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Local Sports Stories Archives for 2021-11

Westminster Christian Academy Head Coach Ronnie Stapler Selected to AHSAA Hall of Fame

RONNIE STAPLER (COACH): The Butler High School 1965 graduate returned to Huntsville following college at the University of North Alabama and began a high school basketball coaching career that has for 50 years. 
   Stapler, 74, has had coaching stops at Grissom High School, Guntersville High School, Randolph School and currently Westminster Christian Academy, where he has recorded more than 800 career wins in 47 seasons. His 800th win came in January of 2021 making him the sixth coach in AHSAA history to reach that milestone coaching boys’ basketball.
   His program has sent more than 100 players to the college ranks with scholarships. One of the state’s biggest high school basketball advocates, he served as Grissom’s boys’ basketball coach from 1970 to 2003 – winning state championships in Class 6A in 1988 and 1999. The Tigers finished runner-up in 1997.
    He led the Guntersville basketball program from 2003 to 2008, then spent five years at Randolph School in Huntsville coaching the girls’ team.
   He moved to Westminster in 2014 and has remained with the Wildcats ever since. He guided Westminster to the 4A state crown in 2016 and had runner-up finishes in 2015 and 2019.
   Stapler also coached boys’ golf at Grissom winning the 4A state title in 1983. He has received numerous coach of the year awards and coached in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Classic in 1999 and 2016. Three of his players earned Mr. Basketball honors.
    During his 50-year coaching career he has also coached wrestling, football and softball. He served on the AHSAA Basketball Coaches Committee from 1997-2001 and was inducted into the Huntsville/Madison County Athletic Hall of Fame in 1997.

