The Catch

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2 The Catch 2023 PIKE COUNTY SCHOOLS Excellence in Education 101 West Love Street Troy, AL 36081 334-566-1850 Clean & Safe Schools Friendly and courteous service Academic Accountability Fiscal responsibility OUR PROMISE: The mission of Pike County Schools is to provide excellence in education, producing graduates ready for college, careers, and life-long success. – DR. MARK BAZZELL, SUPERINTENDENT HAVE A GREAT SEASON, EAGLES E EAAGGLLEES S BULLDOGS B BUULLLLDDOOGGS S &
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THE CATCH PUBLISHER Bobby Rice EDITORIAL Josh Boutwell ADVERTISING Bill Rice DESIGN Huck Treadwell Kris Harrell TABLE OF CONTENTS 10...........................CharlesHendersonHighSchool 16.......................................PikeCountyHighSchool 22........................................Pike Liberal Arts School 28................................................GoshenHighSchool 34..................................................AritonHighSchool 38........................................ZionChapelHighSchool 42.................................CompleteFootballSchedule 46........................................................TroyUniversity ON THE COVER
The Catch 2023 5 “Compassionate car e for all of God’s creatures” GOOD LUCK THIS SEASON TO ALL OF OUR LOCAL TEAMS Steve Barron DVM 1225 U.S. 231 334-770-7444 710 N. 3 Notch St. 334-566-0127

The sport snagged me when I made my first running catch

What would my life be like if I didn’t love football so much?

For many Trojans, Tigers, RTRers (and other miscellaneous mascots) the eve of September heralds our favorite pages of the calendar … as this means football season has once again arrived.

While selling ads for “The Catch,” my mind wandered back to all the footballs I’ve caught (or dropped) in my own life. I thought it might be interesting to reflect on why one person enjoys the magical pigskin months of the year.

How would my life be different if the sport of football had never been invented, or if this sport wasn’t as popular as it is in our section of the country? A few random memories might hint at answers …

One of my first memories is my older brother, Rush, throwing me a pass in the back yard of our home in Ft. Myers, Florida. What I remember is that I caught that pass on the run. Rush “led” me and I ran under the ball, looked it in, secured “the catch” and kept on running.

For some reason, this memory remained with me … a “silly game” had snagged me for life.

According to my late mother, I was slow to learn to read. I was always peppering Mom and Dad with questions about Alabama’s football team and my hero, Johnny Musso.

One morning while Dad was reading the sports page with break-

6 The Catch 2023
Photo by Dan Smith My son, Jack Rice, is starting to catch football fever. It runs in his family!

fast, Mom said, “Bill, if you learn to read, you can read all about Johnny Musso yourself.” She said she could see the light go off in my head.

My “Opie Taylor” days were spent in Opelika, where neighborhood pick-up games were a staple of autumn afternoons on Gwen Mill Drive.

Sometimes we played touch; sometimes tackle. And we also played a game our big brothers invented called “Run Through the Hole.”

The big kids would get on their hands and knees in a 5-2-1 defense and the little kids would come flying through the hole. We’d get hit high and low, but sometimes we’d make it through the gauntlet.

Back then, I possessed that great football trait coaches call “reckless abandon.” As it turns out, I was much better at the game when I just considered it a game.

The Thrill of Victory; The Agony of Defeat …

I was in 2nd grade living in Lee County when Auburn blocked two punts in the final minutes of the Iron Bowl to stun an Alabama team that could already taste another national championship.

We all know about the “thrill of victory,” but the “agony of defeat” never leaves you either. Skip forward 40 years and another traumatic event dubbed “The Kick Six” happened.

Last year, Appalachian State completed a “Hail Mary” on the game’s final play and what should have been Troy’s biggest win in years was ripped from our Trojan fingertips.

Question: Why do we care so much about a silly game that, invariably, is going to wound our soul?

Probably because, like love and courtship, hope springs eternal. It doesn’t matter what you care about, it’s just good that we do care passionately about some things.

And disappointment, quicker than you think, can morph into exultation. For example, Troy rallied from that heart-breaking loss to have the best Division I season in program history.

I was also a spectator in

Legion Field - in the student bleachers in the end zonewhen Van Tiffin’s kick split the uprights.

Even today I can still smell the “stadium drinks” that rained down on me after that kick, which I knew was true from the time Van hit it.

Except for the birth of your children or when your wife said, “I do,” nothing compares to victories that unforgettable.

I know; my priorities might be out of whack, but as Coach Saban often says, “It is what it is.”

As Coach Bryant once said, “You can’t rally around a math class.” Speaking of Coach Bryant, it’s no coincidence the most revered man in our state’s history was … a football coach.

Football matters to all of us …

I was sports editor of The Troy Messenger when Troy State University made the decision to move to Division I. Half the town thought Troy would never be able to compete with the “big boys.”

I remember the column I wrote where I said: “Just do it. This will make our college and our town a better place to live.”

Even if you don’t know what a first down is, football still matters. I look at Troy’s campus today - which IS the prettiest campus in Alabama - and think this bold move 30 years ago did more to make that happen than anything else.

Upgrading the athletic facilities - some of the most impressive for a college our size in America - literally transformed the landscape of my hometown.

I played the sport through high school … although I blew out my knee right before Charles Henderson’s first game my junior year. I came back the next year … and re-injured the same knee. One might imagine I’d hate football because of these injuries … but that’s not the case.h

If I hadn’t been a member of the football team, I wouldn’t have grown so close to so many teammates. I didn’t play in any games my last two years, but I lifted weights with those guys (“curls for the girls!”); survived some grueling practices; remember all the pep rallies and

the singing on the bus trips after a victory.

My sophomore year I got to be a reserve on the only state championship team in CHHS history.

I’ll never forget looking out the window on the chartered Greyhound buses that went to Hartselle. About 90 minutes before kickoff, the two buses drove around a track that circled the field.

The visitor’s bleachers were already packed. I still feel the chills from the standing ovation that greeted those buses.

No offense to basketball or baseball, but nothing brings people from all walks of life together more than the “silly game” of football.

Nor do you need to have been a member of a team to pull as hard as you can for “your” team. I haven’t been on another team in 40 years, but I still pull for both my Trojans. I also pull hard for the Patriots, Bulldogs and Eagles.

Two years ago, Mike Amos and I drove to Ariton to scout a highly-touted Geneva running back from who’d committed to

Alabama. The back didn’t live up to his billing, but we left the game thinking that Ariton, which could have named the score, is really good, and also this: What a great environment; what a wonderful way to spend an autumn Friday night.

As I was writing this column, this question hit me: What if there was no Friday night football in Ariton? Or: What if I’d never caught my life-long love for football?

I guess my life might have turned out okay. But September would be just another prosaic month on the calendar.

