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  School Football over the past 100 seasons.






Dynasties 


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         In the 1980s, football in Prichard, Alabama was dominated by one team, the Vigor Wolves. The Wolves dominated not only the town but at times the entire state. With back-to-back titles in 1987 and 1988 they were considered one of the premier programs in the state. All that was about to change for a town that had seen its population fall from a high of 47,371 in 1960 to only 34,000 in 1990.

         When Ben Harris arrived at Blount in 1988 the program had fallen upon hard times. The previous season they won just one game and had never won a playoff game up to that point. Coach Harris turned them into a winner that first year with a 6-6 record and the school's first playoff win. After a 4-6 record in 1989 the Leopards were poised to do something special on the football field.

         Over the next nine seasons the Leopards compiled a record of 103-18 including 28-1 in region play while winning their region championship eight times. Along the way they won a total of five state titles, including three in a row. Their playoff record was 34-4 over the nine years.

          Blount produced many recognizable names from their rosters during this time that went on to play college football in the state. These include, Sherman Williams, Dameyune Craig, Aaron James, Larry Casher, Robert Malone, Deandre Green, and DeMarco McNeil.

          The 1990 team started the run for the Leopards with a 13-2 record. On offense they were led by running back Sherman Williams (Alabama 1991-94) who scored 35 touchdowns and rushed for a state record 3,004 yards in fifteen games. Sophomore Dameyune Craig (Auburn 1993-97) directed the offense from the quarterback position.

          They defeated Homewood for their first state championship in school history by a score of 36-24 in front of 11,000 fans at Prichard Stadium. Sherman Williams scored on a 43 pass reception and a 55 yard run to lead the offense. While Williams rushed for 168 yard, it was the defense that came through with two interceptions to seal the victory.

          The next season saw the Leopards return to the title game only to fall to Gadsden by a score of 20-7. That team finished with a 13-2 record.

          In 1992 the Leopards opened the season with a surprising 21-13 lose to Williamson. It is the only region loss during their run from 1990-98. They rebounded for three wins before falling to Carver of New Orleans, LA 21-13 in week five. On Oct. 31 the Leopards met 6A number one ranked Vigor in front of 11,000 fans at Ladd Memorial Stadium in Mobile.

          Through all the accomplishments of Blount the past few seasons they had not been able to beat their biggest rival. The Wolves had won the previous twelve meetings dating back to the 1979 season.

          In the upset of the year, fullback Jamie Burrell scored on a two yard run to hand the top ranked Wolves a 7-0 defeat to win the 'Battle of Prichard'. The Leopard defense came up big with a goal line stand when Vigor tailback Byron Johnson was stopped on the one yard line as the game ended. The win was bitter sweet for Coach Harris as his father passed away the day prior to the game. 

          Darnell Hawkins led the 1992 defense with a state record 18 interceptions in fourteen games. All he did in the championship game was score three touchdowns and intercept three passes as the Leopards defeated Russellville 29-15 at Ladd-Peebles stadium in Mobile.

          Blount took advantage of turnovers to score a pair of fourth quarter touchdowns to win its second consecutive 5A state championship. The game was tied 8-8 at the half and 15-15 after the third quarter, but the final stanza belonged to the Leopards. Hawkins intercepted a pass at the Russellville 29 yard line and then put the Leopards ahead to stay with a 10 yard touchdown run with 9:20 remaining.

          On Russellville's very next possession and the first play after the kickoff, Shane James picked a fumble out of the air and raced 67 yards for another Blount touchdown and the game was over. Dameyune Craig rushed 12 times for 65 yards and completed 6 of 11 for another 130 yards passing.

Mattie T. Blount High School, Prichard
          The 1993 and 1994 seasons were a let-down for Blount fans as the team finished with 9-2 and 5-5 records. Beside the two playoff losses, every other loss came at the hands of a Class 6A team.

          The next season found the Leopards back in the title hunt. By this time few teams wished to add Blount to their schedule. They won all three games against region foes and then played the remaining five games against 6A competition losing only to an undefeated Theodore team.

          The Leopards faced off against Homewood at Legion Field in Birmingham for the 5A title. The Patriots proved to be too much and eventually won the game by a score of 17-12.