Semifinals Set for Classes 1A through 6A

24 Teams Advance from Round 3 as 
AHSAA Football Playoffs Head into Week 4 

    MONTGOMERY – Two defending state champions an four undefeated teams survived the third round of the 56th AHSAA State Football Playoffs as 24 teams move into the semifinals in Classes 1A through 6A this week.
     The Class 7A semifinals concluded Friday night with two-time defending Class 7A state champion Thompson (12-1) downing Hoover 35-10 to clinch the North berth in the Super 7 Class 7A championship game set for Wednesday, Dec. 1 at Birmingham’s Protective Stadium. Central-Phenix City (13-0) beat Auburn 28-17 in the other 7A semifinal Friday night to claim the South berth in the 7A finals opposite the Warriors. It will be the Red Devils’ third appearance in the last four years in the big-school title game.
   The other classes will settle the other six championship games set for the Super 7 Dec. 1-3 on Friday, Nov. 26.
   The coaches met at the AHSAA Saturday morning to set the semifinal brackets and go over game-management details as well as Super 7 plans for those that qualify. The 7A coaches, Mark Freeman of Thompson and Patrick Nix of Central were on hand for AHSAA TV Network interviews. Also present were Smiths Station girls’ flag football coach Meg Larsen and Hewitt-Trussville flag coach Taylor Burt for interviews. The Panthers (10-2) and Huskies (10-0) clinched berths earlier this week in the first-ever AHSAA Girls’ Flag Football championship match, which will kick off the Super 7 on Dec. 1 at 3 p.m., at Protective Stadium. All seven boys’ games and the flag game will be televised over the AHSAA TV Network and live-streamed over the NFHS Network. Smiths Station downed John Carroll Catholic 14-7 in the semifinals of the flag playoffs Nov. 16, and Hewitt-Trussville beat Oxford 25-0 in the other semifinal.
  The 56th annual AHSAA boys’ football playoffs, which started with 208 teams qualifying for the first round, moved forward with 26 teams still standing after Friday night’s third round. 
   Saks (12-1) downed Fyffe 14-7 in the Class 3A quarterfinals to end the Red Devils’ championship streak at three in a row. Fyffe won the Class 2A state title in 2018 and 2019 and the 3Achampionship in 2020. The Wildcats’ win also snapped the Red Devils’ playoff winning streak at 17 in a row.
    Mountain Brook (12-1) blanked defending Class 6A state champion Pinson Valley (9-4) 30-0 in the Class 6A quarterfinals, and Jackson (11-2) scored the game-winning touchdown and extra point with 4.3 seconds remaining to upend defending Class 4A state champion Handley 24-23 Friday night. St. Paul’s Episcopal and Linde, the 5A and 1A state champions in 2020, were eliminated in the second round last week.
    Class 2A defending champion Mars Hill Bible (10-3) defeated previously unbeaten Spring Garden (12-1) at Killen 42-19 Friday to keep its championship hopes alive. The Panthers travel to Cleveland (11-2) for the semifinals.
    The third round started with nine undefeated teams in the hunt but only four survived – including Class 6A Clay-Chalkville (13-0), which beat Gardendale 50-44 in overtime. The Cougars of Coach Drew Gilmer travel to Mountain Brook (12-1) for the 6A north semifinals this week. That contest, announced AHSAA TV Network executive producer Vince Earley, will be featured as the AHSAA TV Network and NFHS Network Playoff Game of the Week. Kickoff will be at 7 p.m., on Nov. 26.
    Other unbeaten teams advancing from the third round are Class 1A Brantley (12-0) and Sweet Water (12-0) in Class 1A; Pike Road (12-0) in Class 5A; and Central-Phenix City (13-0), which sealed its spot in the 7A finals. Ironically, Sweet Water travels to Brantley in the Class 1A South semifinals this week.
    In addition to Spring Garden in Class 2A, three other unbeaten teams were ousted.  In Class 3A, Piedmont (11-2) downed Winfield (12-1) 43-14; Oneonta (12-1) eliminated Brooks (12-1) 56-28 in Class 4A; and Hoover (12-1) in Class 7A was beaten by Thompson.
    Home teams won 15 of the 26 third-round games (57.7%).
    This week, teams from the same region will meet in four semifinals while Auburn and Central-Phenix City (Region 2), Thompson and Hoover (Region 3) met from the same region Friday.  In Class 6A, Region 4 rivals Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa (11-2) and Hueytown (12-1) met for the second time this season. Other region rematches include Andalusia (9-4) at Pike Road (11-0) from Class 5A, Region 2; Jackson (11-2) vs. Vigor (12-1) from Class 4A, Region 1; and Piedmont (11-2) at Saks (12-1) from Class 3A, Region 5. It will be the sixth time in seven seasons that two teams from that 3A region have met in the semifinals.
    All 12 semifinals games are expected to be live-streamed over the NFHS Network’s School Broadcast Platform this week, and 11 of the 12 games will be carried live over a radio or internet live-audio affiliate.
    The Class 1A-6A semifinal playoff pairings and Friday’s third-round results for all classes are below:

Semifinal Pairings
Friday, Nov. 26

Sweet Water (12-0) at Brantley (12-0)
Wadley (12-1) at Pickens County (11-2), Reform


Highland Home (8-5) at Clarke County (11-2), Grove Hill
Mars Hill Bible (10-3) at Cleveland (11-2)


Montgomery Academy (10-3) at Montgomery Catholic (13-0)
Piedmont (11-2) at Saks (12-1), Anniston


Jackson (11-2) at Vigor (12-1), Blount HS Stadium, Prichard
Oneonta (12-1) at Madison Academy (12-1)


Andalusia (9-4) at Pike Road (12-0)
Fairview (12-1) at Pleasant Grove (12-1)


Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa (11-2) at Hueytown (12-1)
Clay-Chalkville (13-0) at Mountain Brook (12-1)

Super 7 Championships

Protective Stadium, Birmingham
Wednesday Dec. 1

Hewitt-Trussville (10-0) vs. Smiths Station (10-2), 3 p.m.
CLASS 7A Championship (Boys)
Central-Phenix City (13-0) vs. Thompson (12-1), 7 p.m.

Thursday Dec. 2
Super 7 Championships
Class 3A State Championship, 11 a.m.
Class 1A State Championship, 3 p.m.
Class 5A State Championship, 7 p.m.

Friday Dec. 3
Super 7 Championships
Class 4A State Championship, 11 a.m.
Class 2A State Championship, 3 p.m.
Class 6A State Championship, 7 p.m.