If I hadn’t caught the love of this game, 50 seasons of vivid, indelible memories wouldn’t have framed my life.

When toe meets pigskin Friday night, I know what I’m going to feel like - like a little boy who just scored a touchdown. Bill Rice, Jr. is a freelance writer from Troy who helped produce his first football special edition in 1990.

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1200 Elba Highway • Troy, Alabama 566-1477 Good Luck to All Area Teams! For Personal & Commercial Insurance
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Benton Dunn


The 2022 Charles Henderson Trojans came so close to a state championship that they could taste it. The 2023 Trojans are now even hungrier to reach that ultimate goal.

Charles Henderson has lost some key players from that 2022 team, including All-Messenger athletes like Connor Jones, Mario Davenport and Damien Hart, but the team also returns a slew of starters on both sides of the ball. In fact, many of those starters have been in key roles on the team for two seasons or more.

“To have eight three-year starters is a blessing,” CHHS Coach Quinn Hambrite said. “I don’t think I’ve ever had that on a team. They got put into the fire and had to play (early). They weren’t ready to play so early but they had to and that experience their 10th grade year is a big reason why we made the state championship the next year.

“They already had that experience and were already good athletes. Us having 4-5 two-year starters and the eight three-year starters is a lot of players with a lot of game experience. I hope that can translate into the first game and we’ll be playing like we have that much experience.”

Among those returning starters are veterans on the Trojan offense like quarterback Parker Adams. Adams threw for 2,580 yards and 28 touchdowns, completing more than 60 percent of his passes.

His No. 1 target Jywon Body – a Troy University commit – is also back after having an All-State and All-Messenger Offensive Player of the Year junior campaign. Boyd was a “do everything” athlete for the Trojans, catching 60 passes for 1,218 yards and 20 touchdowns, along with rushing for 342 yards and two scores and returning three kicks for touchdowns. He also led the area with six interceptions and one defensive touchdown.

Charles Henderson also boasts one of the top 2025 college football recruits in the entire country in edge rusher Zion Grady. Grady earned Sophomore All-American honors and was the All-Messenger Defensive Player of the Year as he churned out eye-popping numbers with 108 tackles, 35 tackles-for-loss and 22 sacks.

“Parker is a guy that the team follows with

ease and Jywon has stepped up into that (leadership) role,” Hambrite said. “(Boyd) is becoming a guy that other kids can look up to and he can lead. He’s had to learn to lead but he’s stepping up to that role. Zion Grady on defense is a kid that wasn’t that vocal leader last year but has become much more vocal calling out the defense and making sure everyone is lined up where they’re supposed to be and holding everyone accountable.

“Jalen Suddith is a leader, as well. He has to step up and become that leader at (middle linebacker) we need. Benton Dunn, Sterling Sharpe and Zamir Caffie are all leaders, too. We have a good core of guys that can step up and be in that leadership role even when some of the others fall back.”

Other returning veterans include running back tandem Zach Coleman (834 yards and 10 TDs) and Antonio Frazier (627 yards and four TDs) and junior 6-foot-4-inch tight end Noah Greene, who missed all of 2023 with a knee injury.

On defense, veterans Zarion Mack (72 TKL, 15 TFL, 5 sacks), Brandon Givens (67 TKL, 5 TFL) and Suddith (63 TKL, 14 TFL, 8 sacks) all return to key roles. On special teams, AllState kicker/punter Nik Peerson is back.

While the returning veterans will get much of the attention early on, there are a number of young players that the coaching staff is excited about.

“Kameron Johnson has stepped up tremendously and has been a 100 percent guy for us at receiver,” Hamrbite said. “He’s learning to possess the ball in the air and running crisp routes. Kingston Sharp is another guy, a rising sophomore, at right tackle that has been impressive. He’s a guy that will be a big force for us the next three years and will anchor that offensive line.

“Jamal Downing played sparingly last year but didn’t start any. He played all special teams and when I tell you he gives it his all every single play, I mean it. He’s just built like that. Hopefully, we can get him to step up. He’s already a vocal leader and I know he’ll make plays on the field, so I’m excited about him.”

One of the major focuses for the Trojans in

the offseason has been building team camaraderie.

“Right now it’s really about building team camaraderie and being good teammates and being there for each other,” Hambrite said. “We want to be player led, not having to have the coaches tell you everything and holding each other accountable. Team discipline in general is a big thing.

“Those are the things we’re trying to accomplish the most before the season. We have talented guys that can fill in some spots we need them to fill in but I feel like we don’t have that team camaraderie where we need it to be yet. In order to win championships you have to have that, you have to be one cohesive team. I’m not saying we’re not. I’m saying it has to get better in order for us to accomplish what we want to accomplish.”

Charles Henderson doesn’t lose a single coach from the runner-up staff last season, which is huge for the 2023 team and the program as a whole

“For kids to see the same faces each year means a lot,” Hambrite said of keeping his staff together. “Most importantly, when a coach leaves, a part of that kid leaves, too. They put their heart into them with everything they do. When you have that consistency on a staff it means a lot to them and it means a lot to the program.”

Hambrite isn’t shy about the goals the Trojans have for 2023.

“Every year the goal is the same,” Hambrite flatly said. “Win the first game, you win that first game you start off the year hot. If you win the region, you’re a No. 1 seed. Then, you have to whin the playoffs. Last season, we almost won the playoffs but came up one game short. Winning the playoffs includes winning the state championship.

“Hopefully, our guys will make it back there and finish the job, but it’s all according to His word and His will and what He wants from us. That’s the plan, though, that’s the goal. We’re striving our best every day to get there. I don’t expect us to come up short, because that’s not my mentality. We want to win it all, that’s the ultimate goal.”

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Class: 5A

Region: 2

Region opponents: Carroll, Eufaula, Greenville, Headland, Rehobeth

2022 record: 12-2

Last region title: 2022

Last playoff game: 2022 State championship: 1980

Stadium: Veterans Memorial Stadium

CHHS Schedule

Looking Back: Wins by Year

2019: 4 2020: 1 2021: 2 2022: 12


CHHSTrojans Inside the Helmet

Who did you look up to growing up?

“Growing up my cousin Austin Ingram. I wanted to be just like him and my brother, too.”

What are your goals for this season?

“The same as last year, trying to win the region. We’re going to try our best to win the playoffs and change the outcome (from last year). Personal goal is just to try and excel as best as I can.”

What do you love most about football?

“There’s nothing like scoring touchdowns on a Friday night and hearing your fans cheer for you and see the little kids cheering, as well. After you play a good game and you walk up to such a great fan base congratulating you, and seeing little kids want to throw and take pictures with you, there’s no better felling than that.”