          Nursing a 12-10 lead late in the game, Blount quarterback, Kelvin Robinson had a third and nine pass from his own 10 yard line slip from his hands and into the waiting arms of Homewood's defensive back Jerry Maness at the Blount 14 yard line with only 3:59 remaining in the game. Maness returned the interception to the 4 yard line to set up Fabian Crenshaw's hurdle into the end zone two plays later for the winning score.

           It was a cold, rainy and windy night for football and the turnovers proved to be the difference in the game. Blount had one last chance to salvage a state title as the Leopards took the ball and drove to the Patriot's 40 with time running out, but Robinson's fourth and three pass was intercepted by John Stewart Jackson with 1:09 remaining in the game.

          The 1995 team was led by Robinson who passed for nearly 2,000 yards and rushed for another 630. Ernest Perdue rushed for 1,641 yards and scored 13 TDs to lead the running attack.

          The 1996 season was the most impressive of this run. The Leopards finished 14-0 and defeated Saks 29-0 in the title game at Legion Field in Birmingham. The defense shutout six opponents during the season and allowed only 73 points in fourteen games while scoring 422. Their last regular season game was a 80-0 win over Escambia County. The Leopards were ranked #18 in the final USA Today poll.

          The game of the year in the Mobile area was certainly the matchup between number one ranked in Class 5A Blount and an undefeated number two ranked 6A Vigor team at Prichard Stadium on November 1. The Leopards pulled out a tight 10-7 win to continue their title run. Led by a crop of aggressive linebackers, unstoppable defensive ends and one of the state's best defensive backs, Blount allowed just 5.2 points and 75 yards per game.

          In the first year of the Super Six in Birmingham, MVP Aaron James completed 10 of 18 passes with no interceptions for 221 yards and three touchdowns. The Leopards racked up 403 yards of total offense while holding Saks to 102. The Blount defense finished the game with 10 tackles for losses and three interceptions. The Leopards left do doubt in winning their third state championship.

          Deandre Green tied the state record held by the great Ozzie Newsome for touchdown receptions in a season when he hauled in 23 TDs. Six players from the 1996 Blount Leopards football team were named first team All-State while future star Demarco McNeil was named honorable mention by the ASWA. Quarterback Aaron James was selected 5A player of the year.

          Larry Casher snagged 13 interceptions in 1996 to lead the Leopard defense. For his career he collected 28 interceptions including one he returned for 109 yards against Murphy. Aaron James completed 127 of 208 passes for 2,005 yards and 29 TDs in 1996.


          The 1997 team was led by senior quarterback Tyrone James who threw for a school record 2,648 yards and 35 touchdowns. He completed 156 of 230 passes. The Leopards defeated Robertsdale in week two 47-0 as James was 15 for 18 passing for 405 yards and six touchdowns.

          The next week they fell to Mississippi state champion Moss Point 27-14. The Leopards also lost to 6A powers Murphy and Vigor to finish the regular season with a 7-3 record.

          Entering the playoffs the Leopards seemed to find their stride again rolling to four wins and into their third consecutive Super Six championship game against Etowah and their sensational freshman running back Carnell Williams.

          In the championship game Blount dominated Etowah shutting down Williams and the Etowah offense. The Leopards started slowly in the game with Tyrone James throwing two interceptions in his first three passes. But the defense held the Blue Devils each time until the passing game could get untracked.

          Finally the offense used a couple of long passes from Tyrone James to Kennard Williams covering 49 and 60 yards to wrap up their second consecutive 5A championship 21-0.

          The Blount defense dominated the line of scrimmage led by MVP DeMarco McNeil with 10 tackles and two sacks. Robert Malone added nine tackles and three sacks to keep the Etowah offense off track all evening. Carnell Williams was held to 10 carries for 30 yards by the overpowering Leopard defense. Blount kept Etowah out of the end zone and allowed them only 54 yards of total offense.

          DeMarco McNeil registered 183 tackles and 16 sacks as a junior for the Leopards to lead a dominating defensive line. Senior Robert Malone played alongside McNeil and junior Antoine Hill was a standout performer at his defensive back position. Kennard Williams caught 58 passes for 900 yards and 13 TDs. Deandre Green caught 72 passes for 813 yards and 18 touchdowns.

          Following the 1997 season, Coach Ben Harris accepted an assistant coaching position at Alabama State University. Cornelius Brown took over the coaching duties from Harris entering the 1998 season. Fans had to wonder if the magic could continue.

