GOOD HOPE – Back in Class 4A for only the third time in the history of Good Hope High School football, the Raiders believe they are ready for the challenges that await them in 2014.
Good Hope was placed in 4A athletics in 2010 & 2011 by the Alabama High School Athletic Association. It was time of learning for a ball club that was very young and use to facing opposition from Class 3A.
The Raiders were never able to produce a win in regional play in two seasons as a 4A school. But playing programs like Oak Grove, Fayette County, Dora, Tarrant, Midfield, Corner and Haleyville has given them a chance to understand the challenges with some quality programs from 4A lining up against them on Friday nights.
In the 10th season for Chris Moss at Good Hope, the Raiders are coming off a 7-4 record in their final year of 3A, finishing second in Region 7 with Winfield.
It was the first winning season for Good Hope since 2008. The Raiders had gone through a stretch of winning only seven games between 2009 to 2012 before they were able to come back and compete for the regional championship in the final week of the regional schedule a season ago.
"We are further along at this time this year than we were last year in knowing the offense," Moss said. "We have starters back on defense which will be our strong point at the start of the season."
Moss believes his Raiders are more mature for the second stretch of facing a 4A schedule. Good Hope has 42 on the roster with 20 players in their junior year.
The Raiders have only six seniors. They are young in some positions with the quarterback having experience even though he is just a sophomore.
Riley Eisner is now the starter. He got some valuable playing time as a freshman, leading the Raiders to a 41-27 win at Winston County in week three. Eisner threw for five touchdowns to display his ability to attack a defense throwing the football.
Giving Eisner something to take the pressure off him will be running back Jared McClure. McClure rushed for over 1,000 yards and earned All-County honors.
Kainan Smith is the lead target as a wideout for Eisner. Good Hope has one starter back on the offensive line in center Davis Dickinson. Dickinson is working out at guard and tackle. The Raiders will have a new look in starters up front as currently eight players are fighting for a starting spot.
With seven back on the defensive side, the Raiders will be good at the line and at linebackers. They are looking to fill some vacancies in the secondary.
Good Hope put on the pads for the first time in fall practice Thursday and will have its first scrimmage of the fall Monday evening at James Shabel Stadium.
The Raiders are working toward their jamboree game at Vinemont Aug. 21.
On the 29, the 10th season for Moss begins at home vs. the Cordova Blue Devils.
One of four new opponents come to Good Hope in week two. Westminster Christian visits Shabel Stadium in the Region 7 opener.
A game at defending 4A state champion Oneonta Sept. 12 will be the first time the Raiders play away from home in the regular season.
J.B. Pennington comes from Blountsville to matchup in a regional game Sept. 19. The half-way portion of the season sends Good Hope to Curry down in Walker County. The two haven't played since 1977.
The road tour continues for the Raiders with a regional game at Locust Fork Oct. 3, then on Priceville Oct. 10 and back home to face DAR Oct. 17.
It's the Raiders at North Jackson in the final game of regional play Oct. 24. This is Good Hope's first time to go into this part of Jackson County.
On Halloween, the Raiders have Hanceville coming to Shabel Stadium. Good Hope has won two straight against the Bulldogs, beating them 28-22 in overtime at home in 2013.
Moss has the second most total of victores (44) at Good Hope. His tenure as the Raiders' coach in the second longest to 15 years by Billy Joe Pugh. Pugh led the Raiders to 86 wins from 1972 until 1986.
History will be something the Raiders are in search of. A victory over a 4A school in regional play will be the first in Good Hope history. Good Hope has lost 14 times in regional competition as a 4A program.
"It's not who we play, it's how we play," Moss said. "If we can play well and keep it close in the fourth quarter, we have a chance to pull some games out."