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2023 AHSAA Kickoff Classic 

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From the AHSAA

Four high schools, Class 7A Opelika vs. defending Class 7A state champion Thompson and Class 5A Selma vs. 5A Beauregard, will be battling in the two games to be showcased at the 2023 AHSAA Kickoff Classic hosted by the Alabama High School Athletic Directors & Coaches Association (AHSADCA).

     Selma and Beauregard will officially open the 2023 high school football season in the 18th annual Kickoff Classic on Thursday night, August 24 at Montgomery's Cramton Bowl at 7 p.m. Opelika (5-5) and Thompson (11-3) will play Friday night, August 25 in the second game of the annual classic.  Both games will be at 7 p.m. and will be televised over the AHSAA TV Network and live streamed over the NFHS Network. AHSAA TV partner WOTM TV of Sylacauga will produce the game for the NFHS Network / AHSAA TV Network. The AHSAA Radio Network will also broadcast both contests over its statewide radio network.

     "We are ecstatic to kick off the 2023 season with these two matchups involving four great programs steeped in tradition," said Brandon Dean, Director of the AHSADCA. "We appreciate the administration and coaches of each school for allowing us to showcase their programs here in Montgomery. As always, we thank Mayor Steven Reed and the City of Montgomery for their continued support of this event."

     Opelika head coach Erik Speakman knows his Bulldogs face a strong challenge. However, he sees the chance to face the four-time defending state champion Thompson Warriors as an opportunity for his program.

     "We are excited about the opportunity to compete against Thompson in the Kickoff Classic,"  Speakman said. "We have always taken pride in playing a tough schedule and this game with the four-time defending 7A state champions proves that. Coach Mark Freeman and his staff have done an incredible job of building the Thompson program into a national power, and we look forward to competing against them in the season opener."

     Freeman said the Kickoff Classic has played an important role in helping him build Thompson's program into one of the elites in the nation.

     "We are excited to be returning to the AHSAA Kickoff Classic event in Montgomery," he said. "We enjoyed a great experience in 2018 against James Clemens when the Classic was called the "Champions Challenge," and we look forward to a great experience in August versus Opelika. Coach Speakman does a tremendous job, and Opelika has a great program. We appreciate the AHSAA for extending an invitation, and we are blessed to have an opportunity to compete against a great Opelika program within the state of Alabama."

     Thompson has been the most dominant team in Class 7A for the last four seasons. Last season, however, the Warriors faced a rugged schedule opening with powerful Buford (GA) and Lipscomb Academy (TN) and losing both. After seven straight wins, Hoover then beat Thompson 9-0 -- snapping a scoring streak of 73 games. The Warriors didn't lose again -- avenging the loss to Hoover in the semifinals with a 40-10 win and then downing Auburn 49-24 in the Super 7 state finals.

     Freeman (247-55) has compiled an 83-18 record in eight seasons since taking over the program in 2015. In the last six seasons, the Warriors have compiled a 73-8 record and in the four straight championship seasons, were 51-5 with a 16-0 playoff record and 25-3 playoff record. Thompson returns a host of players including 2022 all-state selections running back A.J. Green and defensive back Anquon Fegans. Also returning is quarterback Trent Seaborn, who earned MVP honors in the 2022 state championship game despite being an eighth grader. He shared time with Zachary Sims, who will be a senior next season. Seaborn was near perfect in the Super 7 finals completing 12-of-14 passes for 207 yards and five touchdowns. He was 104-of-147 for 1,185 yards and 15 TDs with just three interceptions on the season. Green rushed for 1,238 yards and 17 TDs on 201 carries in 2022, and Fegans had nine interceptions with 208 return yards and the three TDs as a sophomore in '22.

     Opelika's Speakman is beginning his sixth season as the Bulldogs’ head coach. He has compiled a 41-19 record with his first four teams all advancing to the Class 6A state payoffs. Last year Opelika moved to Class 7A - opening the season with a 29-28 win over Callaway (GA), winning the school the 600th game of the school's storied history in week three over Lee-Montgomery, and shocking then top-ranked Central-Phenix City 17-14 in overtime win week four to improve to 3-0 in 7A, Region 2. An overtime loss to Prattville the next week was followed by close losses to Prattville and Auburn. Opelika finished 5-5 overall and 4-4 in region play, tied for the fourth playoff spot but lost out in the tie breaker. Roman Gagliano, a strong 6-3, 210-pound senior to be, played well at quarterback last season for the Bulldogs completing 129-of-228 passes for 1,488 yards and 16 touchdowns in 10 games. He also rushed for three scores.