          The 1998 team was led by Class 5A Back of the Year, Deandre Green (Auburn 2000-01, Murray State 2002-03) 6-2 205 pounds and Lineman of the Year DeMarco McNeil (Auburn 1999-02) 6'1 290 pounds.

          The Leopards did have a couple of close calls in 1998. They defeated Moss Point, MS 13-7 in the second game of the regular season and Sylacauga 14-11 in the 5A quarterfinals.

          Blount won their fifth title of the 1990s as the Leopards kept seven opponents in single digits and beat Etowah 27-20 in overtime in the state championship game. Tyvun Green hit Kennard Williams with a 10 yard touchdown pass on the first play of overtime to give the Blount Leopards a 27-20 victory in a rematch of the previous year's title game. Deandre Green caught 10 passes for 217 yards and two touchdowns in the title game to lead the Leopards. He was named the MVP for his efforts.

          Carnell Williams would end the night with 40 yards on 17 carries for Etowah. Williams had tied the game with a 21 yard halfback pass to Adam Gilmer on a fake field goal in the fourth quarter and send the game into overtime.

          The Leopards were once again ranked in the final USA Today poll holding down the #11 position. The Leopards averaged 29 points a game and allowed only 10. McNeil ended his three year high school career at Blount with a state record 622 tackles and 44 sacks. McNeil became the first interior lineman to win the coveted Mr. Football award in 1998.

          Defensive back Antoine Hill and linebacker Sean Morris were first-team all-state selections by the ASWA. Green caught 68 passes for 1,128 yards in his senior season for the Leopards. He would finish his high school career with 3,212 yards receiving and a record 59 touchdown catches from 1995-98. Kennard Williams rushed for 1,397 yards on 165 carries and scored 14 TDs.

          Tyvun Green completed 144 of 276 passes for 1,841 yards and 30 TDs. The 1998 Blount Leopards had thirteen players sign scholarships to play college football after the season. 

          The Leopards went 103-18 from 1990-1998. During that span they lost to exactly two Class 5A teams during the regular season. A 1990 lose to Greenville and a 1992 loss to Williamson were the only times Blount met defeat on the field against 5A competition during the regular season. Along the way they lost to 6A opponents Vigor four times, Murphy twice, Carver of New Orleans, Foley, Northview, LeFlore, Theodore and in 1997 to eventual Mississippi state champion Moss Point.

          While the Leopards were racking up championships during the 1990s their cross-town rivals were not far behind. The Vigor Wolves went 87-22 to turn Prichard into a true championship football town. The two fought annually for bragging rights in one of the best rivalries in the state.

           Since the end of the 1998 season the Leopards have not regained the glory days of the 1990s. They have had a couple of good teams but have not advanced past the second round of the playoffs in the past fifteen seasons.


Blount Leopards 1990-98                 
Year Record Championship Game
1990 13-2 Blount 36-24 Homewood
1991 13-2 Gadsden 20-7 Blount
1992 13-2 Blount 29-15 Russellville
1993 9-2  
1994 5-5  
1995 11-2 Homewood 17-12 Blount
1996 14-0 Blount 29-0 Saks
1997 12-3 Blount 21-0 Etowah
1998 13-0 Blount 27-20 Etowah (OT)


Blount
1990

22 Williamson . . . . . . . . 12
6 Baldwin County . . . . . 0
3 Greenville . . . . . . . . 6
25 Foley . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0
27 Grand Bay . . . . . . . . . 0
27 Escambia County . . . . 21
0 Vigor . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27
34 Mary Montgomery . . . . 21
46 LeFlore . . . . . . . . . . . 12
25 Robertsdale . . . . . . . 14
24 Citronelle * . . . . . . 14
40 Opp * . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21
21 Choctaw County * . . . 20
14 Valley * . . . . . . . . . . 7
36 Homewood # . . . . . . . . 24

350 13-2 199
1991

21 Williamson . . . . . . . . 0
14 Baldwin County . . . . . 7
30 Greenville . . . . . . . . 2
34 Foley . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0
51 Grand Bay . . . . . . . . . 0
24 Escambia County . . . . 0
14 Vigor . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
21 Mary Montgomery . . . . 7
47 LeFlore . . . . . . . . . . . 0
19 Robertsdale . . . . . . . 13
18 Jackson * . . . . . . . . . 14
28 Charles Henderson * . . 7
40 Citronelle * . . . . . . 14
17 Valley * . . . . . . . . . . 6
7 Gadsden # . . . . . . . . . 20