Third-Round Results

Brantley (12-0) 20, at Keith (11-2) 14
Sweet Water (12-0) 41, Maplesville (11-2) 7
Wadley (12-1) 27, Woodland (5-8) 0
Pickens County (11-2) 60, Decatur Heritage (10-3) 46


Clarke County (11-2) 14, B.B. Comer (10-3) 7
Highland Home (8-5) 15, Lanett (10-3) 14
Cleveland (11-2) 39, Southeastern (8-5) 8
Mars Hill Bible (10-3) 42, Spring Garden (12-1) 19


Montgomery Academy (10-3) 28, T.R. Miller (10-3) 0
Montgomery Catholic (13-0) 41, Hillcrest-Evergreen (7-6) 6
Saks (12-1) 14, Fyffe (10-2) 7
Piedmont (11-2) 43, Winfield (12-1) 14


Vigor (12-1) 26, American Christian (11-2) 10
Jackson (11-2) 24, Handley (9-3) 23
Madison Academy (12-1) 35, Good Hope (9-4) 28
Oneonta (12-1) 56, Brooks (12-1) 28


Andalusia (9-4) 20, UMS-Wright (11-2) 14
Pike Road (12-0) 42, Faith Academy (7-5) 0
Pleasant Grove (12-1) 49, Center Point (9-4) 21
Fairview (12-1) 44, Parker (11-2) 27


Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa (11-2) 24, Saraland (10-3) 16
Hueytown (12-1) 46, Opelika (9-4) 10
Mountain Brook (12-1) 30, Pinson Valley (9-4) 0
Clay-Chalkville (13-0) 50, Gardendale (10-3) 44 (OT)


Central-Phenix City (13-0) 28, Auburn (10-3) 17
Thompson (12-1) 35, Hoover (12-1) 10



No. 14/13 Alabama Holds Off South Alabama, 73-68

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Guards Jaden Shackelford and Keon Ellis each scored 18 points to lead the No. 14/13 Alabama men’s basketball team to a 73-68 victory over in-state foe South Alabama Tuesday night inside Coleman Coliseum.


Shackelford also added 10 rebounds to collect his second career double-double, while Ellis added six boards and three steals in the victory. Darius Miles was the only other UA player to reach double-digits at 10, while center Charles Bediako added eight points five rebounds and five blocked shots in the victory.


Coach Oats Postgame Comments

"You’ve got to give a ton of credit to South Alabama. I thought they came in and played hard. We track and keep count of both our and our opponent’s blue collar points and I thought they beat us in kind of an effort game. They took a bunch of charges, I think they took eight on us. They are well-coached and came ready to play. They outrebounded us, we turned it over more than them, we just fortunately made a few more shots than them. I give our guys a little bit of credit there in the middle of the second half. We kind of got it together, got some stops, made a run and did what we needed to. We got to get our defense picked up and tonight our offense really struggled too. Last game our offense was pretty good but we struggled that way tonight a little bit. Plenty of work to do on both sides of the ball here before we play again on Friday."


Team STats

  • Alabama improved to 3-0 to start a season for the first time since starting the 2017-18 campaign at 5-0
  • The Tide won its 13th consecutive home contest, which is the most since winning a school record 24-straight home games from March, 2010 to December, 2011
  • Bediako became the first Tide player to swat five shots in a game since Donta Hall did so on Jan. 27, 2018
  • The contest featured eight ties and six lead changes, with the Tide leading for 19:28 compared to the Jaguars leading for 15:44
  • Alabama shot 44.3 percent (27-of-61) on the night, while holding the Jaguars to 38.5 percent from the floor (25-of-65)
  • Ellis tied a career-high 18 points, which was set vs. Louisiana Tech in the first game of the season
  • Miles recorded his third game of double-figure scoring on the season and led all players with a plus-minus of +10
  • Bediako won the Hard Hat Award