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Date Opponent
xx xx xx xx xx xx xx Aug. 25 Aug. 31 Sept. 8 Sept. 15 Sept. 22 Sept. 29 Oct. 13 Oct. 20 Oct. 27
Parker Adams Mary-Montgomery Greenville Carroll Beauregard St. James Rehobeth Eufaula Selma
Head Coach - Quinn Hambrite Anthony Martin Pike County (Jamboree)
Deandre Austin Macon Chandler Marcus Jones
Micah Yance Markeis Hornsby Shannon Powell Scott Graham Tyree Reed
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AJ Johnson Alex Frigge Antonio Frazier Benton Dunn Blake Lowery Brandon Givens Braylon Banks Carrell Gilcrest Carter Ford Cedric Brown CL Siler Demond Williams Dertavious Lee Deshawn Burden Donnivin McClain Dunn Lindsey Elijah McQueen Elijah Warren Jabari Seymore Jackson Jones Jacob Burkey Jake Rogers Jalen Suddith Jamal Downing Javier Ormino Jaylyn Jackson Josh Daniels Justin Wright Jywon Boyd Kameron Johnson Kellen Stewart Keyontae Davis Kingston Sharp Nik Peerson Noah Greene Parker Adams Quay Grimes Savon Fenn Sincere McKinney Sterling Sharp Taumarii Brantley Terrance Thomas TK Kelly Ty Cunningham Wil Walker Zach Coleman Zamir Caffie Zarion Mack Zion Grady
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The Catch 2023 15 The Mayor, City Council Members and City of Brundidge wish the PCHS Bulldogs great success in this year's season in season Go Bulldogs! 146 South Main St. • Brundidge, AL 36010 • 334.735.2385 City Manager: Willie Wright • Always here for you At South Alabama Electric Cooperative, we understand the value of a solid base hit, a three-pointer, or a new set of downs. No matter the sport, we consider it a privilege to power our local teams and provide safe, reliable and affordable energy. Helping our communities grow and thrive starts with investment in today’s youth. They will become tomorrow’s leaders.
Markelis Hobdy


The Pike County Bulldogs returned to form in 2022, getting back to the playoffs and making a run all the way to the third round.

In Mark Hurt’s first year at the helm of his alma mater, the Dawgs went from zero wins in 2021 to eight in 2022. Pike County also boasted a number of star players, like current Marshall defensive back Ian Foster, who earned All-State and All-Messenger honors last season.

Pike County took that success in the 2022 season and rolled it into even more success in the spring after beating Class 6A’s Sydney Lanier in the spring football game.

“I thought that (win) was big for us,” Hurt said. “I think we have to have the mindset to go out and compete against any and all opponents we face and I thought it was good that we got behind and then settled down and started to play our style of football. “

The Bulldogs carried the momentum into summer workouts.

“I thought we did well,” Hurt said of the summer. “I think we definitely did better than what we did last year. We have another year of experience. Some of our younger guys haven’t been able to be at everything, which made our depth not be where we wanted it to be, but we’re just glad to get the work in and get that experience.

“I think the biggest thing right now is communication and making sure that we understand our assignments and what to do. Physically, I think we’re good and we’re faster and bigger and stronger. It’s about the mental aspect right now and making sure we know those assignments and what to do and the expectations of what we’re trying to do with this program.”

Hurt said after one week of fall camp there was still plenty to work on.

“Things are going well but we still have a lot of things we have to work on,” Hurt said. “I see some improvement in some areas but we have to see some improvements in some other areas.”

Hurt pointed to fundamentals as one of the key things that the Dawgs are focusing on in fall camp.

“Offensively, we have to know what to do and getting the timing of everything down,” Hurt said. “Defensive wise, we’re working on getting our fits straight and knowing how to line up and working on those little things. We’re still working on the basics. This is the second year in the program for most of these guys, so I think we’re a little further along than we were last year

at this time but we still have plenty to work on.”

The loss of Foster is a significant one as he was a leader in all three phases of the game. Hurt is looking to his seniors to fill the void in leadership.

“I’m really looking to my senior class,” Hurt emphasized. “Markelis Hobdy, Omari Barrow, Ky’ori McKinnon, Thomas Countryman, (Joseph) Wilkerson, that senior group that got that experience last year have to step up and lead. We also want some of our younger guys like (Bubba) and (Nemo) Williams, Quintavious Carter, Khalil Foster and Braylin Jackson. All of those guys have experience and we’re looking for them to step into a leadership role and take that next step forward to being good leaders and great players.”

Replacing Foster’s production on the field won’t be easy but Nemo Williams returns from an All-Messenger season that saw him rush for nearly 1,000 yards along with 18 tackles-for-loss and eight sacks on defense. Leading tackler Hobdy (104 TKL, 19 TFL, 3 INT) and offensive lineman Joseph Wilkerson are other All-Messenger returners. Sophomore receiver Braylin Jackson also made an impact in the spring and summer and has already received attention from college scouts.

“Ian was just different, his production is hard to replace,” Hurt said. “These guys have to share that load. We can’t expect one guy to do what he did. That’s not realistic. Also, if we can spread it around and have more players making plays that means you can’t just focus on one guy, which can benefit us, too.

“Everyone has to step up, we’re not looking for 1-2 guys to make plays. Everyone has to contribute and we have to become a team and family oriented.”

While Pike County returned to form last season, Hurt is looking for more this season.

“Our goals are to win,” he flatly said. “Everyone wants to win, that’s always on top of the board. We want to win but we also want to become better leaders and teammates. We want to get the community even more involved and enjoy coming to games on Friday nights.

“Our ultimate goal is to win a championship but that is a process. You have to take those steps to get to the smaller goals to be able to reach those larger goals. We want to win, be competitive, limit mistakes and just play great football and develop good character and leadership.”

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Class: 3A

Region: 2

Region opponents:

Straughn, Ashford, Northside

Methodist, Opp, New Brockton, Providence Christian, Daleville, Houston Academy

2022 record: 8-4

Last region title: 2019

Last playoff game: 2022

State Championship: 1988, 1989, 2003, 2005, 2006

Stadium: Bulldog Stadium (Brundidge, Ala.)

PCHS Schedule


Aug. 25

Sept. 1

Sept. 8

Sept. 15

Sept. 22

Sept. 29

Oct. 6

Oct. 13

Oct. 20

Oct. 27

Nov. 3


Charles Henderson (Jamboree)



Northside Methodist Opp*


New Brockton*

Providence Christian* OPEN


Houston Academy*



Omari Barrow

Inside the Helmet

Who did you look up to growing up?

My grandfather, Emmanuel Key. He’s passed away but he was my other father figure. I looked up to him all my life, he taught me how to act, taught me about the church and taught me how to treat others and how to try and be a leader in all things.

What are your goals for this season?

My goals for this year are to be able to step up and be there for my teammates and let them know we have it, and just keep on working hard and believe in each other.

What do you love most about football?

