The high school football season has come to a close with the Super 7 wrapping up in Tuscaloosa on Friday. Seven teams have been crowned state champions, and while there are still all-star games and awards to come, the season is now finished. With that said, I have no hardware to hand out and I don’t get a vote in anything since only newspaper sportswriters get to vote in anything in our state – but I still want to recognize who I felt were the best teams, players and coaches from the 2017 high school football season in Alabama.
First up, my final top 10 power rankings (all classifications):
1. Hoover (7A Champion)
I know Hoover ended the season with multiple losses, but two of them were to out-of-state competition, and one of those teams was IMG Academy which is arguably the best program in the country. The only in-state loss was to Thompson, which they avenged in the playoffs. Hoover had a great defense, and a lot of great talent on offense, some of which is coming back. They won the biggest classification and there is no team out there that would be favored to beat Hoover after it was all said and done.
2. Pinson Valley (6A Champion)
I always argue that 6A is actually the most competitive classification, and I think the last few years have shown it, with completely different representatives the last three years in the championship. Pinson Valley was the top team this year and I think could give Hoover some trouble if they were to match-up right now. Bo Nix is arguably the best player in the state (more on that below) and the team as a whole had been steadily improving over the past few years under Matt Glover, and then got that extra spark this year.
Thompson may have eventually lost to Hoover in 7A, but they still beat Hoover on the road in the regular season and ran the table outside of that. There is something to be said for the major turnaround Thompson has had under Mark Freeman. There was a lot of talent around Taulia Tagovailoa to help this offense be great, and the defense has been great for the last couple of years. I think they are the second best team in all of 7A.
I stand by Austin being a powerhouse, and they may win more times than not if they played Pinson Valley again. Outside of that one point, overtime loss to Pinson, Austin looked unstoppable. They could have won 7A Region 4 this year in my opinion and could have competed with Hoover or Thompson for the 7A championship. It was just unfortunate that they met Pinson in the 6A quarterfinals.
5. St. Paul’s (5A Champion)
I do have a couple of 5A teams, but they are worthy of being here, and I think could compete with the best of the best in Alabama regardless of classification. St. Paul’s has one of the top recruits in the state in Jalyn Armour-Davis, and he helps make that team something special. Swift Lyle played great this season and is often overlooked with St. Paul’s being in 5A. They step up to 6A next year because of how good they have been and I can’t wait to see how it works out for them.
I’m not 100% sure just how strong the Mobile region in 7A was this year compared to year’s past. They had some great defenses, but the one win that has McGill-Toolen even on this list is Central-Phenix City, which they won by one point in overtime. They did not look good against Hoover and have seemed to go backwards each year, despite the fact that they still make it to the Super 7. From a close win over Spain Park, to a close loss to Hoover to a blowout loss to Hoover – McGill-Toolen isn’t quite as good as they have been. They have lost some talent, and lost their coach after last year, so getting back to the Super 7 should be commended for both the team and head coach Earnest Hill, but it’s hard for me to put them any higher than this. I would love to see them and St. Paul’s match-up this year for Mobile area (and private school) dominance.
7. Central-Phenix City
Central was a talented team, and have arguably the best receiver in the state in Justyn Ross. Some of the plays he made this year were unbelievable. The team as a whole did run the table, which was the first time ever for Jamey Dubose in the regular season. However, they fell in the semifinals, yet again, to McGill-Toolen. I do probably believe that Central is the better team, but they just couldn’t get it done that night, so they are behind McGill.
Wetumpka was an extremely athletic and talented team this year. Jadarious Martin and Kavosiey Smoke led a dynamic offense that put up some insane point totals on various teams. Their 69 points on Spanish Fort in the playoffs was impressive. On the biggest stage though, they failed to perform, only putting up 10 points. However, that was to the #2 team on this list.
Briarwood and St. Paul’s played a classic game that saw St. Paul’s pull out a close one in the final minutes. I think Briarwood could compete with almost anyone this year, as they ran over everyone in their way except St. Clair County who had one of the strongest playoff runs for a low-seed. They came up short, but they have a lot of talent and Briarwood has consistently competed with the best of the best for the last 20 years.
Some might think this is a little low for Hewitt, but I’m not convinced they were a truly great team. They dominated a fairly weak region. When they met up with Region 3, it was a different story, playing a somewhat close game against Spain Park and getting absolutely dominated by Hoover. Their offense was special, but when they ran up against good offenses, they couldn’t really stop them, as was evident for teams like Florence and Hoover.
Here are my final personal rankings in each classification after the playoffs:
4. Central-Phenix City
6. Mountain Brook
7. Spain Park
9. Bob Jones
1. Pinson Valley
7. Shades Valley
8. Park Crossing
9. Spanish Fort
1. St. Paul’s
3. St. Clair County
9. Mortimer Jordan
10. Central-Clay County
3. Fayette County
5. Hokes Blufff
6. Montgomery Catholic
7. Bibb County
8. Cherokee County
2. Clarke County
3. Mobile Christian
4. Randolph County
5. American Christian
9. Colbert Heights
10. Montgomery Academy
3. St. Luke’s
10. Lamar County
1. Sweet Water
4. Pickens County
7. South Lamar
Players/Coaches of the Year
This year saw a lot of great individual efforts from various players. Some coaches really stepped into the spotlight and made their mark on high school football as well. Here is my opinion on the player and coach of the year in each class, along with my overall player of the year rankings.
7A Player of the Year – RB Larry McCammon (Hoover)
7A Coach of the Year – Mark Freeman (Thompson)
6A Player of the Year – QB Bo Nix (Pinson Valley)
6A Coach of the Year – Patrick Nix (Pinson Valley)
5A Player of the Year – DB Jalyn Armour-Davis (St. Paul’s)
5A Coach of the Year – Matt Glover (St. Clair County)
4A Player of the Year – RB Symon Smith (UMS-Wright)
4A Coach of the Year – Jonathan Miller (Saks)
3A Player of the Year – QB Ryan Nettles (Hillcrest-Evergreen)
3A Coach of the Year – Clinton Smith (Hillcrest-Evergreen)
2A Player of the Year – RB/DB Kelston Fikes (Leroy)
2A Coach of the Year – Clifford Story (Lanett)
1A Player of the Year – RB/LB Shamar Lewis (Sweet Water)
1A Coach of the Year – Pat Thompson (Sweet Water)
Overall Player of the Year Top 3
1. QB Bo Nix (Pinson Valley)
2. RB Asa Martin (Austin)
3. RB Larry McCammon (Hoover)
Overall Coach of the Year – Matt Glover (St. Clair County)