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Getting grid-iron ready

By Bart Moss / For the FCT

The official start of football practice is Aug. 6, but unofficial practice has been in full swing for many county programs all summer – or, at least, all of July.

Kevin Barnwell is the lone rookie coach in the county this year. Barnwell, who was an assistant coach at Russellville last year, was hired in the spring at Phil Campbell High School. He is entering his first year as a head coach.

“We are a work in progress,” said Barnwell. “We have a good core group of guys who have bought into what we are trying to do. They are here every day, working hard and bringing to true leadership to the team. Then we have some who are here from time to time but miss for various reasons.

“We are trying to get this program to the point where showing up for summer workouts is the rule – not the exception.”

Barnwell said Phil Campbell will rely on a lot of young players to build the program.

“We are young there; is no doubt about that,” said Barnwell. “We are not going to use youth as an excuse, however. The time is now, and we can’t wait around. These young guys have stepped up, and we are going to rely on them to build the program.”

Phil Campbell will be making the jump to Class 3A from Class 2A. The Bobcats will host Hubbertville in a jamboree Aug. 24 and open the season the following week against county rival Red Bay.

Another new head coach in the county is John Ritter. Ritter is a veteran head coach who is not new to the area. He once led the Red Bay Tigers. Ritter, the new head coach at Russellville High School, came to the Golden Tigers from West Morgan.

“We have had a great summer,” said Ritter.  “Attendance has been where we need it to be. Kids are working hard and buying in. Our success or lack of will be determined by our attention to detail and willingness to do the little things correctly.”

Russellville will be competing in a mostly new region in Class 5A this year. The Golden Tigers will play East Limestone in a jamboree Aug. 24 and open their season the following week hosting Deshler.

Michael Jackson leads the Red Bay Tigers once again this year. Jackson has the Tiger program built around his expectations and work habits.

“We are very excited about the summer work ethic our guys have shown this summer,” said Jackson. “Our 10th- through 12th-grade players have had 90 percent attendance at every workout. That’s leadership. Our strength and conditioning are going as well as we can expect as a group this season.”

Red Bay will host Colbert Heights in the home opener Aug. 24.

Jason Harris enters his second year as the Vina head football coach. He said he has been working to get his players to buy in to a new way of thinking – and it seems to be working.

“Our numbers have been the best they’ve been in the seven years I’ve coached at Vina,” explained Harris.  “These kids have put in a lot of hard work, and we’ve had a good mixture of older and younger kids to step up as leaders.

“I can’t say enough about the hard work ethic and determination some of these kids have had to get better and get this program turned around.”

The Red Devils will host Marion County in their home opener Aug. 24.

Kevin Lacey leads the Tharptown Wildcats once again as they prepare for the challenge of jumping from Class 1A to Class 2A. Lacey said he recognizes the challenge – and he’s trying to get his players to rise to the challenge as well.

“We have our work cut out for us this year,” said Lacey. “We are going to play the toughest schedule by far this school has ever faced in football. We have to step up to the challenge and work hard.

“We are looking for guys who want to compete and work hard. We know what’s facing us, and we are going to give it our best shot.”

Tharptown hosts Shoals Christian in a home opener Aug. 24.

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