First half

  • The Tide got things going early on Tuesday night, jumping out to a 10-2 lead at the first media timeout thanks to a quick four points from Shackelford and a three from Ellis
  • The Jaguars would answer by outscoring Alabama 22-9 over the next 7:51 to take a five-point lead at 24-19 with 8:25 left in the opening stanza
  • Ellis and Shackelford combined to account for 15 of the Tide’s first 19 points to begin the game
  • After USA took a 32-26 lead with 1:22 left to play, Alabama scored five of the final seven points in the half to trail by three at intermission, 35-32

Second half

  • ­Alabama forced the Jaguars into using their first timeout of the half with only 18:45 on the second half game clock after Noah Gurley and Bediako converted back-to-back buckets from inside the paint to take a one-point lead, 35-34
  • After going back-and-forth over the next several minutes, Ellis drained a three-pointer from the corner to give the Tide the lead for good at 52-51 with 10:42 mark
  • That trey would jumpstart a 10-0 run over the next 3:07 that gave Alabama its largest lead of the game, 59-51, with 8:14 remaining
  • However, the Jaguars would not go away as they kept it a one possession game until Bediako hit two free throws with just under two minutes left to play to put the Tide up by four
  • Alabama finished by connecting on 7-of-8 free throws to seal the victory

Up Next

The Crimson Tide will close out the four-game homestand to open the season when it welcomes Oakland University to Coleman Coliseum on Friday night at 7 p.m. CT on SEC Network+


For all the latest information on the team, follow AlabamaMBB on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. General athletic news can be found @UA_Athletics on Twitter and Instagram and Alabama Athletics on Facebook.

Decatur Heritage's Brayden Kyle Sets AHSAA Total Offense, TD records in Second-Round Win

Decatur Heritage’s Brayden Kyle Sets AHSAA
Total Offense, TD records in Second-Round Win

MONTGOMERY –  Decatur Heritage High School senior quarterback Brayden Kyle turned in the performance of a lifetime in last week’s wild 76-60 Class 1A football playoff victory.
   He accounted for 629 total yards and had a hand in 11 touchdowns to set a number of AHSAA single-game state records and grab this week’s AHSAA Football Playoff Spotlight for week 2 of the 2021 state playoffs.
    It was originally reported he had 609 total yards with four TD passes and seven rushing scores. However, upon review by Coach Steve Meek and his staff, his total yardage was actually 629 yards and total touchdowns accounted for were still 11 – coming on an 11-of-18 passing performance for 271 yards and three touchdown passes and 18 rush attempts for 358 yards and eight touchdowns. The 629 total yards in a single game broke the AHSAA all-time single-game record and his 11 TDs accounted for also set a new AHSAA single-game state record.
    His 629 total yards also rank ninth best nationally all-time. The national record, set in 2015 by Matt Miller DuBois High School (PA) versus Meadville (PA), is 787 yards.  Kyle, a 6-foot-2, 220-pound senior, also had 507 total yards in the Eagles’ first-round 48-28 playoff triumph over Marion County. He was 14-of-20 passing for 353 yards and three TDs and rushed for 154 yards and four touchdowns on 11 carries in that game. He now has completed 25-of-38 passes for 624 yards and six TDs in two playoff games this post-season, and he has had 29 rush attempts for 512 yards and 12 touchdowns –  a total of 1,136 total yards and 18 touchdowns accounted for. His yards-per-carry average have been 17.0 yards per play; 17.7 yards per rush attempt and 25.0 yards per completion and a touchdown accounted for every 3.7 plays.
    Decatur Heritage’s Meek was still awed by his quarterback’s performance when questioned by Talladega Daily Home sports editor Lavonte Young. “I’m amazed every week and I’m blessed again to have him on our team,” Meek said. “I would hate to scheme against or try to stop him. He is amazing. He loves the game. He loves to compete. He is a competitor and a winner.”
    Ragland head coach Wes Tidwell praised Kyle and his own Ragland team after on the loss.
    “I don’t know where you find a better football game to watch than this one,” he told Young. “We knew coming in that they were going to be tough to stop. That kid (Kyle) is tough to get on the ground. They did a great job running routes, they are well-coached. 
    “When you have a kid like that, it is tough. Our kids responded and they played hard. I’m as proud of how they fought in the second half as if we won the ball game. You can't coach what they did, they came out and fought.”
     Ragland quarterback Owen Schall threw four TD passes to lead Ragland, and Ezra Hill returned a kickoff 70 yards for a touchdown for the Purple Devils.
   Jack Poundstone of Trinity Presbyterian held the state record (618), which he west in a 2008 playoff game versus Cordova. St. John Paul II Catholic quarterbackSeth Brown had 614 total yards in a 2019 game versus West Morgan. 
    The previous touchdowns accounted for record (9) was shared by three different players. James Raines of Berry High School had nine TD passes and passed for seven 2-point conversions in a 68-0 win over Brilliant in 2015. Hubbertville’s Tommy Haley-Ricks rushed for nine touchdowns in a 76-52 win over Vina in 2008, and Victory Christian’s Brent Gulledge threw nine TD passes in a 70-6 triumph over Lyman Ward in 2004. All three games came in the regular season.
    Kyle’s eight rushing touchdowns is one shy of the state record (9) set by Haley-Ricks in 2008, and his 50 total points scored ties for 6th most all-time behindHaley-Ricks’ 58 points scored in in 2008.
    The 136 points combined in the Decatur Heritage-Ragland playoff game were the most ever scored in an AHSAA state playoff game – beating the previous total (135) scored by Clay-Chalkville (85) and Scottsboro (50) in a Class 6A playoff game in 2014.
      Childersburg’s 82-64 win over Central Coosa in the final game of the regular season in 2016 combined for 146 points and is the all-time AHSAA record. Parrish and Hubbertville combined for 139 points in a 2003 win by the Tornadoes 81-58, and Slocomb beat Houston County 124-12 in 1931 for 136 points to set the all-time record originally which stood for 85 years.
    Decatur Heritage (10-2) moves into the quarterfinals of the Class 1A state playoffs this Friday with a home game versus Pickens County (10-2) to be played at West Morgan High School.
    Classes 1A through 6A will all be competing in the quarterfinals, and in Class 7A, Hoover (12-0) hosts Thompson (11-1) and Central-Phenix City (12-0) hosts Auburn as the AHSAA’s largest class moves into the semifinals this Friday.

