Football Pairings Set For 2012 al.com Champions Challenge
MONTGOMERY - Six teams have been selected for the seventh annual al.com Champions Challenge preseason football classic at Montgomery's Cramton Bowl Aug. 24-25.
Spanish Fort will take on Muscle Shoals Aug. 24 at 7 p.m., in the first of three games according to a Tuesday announcement by Alvin Briggs, Director of the Alabama High School Athletic Directors & Coaches Association.
In the first of two games on Aug. 25, Beauregard will face Central of Clay County, the new school formed by the merger of football powers Lineville and Clay County. That game kicks off at 5 p.m. followed by Mobile's McGill-Toolen vs. Northridge of Tuscaloosa at 7:30 p.m.
Spanish Fort, coached by Mark Freeman, finished 9-4 last season after winning the Class 5A state championship in 2010. The Toros reached the third round of the 2011 Class 5A state playoffs before falling to eventual state runner-up Vigor. Muscle Shoals (11-2) went 9-1 in the regular season and also advanced to the third round of the 5A playoffs. The Trojans, coached by Scott Basden, were eliminated by Briarwood Christian.
Central of Clay County, located midway between Ashland and Lineville, will open its doors officially in the 2012-13 school year. The Class 4A school will inherit the strong traditions of Lineville and Clay County - two rivals that made the annual Clay Bowl one of the most recognized rivalries in the nation.
Head coach Steve Giddens, who currently serves as head football coach and principal at Lineville, led his Aggies to the Class 2A semifinals and a 10-4 record before losing to eventual runner-up Tanner. Clay County, coached by Kris Herron, was 12-2 last season with both losses to 2011 Class 3A state champion Handley - once in region play and again in the semifinals.
Beauregard (10-2) finished 9-1 in the regular season with its only loss to Dadeville. The Hornets of Coach Smitty Grider advanced to the second round of the Class 4A state playoffs before falling to eventual state champion Jackson.
Northridge enjoyed its best season in school history in 2011 as Coach Michael Smith's Cougars rolled to a 9-1 regular-season record. Northridge (10-2) lost in the second round of the Class 6A state playoffs to Oxford.
McGill-Toolen (11-2), coached by Bart Sessions, also went 9-1 in the regular season with nine straight wins before losing to city rival Murphy in the last regular season game 52-35. Two weeks later, the Yellow Jackets avenged that setback with a 31-28 win over the Panthers in the 6A state playoffs. Central-Phenix City eliminated McGill in the third round.
In last year's al.com Champions Challenge, Daphne beat Clay-Chalkville 24-21, Hueytown downed Thomasville 36-27 and Hamilton nipped Sweet Water 38-35.
Friday, August 24 - 7 p.m. - Cramton Bowl
Spanish Fort (9-4) vs. Muscle Shoals (11-2)
Saturday, August 25 - 5 p.m. - Cramton Bowl
Central of Clay County (0-0) vs. Beauregard (10-2)
Saturday, August 25 - 7:30 p.m. - Cramton Bowl
McGill-Toolen High School vs. Northridge High School
Morris Higginbotham coached three different teams to divisional state championships in the 1950s. He won titles at Walnut Grove in 1952, West Blocton in 1955 and Enterprise in 1960.