385 13-2 109
1992

13 Williamson . . . . . . . . 21
24 Murphy . . . . . . . . . . . . 0
24 Foley . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
29 Alba . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0
13 Carver Montgomery . . . 21
14 B.C. Rain . . . . . . . . . 0
44 LeFlore . . . . . . . . . . . 7
63 Ft. Walton Beach FL . . 38
7 Vigor . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0
28 Citronelle . . . . . . . . 21
41 Daphne * . . . . . . . . . . 0
42 Charles Henderson * . . 13
27 Williamson * . . . . . . 6
28 Valley * . . . . . . . . . . 27
29 Russellville # . . . . . 15

426 13-2 177
1993

25 Williamson . . . . . . . . 13
7 Murphy . . . . . . . . . . . . 0
0 Foley . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
41 Alba . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0
35 Carver Montgomery . . . 12
28 B.C. Rain . . . . . . . . . 6
13 LeFlore . . . . . . . . . . . 7
19 Vigor . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
20 Citronelle . . . . . . . . 13
41 Robertsdale * . . . . . 7
29 Valley * . . . . . . . . . . 30

258 9-2 102
1994

14 Williamson . . . . . . . . 6
0 Northview . . . . . . . . . 14
12 Theodore . . . . . . . . . . 7
19 LeFlore . . . . . . . . . . . 20
24 Carver Montgomery . . . 12
21 Murphy . . . . . . . . . . . . 22
7 Alba . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0
0 Vigor . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
21 B.C. Rain . . . . . . . . . 13
14 Choctaw County * . . . 16

132 5-5 129
1995

35 Williamson . . . . . . . . 6
38 Daphne . . . . . . . . . . . . 0
13 Theodore . . . . . . . . . . 16
21 LeFlore . . . . . . . . . . . 0
10 Murphy . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
39 Alba . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0
18 Vigor . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
26 B.C. Rain . . . . . . . . . 13
33 Greenville * . . . . . . 7
27 Jackson * . . . . . . . . . 7
31 Stanhope Elmore * . . . 7
20 Wetumpka * . . . . . . . . 14
12 Homewood # . . . . . . . . 17

323 11-2 101
1996

12 Williamson . . . . . . . . 7
34 Robertsdale . . . . . . . 14
34 Shaw . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0
38 LeFlore . . . . . . . . . . . 0
21 B.C. Rain . . . . . . . . . 6
20 Murphy . . . . . . . . . . . . 0
15 Citronelle . . . . . . . . 7
10 Vigor . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
80 Escambia County . . . . 0
46 Hillcrest Tuscaloosa * . 10
34 Jackson * . . . . . . . . . 12
19 Wetumpka * . . . . . . . . 10
30 Demopolis * . . . . . . . 0
29 Saks # . . . . . . . . . . . . 0

422 14-0 73
1997

41 Williamson . . . . . . . . 0
47 Robertsdale . . . . . . . 0
14 Moss Point MS . . . . . 27
21 Shaw . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
36 LeFlore . . . . . . . . . . . 9
28 B.C. Rain . . . . . . . . . 14
13 Murphy . . . . . . . . . . . . 35
29 Citronelle . . . . . . . . 0
6 Vigor . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32
35 Escambia County . . . . 13
25 Chilton County * . . . 0
20 Smiths Station * . . . 14
35 Shaw * . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
35 Sylacauga * . . . . . . . 7
21 Etowah # . . . . . . . . . . 0

406 12-3 172
1998

36 Williamson . . . . . . . . 6
13 Moss Point MS . . . . . 7
20 Shaw . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0
27 Daphne . . . . . . . . . . . . 0
25 B.C. Rain . . . . . . . . . 21
21 LeFlore . . . . . . . . . . . 15
53 Baker . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
21 Vigor . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
49 Wetumpka * . . . . . . . . 7
36 Eufaula * . . . . . . . . . 12
14 Sylacauga * . . . . . . . 11
33 Stanhope Elmore * . . . 7
27 Etowah # . . . . . . . . . . 20

375 13-0 125

* Playoff game
# State championship game




          NEXT: Robert E. Lee Montgomery 1956-1965.
          The Dynasties, a series of articles on Alabama high school football's best teams.


David Parker
  AHSFHS.org
  dparker@ahsfhs.org


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