Red Bay, Phil Campbell ready for season
RED BAY — The summer months are drawing to a close, and that means that high school football is just around the corner.
The Red Bay Tigers went 8-4 and reached the second round of the 2A state playoffs under first-year head coach John Ritter last season.
Red Bay came in second in Class 2A, Region 8 in 2012. The Tigers lost a lot of talent to graduation in the offseason, but the program has a history of reloading each year despite the losses.
“We’ve had a great summer,” Ritter said. “We had great attendance, and kids have been working hard.
“The team has set some pretty lofty goals, and the kids are working pretty hard to achieve them. I’m very excited.
“We are returning a lot of guys, and we have a great senior class that works extremely hard, and the kids have been great leaders.
“I’m excited to see how we transition all of our hard work in the weight room onto the field.”
Region 8 has one of the toughest regular-season schedules that Class 2A has to offer, so the list of quality opponents and tough games will be long for Red Bay.
Tanner was the only 2A team to beat the Tigers during the regular season last year.
“Obviously Tanner in week two is a big game,” Ritter said. “They are the defending state champions (in 2A). I think they have a 33-game winning streak in the region; they haven’t lost a region game in four or five years. That is obviously No. 1.
“Sheffield and Lexington, weeks six and eight, those are going to be big game because we will all be in the dogfight to see who wins the region and who qualifies for the playoffs.”
Playing a full season filled with quality opponents will take its toll on the relatively small group, but that is a bit of adversity that all teams at smaller schools must face.
“We have to stay healthy,” Ritter said. “That’s always an issue in 2A.
“We have to continue to work hard, and how we respond to adversity will tell us kind of how our season will go.
“We play Central (Florence) and Tanner weeks one and two. You never know how those games will go. Central is a 4A and Tanner is the lead dog in 2A.
“I think if we can stay healthy and continue to work hard every day, we have a chance to have a successful year.”
PHIL CAMPBELL — The Phil Campbell Bobcats did not have the kind of year the players, coaches, school and community hoped for last season.
The 2-8 record was another mark in a list of seasons that did not go the Bobcats’ way.
The team has also has to overcome the difficulties of losing a large group of seniors and the late-summer departure of former head coach Jason Hill, who was at the helm of Phil Campbell for just one year.
New head coach Ryan Swinney has not had a lot of time to get adjusted to his new position, but he is optimistic about the direction in which the team is headed.
“[The summer] went pretty well,” he said. “We have been working out four days a week in the mornings, we have pretty good numbers and the kids have worked really hard. I’m really proud of them and kind of excited.
“We have some boys that have showed a lot of improvement in the weight room throughout the summer, and our numbers have grown.
“We had a few kids turn out that haven’t been playing. We’re pretty enthusiastic about starting practice.”
Phil Campbell plays in the same Class 2A, Region 8 as Red Bay, so are opponents will be very tough this year just like in 2012.
“We have a pretty tough schedule, but the boys seem to have bought into the program,” Swinney said. “We have put in some offensive and defensive sets, and the players are catching on really well to them. We are going to try some different guys out at some different positions.
“We start the year with Tharptown, and then we get right into the region with Hatton. Of course Tanner, Lexington, Sheffield and Red Bay are region games.
“Our region is really tough. I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a tougher (2A) region then what we play in.”
The young team and first-year head coach at Phil Campbell will face much adversity this season because of the number of seniors lost after last year and the difficulty of the schedule.
“It’s hard to say how we’ll do,” Swinney said. “With the schedule we have the season will be pretty tough. We’re optimistic, and I’m never one to put a number down as far as wins and losses.
“Our goal is to be competitive in every game we play and put ourselves in an opportunity to win games. We’ll let the chips fall where they may.”