I love the aspects of the game, the competitiveness and the brotherhood you have with your teammates. It’s just an amazing sport.

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Looking Back: Wins by Year
6-5 2021: 0-9
Head Coach Mark Hurt Aaron Young Brandon Wilson Dedrick Sumpter Doug Holland Janesky Fleming Joey Denison Johnny Doster Walter Prichard Marcus Bryant Rodderic Griffin Rodriguez Hudson Thurstin Lee Joseph Suber


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Alex Xiquin Alex English Antonio Patterson Armani Brown Armani Wingard Arturo Perez Hernandez Ben Patterson Braylin Jackson Charleston Moore Cornelius Griffin Jr. Diwonne Williams Elijah Cotton Gavin Mortellaro Hezakie Rumph Isaiah Pittman Isiah Lampley Jakobie McKinney Jakori Green Jamarcus Franklin Jamarcus Williams Markelis Hobdy Massai Lucy Massion Reynolds Noah Cox Omari Barrow Quentavian Carter Randy Xiquin Renardo Boyd DeAndre Sweeney Deangelo Smith Jamaris Campbell Jamious Williams Kyron Wilkerson Logan Lucy Robert Brogdon Thomas Countryman Zack Evans Jayon Slater Josh Stanley Justice Toney Kamauri Brown Kameron Christian Kason Wilkerson Khalil Foster Kimari Green Kobe RogersWallace Ky’ori McKinnon Mark Griffin Jaquavion Slater Diquonne Williams
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Kade Brookins


Pike Liberal Arts Football has gone through a turbulent past two years but is looking to a veteran face to bring consistency to the program.

William Moguel is entering his first season as head football coach at PLAS and his first season as a head football coach, in general.

“It’s a blessing and a privilege,” Moguel said of taking over at PLAS. “This is a great place to work and we have a great group of kids here. The guys I get to work with every day are great guys that work hard and show up every day ready to work and you can’t ask for much more than that.”

Moguel is in his second year on the staff at PLAS, serving as offensive line and defensive line coach last season. He was in line to serve as defensive coordinator this season before former head coach Philip Coggins resigned during the summer so he could be with his family.

Moguel is a New Brockton native that graduated from Troy University before joining the U.S. Marine Corps. He is a 25-year coaching veteran, having served as an assistant basketball and football coach at various programs in the state. He served as an assistant coach on Charles Henderson’s 2013 state runner-up team and was head basketball coach at Pike County High School in 2010. Moguel served as an offensive line coach on two state championship teams at Elba in 2011 and 2015. He has also served on the staffs of Geneva, Headland, Daleville, New Brockton and Dale County High Schools during his career. In 2007, while at Geneva, he was named the ALFCA Class 3A Assistant Coach of the Year.

Pike’s coaching staff also includes young coaches like former PLAS and Troy football players Max Copeland and Dacoda McConnell. Will Austin will also be serving on the coaching staff once again. Moguel isn’t the only veteran on the staff, however. New basketball coach Johnny Mitchell brings nearly three decades of coaching experience with him. Mitchell was a head coach at Kinston for one year but has also been a highly successful assistant coach throughout the Wiregrass. He won Class 2A Assistant Coach of the Year during his time on the staff at Goshen and spent nearly a decade as the offensive coordinator at Highland Home, a title he will now carry at PLAS. Also new to the staff is longtime veteran coach Steve Whitaker, having served as an assistant coach at Bullock County, Bullock Memorial, New Brockton and Enterprise High Schools. He will coach the outside linebackers at PLAS.

The Pike Patriots are entering their second year of AHSAA Football after a tough first year. Moguel believes the adversity the Patriots have gone through over the past two years will help build for the future.

“We’re building a toughness, a tough mentality, here,” Moguel said. “These kids have been through a lot the last couple of years and we’re trying to build on that tough mentality. They’ve been

through so much but they just let it roll off their backs and keep working.

“Stuff happens to these kids and they hurt and then move on and keep rolling. That’s the one part of their mentality we don’t have to worry about. They don’t hold onto anything, they just go out there and do what they need to do.”

While Moguel is focused on developing a young offensive line, he’s also excited about the skill players the Patriots return.

“We’re starting out with a really good junior bunch this year,” Moguel said. “Dawson Bradford, our quarterback, is a good player and we have a bunch of good skill guys that have played like Jackson Booth and Kade Brookins. On defense, Jack Baggett has been really good, KC Morgan is another leader there. A lot of those guys had to play young last year with that brutal schedule we had, which will help them this year.”

As Moguel and his staff look to continue to rebuild a once dominant football program, he says discipline is the foundation.

“We stress discipline and that goes further than just not doing stupid stuff, you also have to be mentally tough,” he said. “We want to be able to go out and compete and get better each week and just see what happens. I want the kids to have fun, because if you’re not having fun doing what you’re doing then you don’t need to be doing it.

“As coaches, we have to keep them upbeat and attentive and excited about coming to work everyday. That’s the biggest thing, we want to get better every week. Wins and losses are important but if we’re getting better and building this thing – we’re basically rebuilding a program here – then by the time we get to playing in a region (next year) I fully expect us to be competitive.”

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PLAS Patriots


Class: 2A

Region: 0

Region opponents: n/a

2022 record: 3-6

Last region title: 2021

Last playoff game: 2021

State Championship: 2008, 2009, 2020, 2021 (AISA)

Stadium: Dewight Ward Field (Troy, Ala.)

PLAS Schedule

Date Opponent

Aug. 25 @ Zion Chapel

Sept. 1 @ Bayside Academy

Sept. 8 OPEN

Sept. 15 vs. Port St. Joe (Fla.)

Sept. 22 @ Notasulga

Sept. 29 @ FAMU (Fla.)

Oct. 6 @ Lighthouse (Ga.)

Oct. 13 vs. Liberty County (Fla.)

Oct. 20 vs. Marianna (Fla.)

Oct. 27 vs. Baker (Fla.)

Nov. 3 @ Calhoun

Inside the Helmet

Dawson Bradford

Who did you look up to growing up? I always looked up to Aaron Rodgers as a role model. I always thought he was really good, playing the position that I play.

What do you like most about football? Probably the competitive side of it, knowing you’re playing the guy going up against you and you have to do everything you can to try and beat him.

What are your goals for this season? Just to go out and compete at a high level with all the teams we play and try to win some games.

Looking Back: Wins by Year

2020: 10-2 (AISA)

2021: 12-1 (AISA)

2022: 3-6

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Head Coach William Moguel Dacoda McConnell Johnny Mitchell Max Copeland Steve Whittaker Will Austin


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Aaron Ward Brayden Pyron Christian Cobb Dawson Bradford Jack Baggett Jackson Booth Jackson Mitchell Kade Brookins Kasey Morgan Michael Vaughan Rhodes Baker Robert Lindsey Tanner Tyson Weston Garrett Will Scott Wilson Cotton
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Always here for you

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Jamari McClure


After winning a total of one combined game the previous two seasons, the Goshen Eagles bounced back to win six, narrowly missing the playoffs, in 2022. The Eagles are back and looking to return to the playoffs.