Alabama Football's Bryce Young Named Davey O'Brien National Quarterback Award Semifinalist

Alabama Football’s Bryce Young Named Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award Semifinalist

The sophomore is one of 20 candidates up for the nation’s top quarterback honor


TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Alabama quarterback Bryce Young has been named a 2021 Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award Semifinalist, the Davey O’Brien Foundation announced on Tuesday.


Young is one of 20 players from around the country named to this year’s semifinalist list. Mac Jones is the Crimson Tide’s lone recipient of the O’Brien, taking home the hardware in 2020 as part of his record-setting final season.



Quarterback, Sophomore

  • Completing 69.4 percent of his passes (211-304) for 2,755 yards with 28 touchdowns compared to just three interceptions
  • Currently ranks fourth nationally and first in the Southeastern Conference in passing touchdowns
  • Sixth nationally in passing efficiency (174.0) while ranking seventh in the country in points responsible for (182)
  • Guided the Alabama offense to the No. 2 third-down conversion percentage in the nation (55.6 percent), completing 75.2 percent of his third-down pass attempts (58-77) for 903 yards and nine touchdowns

The Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award is presented annually to the nation’s best college quarterback and is the oldest national quarterback award. The Davey O’Brien Award honors candidates who exemplify Davey O’Brien’s enduring character while exhibiting teamwork, sportsmanship and leadership in both academics and athletics. The 2021 winner will be announced live in Atlanta, Ga., at ESPN’s Home Depot College Football Awards Show in early December.


Get all the latest information on the team by following @AlabamaFTBL on Twitter and Facebook and AlabamaFBL on Instagram. General athletic news can also be found at UA_Athletics on Twitter and Instagram and AlabamaAthletics on Facebook.




