear and tear on our defense will be less.

Q: Last season was a big turnaround for the offense while the defense was somewhat of a weak link. Will Ted Roof’s defense be able to turn it around this year and allow the Tigers to put it all together?

DelGreco: I don’t think it’s fair to put a grade on Ted Roof’s defense last year because of the lack of depth and the lack of talent. He had to play more walk-ons than any other SEC team last year. So yes, there will be drastic improvement this year now that the physical ability is there, along with some depth.

Q: What are Auburn’s chances in the Iron Bowl?

DelGreco: Well, obviously Alabama has superior talent. There’s no getting around that. But their style of offense, where they just try to pound it through, gives our defense a chance to succeed. And the biggest difference will be how our offensive style is different from any they will see all season. Now, it is the 12th game, but the Alabama defensive backs are still a little inexperienced. The styles of play could tilt the game in our favor.

Q: Can Cameron Newton live up to expectations?

DelGreco: From everything I’ve heard, yes. He is unlike anyone else out there physically. With his running ability, he brings an entirely new dimension to our offense that we haven’t had before. I really think he will be who the fans hope he will be.

Q: What do you predict the final record will be?

DelGreco: Nine or ten wins is what I’ve been saying. My best prediction would be 9-3. Could they do better? Sure. Now that we have some more talent and depth, with a few lucky breaks, everything could go our way and we could have one of those magical seasons where we just can’t lose.

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