Goshen went into the final month of the season with a 5-2 record last year but went 1-2 in the final three games, missing the playoffs. That fact is not lost on the Eagles.

“We’re focusing on finishing and giving full effort all of the time,” Goshen Coach Don Moore said. “When it’s time to go full speed, we go full speed. Discipline is a big thing. We’re going to challenge our guys mentally and physically during fall camp to get us where we need to be. That’s our biggest challenge, that mental toughness.”

Moore is looking to a solid group of seniors to lead the way this season.

“We have a good amount of leaders this season; Jamauri McClure and Jayden McNabb are key leaders,” Moore said. “Cody Kilpatrick is emerging as a leader and William Lampley is another guy we’re looking to as a leader and to push our guys. We have a few good guys on this team that I think have had a light switch flip on about how good we could possibly be. It just depends on that effort and discipline we’re looking for.”

After not playing as a sophomore, running back Jamauri McClure returned to the team in 2022 and exploded onto the scene with 1,173 yards and 16 touchdowns rushing along with 354 yards and seven touchdowns receiving. McClure earned All-State and All-Messenger honors and after wowing college teams with his speed in the spring, eventually committed to play college football at the University of South Alabama.

“He’s put on 15 pounds of muscle and gained two inches since last year and has gotten faster with it,” Moore said of McClure. “His work ethic is crazy. He takes such good care of his body and is really mature when it comes to those types of things. He knows how big the weight room is and busts his tail and leads by example in there.

“He’s a guy that never skips a workout, he’s always working. I think that’s one of the biggest things that people have seen with him.”

Another player that exploded last season for Goshen was junior Szemerick Andrews, who tallied 878 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground, along with 55 tackles and eight tackles-for-loss on defense.

“I love that kid. He is such a football player,” Moore said of Andrews. “You can talk about some guys that are a running back

or linebacker or a receiver or whatever but he is a football player. As a coach, you love those guys because you can put them anywhere and they’ll succeed.

“He’s so tough, mentally and physically. He isn’t very big but plays a lot bigger than his size. We have some special things for him this year. Every year he’s gotten better. You’re talking about a guy that has started since his ninth grade year, so his football knowledge and experience is well above some of our older guys just because of how long he’s played.”

Goshen will have to replace its starting quarterback and senior Jayden McNabb is expected to take over at that role.

“Jayden lets us run the ball a little more at the quarterback position,” Moore said. “He’s a little bit thicker than (Peyton) Stamey was last year, so he can run between the tackles a little more. Just seeing the small sample size we’ve seen so far, he’s pretty poised in the pocket and doesn’t get rattled real easy.

“That’s a big thing for a quarterback, because you have to be that leader at all times and he builds confidence in the guys knowing he can make the throw. He also doesn’t get onto guys when they miss a catch, he picks them up instead.”

After winning just one game in the previous two years combined, Goshen found success on the gridiron once again in 2022. Moore isn’t satisfied yet, however.

“Last year was a somewhat successful year just because of how the previous couple of years went but we don’t want to be satisfied with that,” said Moore. “That’s our biggest thing, we don’t want to be complacent with being satisfied with that. We want more. That’s one of the biggest hurdles we have to get over to be able to do something these guys haven’t done yet by getting Goshen back to where it’s supposed to be; in the playoffs.”

The playoffs, Moore says, is the biggest goal this season.

“We have some team goals that we don’t really want to put out there but for us, we want to build off what we did last year,” he emphasized. “We were knocking on the door some games to be able to get into the playoffs but we faltered at the end because of not being in that situation before and not being able to finish. That’s been one of our biggest issues, being able to finish every game.

“If we stay mentally tough and locked in when that time comes, we’ll be able to get into the playoffs. That’s our main goal. We feel like we have a team that can do that but we have to go out there and show it because we aren’t going to be able to sneak up on anyone this year.”

The Catch 2023 29

Class: 2A

Region: 3

Region opponents: Highland Home, Reeltown, LaFayette, Barbour County, Luverne, Lanett, Horseshoe Bend

2022 record: 6-4

Last region title: 2017

Last playoff game: 2019

State Championship: n/a Stadium: Eagle Stadium (Goshen, Ala.)

GHS Schedule


Aug. 25

Sept. 1

Sept. 8

Sept. 15

Sept. 22

Sept. 29

Oct. 6

Oct. 13

Oct. 20

Oct. 27

Nov. 3

*Region game



Zion Chapel

Highland Home*

Reeltown* LaFayette*


Barbour County* Luverne*



Inside the Helmet

AJ Brown

Who did you look up to growing up?

The person I looked up to growing up is definitely my dad. He has been my coach since I was little and has always been the person teaching and helping me get better at football and

What are your goals for this season?

My personal goals for this season are I want to have the most pancake (blocks) on the offensive line, not let the defensive line get one sack and win. My team goals are for us to go undefeated, score at least 50 points every game and win a state cham-

undefeat cham

Horseshoe Bend

Lanett OPEN

What do you love most about football?

I love the competitiveness of it and just doing something with friends that is not being on the game or on the phone. It is also more fun than baseball to play.

30 The Catch 2023
Back: Wins by Year
2022: 6-4
Don Moore Head Football Coach Chad Sander Corbin Stew Jabronski Williams Mike Wilcoxin Richard Ballard Walter Brown Tony Carter Head Boys Basketball Coach Wendell Jackson Head Baseball Coach Brian Alewine Digger Kimbro Miller Adair


The Catch 2023 31
William Daughtry
Jamari McClure Kamauri Lampley Szemerick Andrews KDavion Bistow Tyler McLendon Jayden McNabb Jadarius Burney Jerbauri Williams JC Thompson Zymarian Osborne Jaylon Vinson Landon Chandler Josh Terry Sam Adams Jamauri Flowers Mason Adair Layton Burgans JD Tillery Nehemiah Bedgood Jaden Williams Zion Picatoste Christion Simmons Tristan Andrews Jacoby Brunson Marquavious Coleman Cody Kilpatrick George Crawley Cody Boyett Jacoby Richardson AJ Brown
32 The Catch 2023
The Catch 2023 33 101 S 3 Notch St, Troy, AL 36081 GOOD LUCK THIS SEASON! (334) 566-2644
Caden Collier


The Ariton Purple Cats are coming off their second straight 10win season but are still looking for more.

The 2022 Ariton squad fell in the second round of the playoffs in heartbreaking fashion to Highland Home. That game still sticks with the Purple Cats.