Alex McPherson Kicks Record Field GoalĀ to Land in AHSAA Prep Football Spotlight

Alex McPherson Kicks Record Field Goal to Land in AHSAA Prep Football Spotlight

MONTGOMERY – Fort Payne High School place-kicker Alex McPherson was just a freshman in 2017 when he served as the holder for the Wildcats’ special team unit anchored by his older brother Evan McPherson.
The highlight of that season was the brothers’ teamwork leading to a state-record 60-yard field goal kicked by Evan versus Brewer High School for the longest boot in AHSAA history from a snap, hold and kick. Sage Ledbetter of Auburn High School beat that kick by one yard with his 61-yard field goal on a free kick following a fair catch in 2015.
   Roll forward to 201 and Evan is still kicking – albeit with the Cincinnati Bengals in the NFL after a phenomenal college career with the Florida Gators. And Alex, well, his strong leg earned him the AHSAA Football Spotlight for Week 10 as he kicked four field goals in a 32-7 victory over North Jackson, including a 61-yard field goal from a snap, hold and kick to break his brother’s record by one yard. The kick also tied Ledbetter for the longest field goal in school history.
     McPherson will be ready for action again Friday when the Wildcats head to Briarwood Christian (9-1) for a first-round Class 6A football contest as the 2021 AHSAA State Football Playoffs get underway. Two games are scheduled for Thursday night with G.W. Long (8-1) visiting B.B. Comer (8-2) at Sylacauga in Class 2A and James Clemens (10-0) hosting Oak Mountain (6-4) at Madison City Stadium. Executive producer Vince Earley announced last weekend the AHSAA TV Network/WOTM TV will be broadcasting the 2A game at Sylacauga live tonight and will also broadcast live from Legion Stadium on Friday night the Class 5A playoff contest featuring Andalusia (6-4) and Sylacauga (7-3). Both games will also be available over the NFHS Network as well as tonight’s 7A battle tonight will be live-streamed over the NFHS Network.
    A large number of playoff games will be live-streamed Friday night as well. Check www.nfhsnet.com for more details. Also, more than 120 games are scheduled to be broadcast live audio over radio or internet affiliates. A complete log will be posted at www.ahsaa.com by Friday morning.
   McPherson told reporters he contacted his older brother Evan immediately after the game. 
“It was a lot of fun to tell him I broke his record,” he said.
   Alex, who is committed to Auburn and was selected to punt and place-kick for the Alabama All-Stars the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Classic set for Dec. 11, also led the Wildcats of Coach Chad Elmore with four successful field goals of 39, 52, 55 and 61 yards in the win over the Chiefs. Earlier in the game, he lined up to try another 61-yard kick but an illegal shift penalty pushed it back to 66 yards. He just missed a 70-yard try earlier this season.
    His four field goals in a single game ties 16 others for second most in a single game. And his three field goals over 50 yards in a single game set a new AHSAA record. His older brother Logan held the mark with two with kicks of 56 and 57 yards versus Boaz in 2012. Cade Stinnett of Enterprise also had kicks of 51 and 50 yards in a 2013 41-34 loss to Smiths Station, and Kevin Gentle had kicks of 59 and 51 yards in a 1993 win over Scottsboro.
    Tied for most field goals in a single game (5) are Crosby Gray of Spain Park (2015); Ledbetter (2013); Josh Woodard of Decatur (2001); Tim Rogers of Mountain Brook (1990); and Ricky Beck of Geneva (1970). The last previous place-kicker to four field goals in a game was Daphne’s Diego Guajardo (2018). His in the Trojans’ 40-6 win over B.C. Rain was a 53-yarder on his first kick of the night.
   Evan McPherson finished his college career with 302 kicking points with 51-of-60 on field goal tries ad 149-of-150 extra point kicks. He currently is 10-of-13 on field goals for the Bengals this season with a long of 53 yards. His longest kick at Florida was 55 yards.
    In high school, Evan also had an 84-yard punt in the same game as his 60-yard field goal in 2017, and finished his prep career with 207 kicking points – coming on 30 field goals and 117 extra points.   
    The AHSAA’s strong kicking legacy was first established with Philip Doyle of Huffman setting the national record with 22 in a single season in 1985. That record is still the AHSAA’s best, but was been tied by Park Crossing kicker Jake Lane in 2016. Doyle’s national record was broken and is now 25.

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