      Selma head coach Willie Gandy led the Saints to a 7-4 record in 2022 and a runner-up finish in Class 5A, Region 3. Beginning his fifth season next fall, Gandy is 25-20 in the first four seasons with four straight playoff berths.  Beauregard (10-2), coached by Justin Jones, is beginning his third season with the Hornets. Last year's team won 10 games and was Class 5A, Area 4 runner-up to Central, Clay County. Jones also has been head coach at Florala, New Brockton, and Cordova with an overall head-coaching record of 61-48. Among the players returning next fall for the Saints are 6-foot, 218-pound quarterback Marcus Walton, who rushed for 883 yards and 13 TDs as a sophomore last season, linebacker Kristian Moore (6-2, 220) who had 100 tackles including 15 for losses as a freshman in 2022, and return specialist Marquarius Reese, who averaged 22.8 yards per punt return last season with one TD.

      Back for his senior year for Beauregard is powerful running back Jacori Tarver. The 232-pound runner totaled 1,309 rushing yards and 13 TDs on 152 carries in 2022. Receiver Javonn Holman had 35 catches for 784 yards and 12 TDs as a junior.

     Thompson will be making its second appearance in the Kickoff Classic. The Warriors beat James Clemens in 2018 38-7. Opelika is making its third appearance in the Kickoff Classic. The Bulldogs beat Greenville 34-6 in 2010, and defeated Carver-Montgomery 20-16 in 2014.  Beauregard is making its second appearance in the Classic. The Hornets lost 25-13 to Central, Clay County in 2012.  Selma is making its first appearance.

     Helena downed Chelsea 28-6 and Auburn downed Hoover 17-14 in last year's Kickoff Classic games. A total of 61 different high schools have participated in the Kickoff Classic since its inception in 2006. That list includes one out-of-state school (North Gwinnett, GA) in 2007. One Kickoff Classic (2008) was canceled due to inclement weather.

AHSAA Kickoff Classic Results

Helena 28, Chelsea 6
Auburn 17, Hoover 14


Handley 55, Guntersville 21
Dothan 42, Bob Jones 32

Pike Road 63, Montgomery Catholic 34
Prattville 40, Wetumpka 10

Hoover 17, Central-Phenix City 14
Carver-Montgomery 18, Jeff Davis 13

Clarke County 20, Sweet Water 14
Thompson 38, James Clemens 7

Hewitt-Trussville 49, Pell City 10
Maplesville 20, Fyffe 7

Andalusia 34, Brooks 13
Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa 42, Demopolis 7
Hoover 23, Central-Phenix City 7

Bob Jones 37, Carver-Montgomery 30
Gordo 28, Glencoe 21
Madison Academy 19, Leeds 14

Spanish Fort 42, Stanhope Elmore 14
Opelika 20, Carver-Montgomery 16
Dadeville 14, Piedmont 8

Benjamin Russell 28, Walker 14
Straughn 35, Walter Wellborn 26
Bob Jones 23, Enterprise 20

Spanish Fort 33, Muscle Shoals 22
Central of Clay County 25, Beauregard 13
McGill-Toolen 27, Northridge 0

Hueytown 36, Thomasville 27
Hamilton 38, Sweet Water 35
Daphne 24, Clay-Chalkville 21

Opelika 34, Greenville 6
Auburn 30, Spain Park 3
Jackson 30, Trinity 8

Prattville 37, Carver-Montgomery 0
T.R. Miller 27, Leeds 7
Hoover 32, Oxford 27

Prattville vs. Oxford, canceled due to inclement weather

Prattville 36, North Gwinnett (Georgia) 3

Hoover 38, UMS-Wright 0
Clay-County 41, Addison 6

David Parker

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Homewood defeated Benjamin Russell in five overtimes during the Class 5A Super Six state championship game in 2000.