“We felt like we had a team that was much better than the second round and had a terrible matchup in the second round with Highland Home and sort of gave it away there at the end,” Ariton coach Steven Kilcrease said. “The season sort of ended on a sour note and our kids want to redeem themselves. They went to work immediately after that. We generally give them a couple of weeks off after the season but they were ready to get to work the next week.”

That work carried over from the spring into the summer.

“We had a really good summer,” Kilcrease said. “We lost a lot of our skill guys from last year. We like the guys we have this year but we’re just not as experienced there. We spent all summer trying to get those guys up to speed and figuring out what fits us best.”

Everything on offense starts with senior athlete Ian Senn. The multi-sport athlete has played numerous positions – on both sides of the field – for the Purple Cats. Last season, he completed 50-of86 pass attempts for 882 yards and 16 touchdowns at quarterback, while rushing for 289 yards and three more scores. At receiver, he caught 19 passes for 343 yards and six touchdowns. Despite all the success on offense, he also earned All-State honors at defensive back after totalling five interceptions, three fumble recoveries and 21 pass breakups.

“Ian is a great athlete,” Kilcrease flatly said. “He’s tough to defend on the outside and is an extremely good cornerback on the other side of the ball. He played quarterback for us from his eighth grade year on but we moved him to receiver some last year and he just excelled there.”

Quarterback will be an intriguing position for the Purple Cats as the coaching staff hopes that another player can step up there, so Senn can be utilized elsewhere.

“We know we have Ian but his brother, Addison Senn, has had a really good summer at quarterback,” Kilcrease said. “He’s a ninth grader – and played some last year – and has a really strong arm. We’re hoping that works out because that allows us to do some things with Ian that we haven’t been able to do as much of. Also, Lawson Leger and Caden Collier are working there some.”

Along with Ian Senn, Kilcrease is looking forward to seeing some of his other veteran leaders step up.

“Lawson Leger is a kid that’s come back onto the team,” he said. “He didn’t play last year but started for us as a sophomore. Myles Tyler started for us last year and is also back along with Luis Lagunes, another senior. We really have a good group of seniors

coming back, especially up front.”

Kilcrease also pointed to some younger players that he’s excited to see in 2023.

“Tristan McGuire is a kid that I’m excited about. He played last year and has really worked hard and has waited his turn,” he said. “He had a really good summer and fall camp on both sides of the ball. Another kid that has come out for the first time is Caden Collier.

“He plays shortstop on the baseball team and is still learning football but we’re excited to have him out. Jaden Caple had a great summer at receiver and he’s as good athletically as we’ve ever had. He’s really stepped it up this summer.”

The Purple Cats are typically a “spread” offense but Kilcrease said that changes with what best fits his team.

“I’m a believer in sort of having our terminology and sticking with it but doing what best fits the team,” he said. “In our seven years year we’ve probably started every year in the ‘spread’ but 3-4 years have ended up somewhere else whether it be in the ‘double wing’ or ‘wishbone’ or something like that.

“In those years our strengths were on the offensive line and I think this year our strength has a chance to be on the offensive line again. I still thing we’ll be ‘spread’ but we’ll do what works best and fits best.”

After the frustration at the end of 2022, the Purple Cats are hungry to get back and advance further in the playoffs.

“We want to win the region again; that’s the goal,” Kilcrease said. “That’s the mindset from our seniors. That’s the first goal and then we want to advance in the playoffs.”

The Catch 2023 35



Class: 2A

Region: 2

Region opponents: Wicksburg, Samson, Zion Chapel, GW Long, Geneva County, Cottonwood, Abbeville

2022 record: 10-2

Last region title: 2022

Last playoff game: 2022

State Championship: n/a

Stadium: Robert F. Zumstein

Stadium (Ariton, Ala.)

Ian Senn

Who did you look up to growing up?

Inside the Helmet


Aug. 25

Sept. 1

Sept. 8

Sept. 15

Sept. 22

Sept. 29

Oct. 6

Oct. 13

Oct. 20

Oct. 27

Nov. 3


Dale County

Highland Home

Geneva County *

GW Long *

Zion Chapel *


Cottonwood *

Abbeville *

Wicksburg * Samson * OPEN

Looking Back: Wins by Year

2020: 5-6

2021: 10-2

2022: 10-2

My parents, of course, but in sports I really look up to Michael Jordan in basketball and Patrick Maholmes and DeVonta Smith in football.

What do you like most about football?

It’s different than every other game. You don’t have to be the best athlete to be good at football. There are 11 people on the field with you and if you play together then you can be good even if you’re not a great athlete

What are your goals for this season?

We want to win a state championship, that’s the biggest goal. We lost a lot of guys but if we can come together as a team and make it a brotherhood and have fun that’s another goal.

36 The Catch 2023
Anderson Hembree Bob Pickett Jackson Baker Jason Howell Maddux Herring Nate Hagler Phillip Quincey Steven Kilcrease Taylor Polk Wes Alums


The Catch 2023 37
Addison Senn Asa Thompson Barrett Hilburne Barrett Silavent Bowen Jones Brady Walters Brennan Diehl Brody Joyce Brody Kelly Bryce Johnson Bryce Odom Bryson Messer Caden Collier Connor Davidson Corde Scott Deshawn Bullocks DiQuarius Knight Gabe Jones Grant Davis Hayden Cabrera Hayden Griffin Hobie Peavy Hunter Holmes Ian Senn Jackson Bright Jacob Schonter Jaden Caple Jamariion Govan Jared Schonter Jeremiah Davis Jesse Pelham John David Littlefield Josh Senn Lawson Leger Luis Lagunes Myles Tyler Preston Fralish Tate Kilcrease Trevor Johnston Trevor McLaughlin Trey Connell Trey Peavy Tristan McGuire Tucker Woodham Zavieon Scott Jackson Adcock


After winning just two games combined in the previous two seasons, the Zion Chapel Rebels rallied to win three in 2022 under first year-head coach Cody Keene.

Keene inherited a Rebel program that hadn’t won a playoff game – or region championship – since 1979 and had just one winning season since 2012. Despite some injuries to key players last season, the Rebels more than doubled their win total from 2021. Also, multiple Rebels earned football scholarships in the postseason, an accomplishment that hadn’t been reached in Jack for a number of years.

The Rebels hit the ground running in the spring and summer to get ready for the 2023 season.

“Summer was good,” Keene said. “We got a chance to compete at the end of the summer, which is something we don’t do a whole lot of in the summer. We mainly focus on the weights and conditioning and our guys continue to get better and stronger, which is a plus. I was pleased with the summer overall.”

