Prep Teams Getting Ready for 2015 Football Season

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CULLMAN – Anticipation of success for prep football teams in Cullman County is at a high atmosphere for the 2015 season.

Three teams last season reached the Alabama High School Athletic Association playoffs. Three teams that had been postseason bound on a regular basis didn't qualify while two others went through passes of ups and downs.

Now with the new season in front, the eight schools from the county are working on getting the winning formula down, especially when it comes to punching a ticket into the postseason.

Preparation time is short for Cullman and Cold Springs than everyone else. The Bearcats and Eagles kick off the campaign on August 21 while the six other schools will officially begin on the 28th.

Cullman has Arab at Oliver Woodard Stadium in the opener. The Bearcats are coming off a 5-5 season that ended on Halloween and not in November. Cullman missed the playoffs for the first time since 2004.

Mark Britton, the coach with the longest active tenure in the county at 18 years, 15 with his alma mater Cullman, feels the 'Cats are ready for the challenges this year in their second season in Class 6A of the AHSAA.

A young Cullman team went through growing pains last season, having a sophomore and freshman to take control of the quarterback position. Ross Crocker and Fletcher Jennings are mature and have experience around them.

Cullman is lined up in Region 8, one of the toughest of any region in any classification. The 'Cats have Florence, Muscle Shoals, Decatur, Hartselle, Athens and Austin to deal with. Florence, Muscle Shoals and Decatur had deep runs into the playoffs. The 'Cats were just 2-4 in regional play.

Cold Springs had the best record of all schools, winning eight of 10 regular season games. The Eagles were in the playoffs for the first time since 2004 and just lost to Gaston in round one by the score of 27-26.

Rod Elliott and his Eagles head to Brilliant on August 21 for the first time ever. The Eagles have a three-game winning streak from the regular season that serves as momentum going into 2015.

Cayde Elliott is the Eagles' signal-caller in his junior season. Experience is behind him in the backfield and along the line of scrimmage.

Cold Springs must contend with Tanner and Addison, the front runners from Class 2A, Region 6. Both come to Cranford Stricklin Stadium this season. The Rattlers and Bulldogs were victorious over the Eagles last year that dropped Cold Springs to third in the region.

Going 4-2 in the region, Cold Springs has to travel to Southeastern, Falkville and Tarrant for regional games while playing Sumiton Christian at home along with Tanner and Addison.

When the Eagles face Danville at Stricklin Stadium August 28, Cold Springs has a 7-game winning streak on the home field.

The other teams will play next week with jamboree sessions before getting under the lights on the final Friday of August.

Hanceville gets Fairview at Ray Talley Stadium, West Point entertains Hayden, Vinemont rolls out the welcome mat for Addison, Holly Pond hosts Brindlee Mountain and Good Hope journeys into Walker County for a game with Cordova.

Hanceville wants to put a 2-8 slate from 2014 out of its mind. The positive was the Bulldogs ended the tough season winning at Good Hope 22-21. It was Hanceville's first time of not playing in the postseason since 2010 for coach Danny Miller.

The Bulldogs return Brenan Hurst at quarterback and have young personnel to run the ball. Issac Weissend and Jose Orozco give  the team experience as wideouts along with a mixture of youth and experience up front.

Hanceville shares 3A, Region 5 with county foes Holly Pond and Vinemont while trying to be better than Oakman, Winfield and Winston County to gain a playoff berth.

This is Fairview's second consecutive season battling it out in 5A, following a run of playing in 4A for three decades. The Aggies are matched in Region 7, having Randolph, Boaz, Etowah, Madison County, Guntersville, and Douglas.

Butler High School in Huntsville closed after May, leaving Fairview tih just nine games on the season and six in regional play. The AHSAA has ruled the Butler game will be treated as a forfeit if all schools in Region 7 couldn't find a new opponent.

George Redding has to encounter another season of playing home games at Cullman High School. The bleachers at Dafford Smith Stadium remain unsafe with the community and school doing what is possible to raise funds for a new seating system at the stadium.

Fairview's games on the Cullman campus will be with Randolph September 4, Madison County October 2, Guntersville October 10, Douglas October 16 and Vinemont October 30.

The Aggies will have a new quarterback with Reagan Ashley rotating with Austin Moore. A strength for Fairview is the return of leading rusher Austin Harris.

West Point has to replace 16 seniors from a 7-4 team that made the playoffs for the first time in Class 5A competition. Don Farley does have one of the top running backs in the county to show leadership with a younger team in senior Kobe Smith.

Smith will get plenty of touches as the Warriors put Tanner Rusk as quarterback. It's a different look with Bryant Farley gone following four seasons taking the snaps.

The Warriors believe their success in 5A, Region 8 will carry on as motivation. West Point posted regional wins with Columbia, Ardmore, St. John Paul and Lawrence County. The tough side of this region is defending champion East Limestone along with J.O. Johnson and Russellville.

West Point has home field advantage to start the season with Hayden, followed by Columbia and Ardmore. The challenge for the Warriors will be the second half with only one home game opposite of trips to Johnson, Russellville, Lawrence County and Priceville.

Vinemont is one of two schools with a new leader. Last season's defensive coordinator Matt Norris, took over leading the Eagles in the spring.

The Eagles said goodbye to 13 seniors from last year, but the team does have quarterback Garrett Boland and running back John Michael Dye to key the movement under Norris.

For Holly Pond, the opportunity to break a 20-game losing streak and to give Mike Bates his first victory as Broncos' coach is what awaits this team when they face Brindlee Mountain on opening night.

The Broncos are experienced with 16 starters returning. A majority of these kids played as freshmen, now they come back as juniors and show optimism in turning things around on the east side of the county.

Good Hope got Alan Scott from Vinemont to replace Chris Moss following 10 years commanding the Raiders. Scott is a Good Hope alum and delighted of the opportunity to return where he played the game as a youth.

Scott has a style of running the football. Good Hope was a spread team last season with Riley Eisner throwing for 2,500 yards in 2014.

The Raiders have 16 people who started last year that makes it easier for Scott to blend in his philosophy with on the field experience.

Good Hope had some success last year in 4A, Region 7. The Raiders were 3-4 in the region, knocking off J.B. Pennington, Priceville and DAR. The losses in the region were to Westminster Christian, Oneonta, Locust Fork, and North Jackson.

The Raiders have Oneonta, Locust Fork and North Jackson visiting James Shabel Stadium this fall. Good Hope will go through the last Friday of September and the first two weeks of October at home. To have a chance at making the playoffs, the Raiders need to win the regional opener September 4 at Westminster in Huntsville.

The hard work teams are going through right now is what the coaches of these programs pays off when the regular season ends on Halloween weekend. Those who succeed will have time on the practice field for the first round of the AHSAA playoffs in November.