Zion Chapel will lose a number of players from last year’s team –especially across the offensive and defensive lines – but also returns some veterans, as well. Zion Chapel sophomore linebacker Brayden Benbow (80 TKL, 7.0 TFL, 3 sacks) and defensive back Jackson Adcock (32 TKL, 4 INT) both earned All-Messenger honors last season and both are back in 2023. Also, quarterback Mason Stuart – who suffered a season-ending injury in week two – is back for his senior season.

“We have a smaller group of seniors this season but I expect those guys to lead the way,” Keene said. “I’m really expecting those guys to take on that leadership role. Malachi McNeil has done a good job with that and Mason Stuart is continuing to grow into a leadership role and earn the trust of his teammates. Hayden Speckert and Jackson Adcock are doing a good job as leaders. We want the younger kids to continue grow but those older guys are expected to lead the way.”

Keene is also excited about Benbow and his other rising sophomores.

“This sophomore group as a whole continues to grow physically, which has been impressive,” Keene said. “I want them to continue to mature with a lot of them coming onto varsity full-time and not being with (junior varsity) anymore. I’ve been really pleased with the physicality of that group.”

The Rebels have had to deal with the heat as fall camp began.

“I think it’s probably a different kind of heat that we haven’t seen in awhile,” Keene said. “We’ve had to do some adjusting with that but it’s been good. I’ve been pleased with our effort. The attention to detail has to get better and our maturity has to improve. We have a young team that has to continue to mature in the way we go out

and do our business.”

Along with young players, Keene’s coaching staff is also relatively young. For that reason, he decided to bring a familiar veteran on board in his father, Charles Keene. The elder Keene will serve as defensive coordinator this season, bringing more than 30 years of coaching experience to the staff.

“He’s made us a lot more experienced as a staff,” Keene said of the addition of his father. “We have some really young guys on the staff that do a great job but I was the only guy on over the age of 30. He brings an experience of someone that’s been around ball with 30+ years of experience – 27 or 28 of that as a head coach –and that is invaluable.”

While the Rebels want to continue to add more wins to the total this season, Keene says the main focus is to continue to improve.

“We were better last year than the year before and we’re younger this season but I think we’re stronger,” Keene said. “We want to continue to lay the hammer down and let folks know they’ve played a ball game on Friday nights when they us, no matter the outcome. Don’t worry about the outcome, worry about the things that are in front of you and everything else will fall into place.”

The Catch 2023 39

ZCHS Rebels


Class: 2A

Region: 2

Region opponents: Wicksburg, Samson, Ariton, GW Long, Geneva County, Cottonwood, Abbeville

2022 record: 3-7

Last region title: 1979

Last playoff game: 2019 State Championship: n/a

Stadium: Greene Memorial Stadium (Jack, Ala.)

ZCHS Schedule

Date Opponent

Aug. 25 vs. Pike Liberal Arts

Sept. 1 @Goshen

Sept. 8 vs. Wicksburg *

Sept. 15 vs. Samson *

Sept. 22 vs. Ariton *

Sept. 29 @Pleasant Home

Oct. 5 @GW Long *

Oct. 13 @Geneva County *

Oct. 20 vs. Cottonwood *

Oct. 27 @Abbeville *

Nov. 3 OPEN

*Region game

Looking back: Wins by year

2020: 1-9

2021: 1-9

2022: 3-7

Inside the Helmet

Mason Stuart

Who did you look up to growing up? Tim Tebow.

What are your goals for this season? Improve on what we did last year and make it through the season and have a good year and hopefully make it to the playoffs.

What do you love most about football? It’s a getaway. You can get out here and keep everything inside your helmet and just play football and get away from everything else.

40 The Catch
HEad Coach Cody Keen Charles Keen Ethan Deal Allen Foster Lorenzo Pennington Joey McCrory Josh O’Neal


The Catch 2023 41
Aiden Henley Austin Sikes Bobby Rhodes Brayden McCarty Brodie Davis Connor Lee Dylan Davis Gage Wambles Hayden Speckart Jackson Adcock Jackson Dowdy Jaxon Tidwell Jeremiah Stinson Joeb Bradley John Foster Hamm Jonathan Treadway Joseph LeGear Kaleb Johnson Kavon Brown Kayden Odore Layton McCollough Malachi McNeil Marcus Harrison Mason Stuart Micah Fuller Nick Howell Peyton Davis Shane Parks Weston Watson Wyatt Nugent Zack Banks Zack English Zack Nelson
42 The Catch 2023
The Catch 2023 43
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Troy quarterback

Gunnar Watson is one of Troy’s returning leaders this season.


The Troy Trojans are looking to repeat as Sun Belt Champions in 2023 for the first time since 2009.

Troy is coming off one of the most successful seasons for the Trojans since the move to Division I in 1993. Troy won 12 games, the most wins since 1996, and won the school’s first SBC Crown since 2017 and first bowl win since 2018.

Year two under head coach Jon Sumrall brings a number of mysteries with new coaches and new players throughout the program. Defensive coordinator Shiel Wood and offensive line coach Cole Popovich are no longer with the program. Stepping into their roles are veteran defensive coordinator Greg Gasparato and offensive line coach Joe Bernardi.

“I love both of them and the style (of coaching) and energy they bring,” Sumrall said. “Greg comes from the same system and same structure of what we’ve been doing. He comes from the same family, the same (coaching) tree, if you will, of defensive lineage.

“So, none of our terminology (on defense) is changing. Joe Bernardi is a very similar thing, too. He comes from the same background of what we were doing here, too. There’s not a lot of change in regards to how we do things but I do love the energy that both of them bring and they’re both really good recruiters.”

The Trojans also lose a number of key players on both sides of the ball. All-Sun Belt offensive linemen Austin Stidham and Jake Andrews are gone along with All-Sun Belt receivers RaJae’ Johnson and Tez Johnson. On the defensive side, Troy must replace All-Sun Belt nose tackle Will Choloh, linebacker KJ Robertson, safety Craig Slocum Jr., defensive lineman Shakel Brown and the all-time FBS tackles leader Carlton Martial. Making matters even tougher is the fact that transfer safety Reggie Bracy and All-Sun Belt defensive end TJ Jackson were both suspended at the

beginning of fall camp.

Still, Troy returns key players at a number of key positions along with bringing in a slew of new, hungry faces on both sides of the ball. One of those returners on offense is veteran quarterback Gunnar Watson.

“He’s been a stud. He’s absolutely owned being a leader and leading himself, but also impacting everyone else the right way,” Sumrall said of Watson. “I’m fired up about what he’s doing. He’s playing and preparing and practicing like a guy that came back for his sixth year. He’s on a mission and I’m really thrilled about the direction he’s headed.”

Also back this season is All-Sun Belt running back Kimani Vidal (1,132 yards and 10 TDs in 2022) and a stable of running backs that includes former Memphis star Asa Martin and Troy veteran Damien Taylor. At receiver, Dothan native Jabre Barber is back after missing much of 2022 with a foot injury.

“He’s the workhorse out there (at receiver),” Sumrall said of Barber. “He’s extremely dependable and reliable and also very dynamic and is an outstanding teammate. When we lost him in the middle of the year I think it took our offense a couple of weeks to figure out how to move forward, because we built so much around him. “He was the most consistent and explosive player in our offense. I’m really fired up to have him back and the sky’s the limit to what he can accomplish.”

On the offensive line, Troy returns veteran starters Grant Betts, Daniel King and Derrick Graham. Both King and Betts started all 14 games at right guard and right tackle, respectively. Already turning heads this fall has been Oklahoma State transfer center Eli Russ.

Other key transfers on the offensive side include junior college (JUCO) transfer offensive tackle Elijah Philipe (6-foot-7inches, 300 pounds) and Auburn transfer offensive tackle Colby Smith (6-foot-8-inch-

es, 341 pounds) along with JUCO transfer tight end Ethan Conner, former Kentucky receiver Chris Lewis, former Wofford receiver and punter Landon Parker and JUCO transfer offensive lineman Boaz Stanley.

On the defensive side, Troy returns veterans like All-Sun Belt edge rushers Javon Solomon and Richard Jibunor along with linebackers Jayden McDonald and Terry Thomas, All-Sun Belt cornerback Reddy Steward and safety Dell Pettus. The Trojans have also brought in plenty of new faces on defense, including former FCS All-American safety Irshaad Davis, JUCO All-American defensive end Raymond Cutts, JUCO All-American linebacker Steven Cattledge and former Louisville defensive end Zach Edwards.

The Trojans have a tough schedule to navigate in 2023. After opening the season on Sept. 2 against Setphen F. Austin – on DeMarcus Ware Day – the Trojans will then travel to Manhattan, Kan., to face off against No. 16-ranked Kansas State. Troy then hosts James Madison and Western Kentucky for back-to-back tough home games.

Back on the road, Troy plays Georgia State on Sept. 30 before hosting Arkansas State on Oct. 7 on Homecoming. The Trojans then take the 1,100-mile trip to West Point, NY, to face off against Army on Oct. 14 before traveling the other way to face Texas State on the road on Oct. 28.

On a short week, the Trojans then host rival South Alabama on Thursday, Nov. 2, for the Battle for the Belt, which will air nationally on ESPN2. After some much needed rest, the Trojans return to the road to face Louisiana-Monroe on Nov. 11 and host the regular season home finale against Louisiana on Nov. 18. Troy closes the regular season on the road at Southern Miss on Nov. 25.

The Catch 2023 47


Don’t get sidelined. Make the RIGHT play. You are smarter and stronger than any substance.

48 The Catch 2023
The Catch 2023 49

The ‘rest of the story’ on how Pat Dye became AU’s coach

How the biggest Alabama fan ever helped Auburn turn the Tide

Like one might expect from a boy who grew up loving football, I’ve always been proud of the fact my late father played football for Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant at Alabama.

Since Dad played for Coach Bryant, I was privy to many first-person accounts of what Bryant was really like.

In short, he deserves his “legendary” stature. (To this day, I don’t know of any other figure who could simply walk into a room and the electrodes in the air seemingly changed and every person in this room could feel the presence of this person).

I’ve never written about one of my favorite Coach Bryant/Dad stories. The point of this story is that one seemingly insignificant event can have huge ripple effects in the future. It’s a variation of the theme of It’s a Wonderful Life - the events of one life affect the future lives of so many others.

This story actually had positive ramifications for the lives of all my Auburn friends.

As you’ll see, it was someone who bled Crimson (my late father) who played a pivotal role in turning the fortunes of Auburn football … decades later.

The knee injury that changed football history in my state … Dad was a talented enough college player to get drafted by the Houston Oilers. He also got selected to play in the Senior Bowl All-Star game. In that game, Dad blocked a punt and played well, but he re-injured his knee.

As it turns out, Dad was cut by the Oilers (on the final cut day).

I once asked Dad why he didn’t make the team. Dad told me his knee was never 100 percent in pre-season practices and games with the Oilers. So it was probably that knee injury that kept him from being a pro football player.

Dad didn’t seem too upset by the termination of this potential career. On other occasions, he’d told me that the game was super

violent and someone had to be either a liar or “crazy” to enjoy the contact and 110-degree practices with no water breaks.

He did enjoy the excitement and pageantry of the games, the wins and the stature that being a college football player must have brought. Plus, back then pro players didn’t get paid much.

As it turns out, Dad had a good fall-back job. He’d earned his commission in the Army via ROTC and he was assigned to Ft. Benning to serve his two years of active duty.

At Ft. Benning, Dad spent a few months serving our country … playing football. Back then, every military base had a football team, which was typically made up of former college, pro and good exhigh school players.

Dad’s best friend on the “Dough Boys” was one Pat Dye, a former All-American at Georgia. One day Dye let my Dad know he wanted to become a college coach and asked Dad to put in a word with Coach Bryant.

Dad was happy to do this. Dad wrote Coach Bryant a letter recommending Dye as an assistant coach. He even remembered one line from that letter: “Dye,” my father wrote, “reminds me of you.”

Coach Bryant later called my Dad to talk more about Dye. Long-story short, Coach Bryant hired Dye (probably based on Dad’s recommendation) and Dye became a great assistant coach at Alabama for nine years. Alabama won three national titles with Dye as an assistant and could have won one or two more.

The Tide turns …

Skip forward to 1980 and Auburn needed a head football coach. The Tigers hired Pat Dye, who’d very well as a head coach at East Carolina and Wyoming.

I have no doubt that Auburn’s braintrust would have never considered Dye as its head coach if he hadn’t been such a successful and well-known assistant for Bryant and Alabama.

When Dye was hired at Auburn, Alabama had defeated Auburn in football eight years in a row.

Auburn was mediocre and the “little sister” of football in our

50 The Catch 2023
Pat Dye

state. Or it was until the university hired Pat Dye as its football coach and athletic director.

In his second year at Auburn, Dye’s Tigers beat Alabama and Coach Bryant. Auburn was soon winning SEC titles every other year and competing for national titles.

Pat Dye, a great recruiter, was also the coach who convinced Bo Jackson to play football for Auburn … not for Coach Bryant. (He also retained Larry Blakeney as an assistant, and Auburn’s great success under Coach Dye … led to Coach Blakeney becoming head coach at … Troy).

Arguably, the most significant thing Pat Dye did for Auburn football was to move the Iron Bowl game from Birmingham to Auburn’s campus every other year.

During Dye’s tenure as Auburn coach, Auburn’s stadium was expanded from 54,000 seats to 85,000. Auburn’s stadium was now 15,000 seats larger than Alabama’s!

Partially because of its football success, Auburn’s campus enrollment surged past our state’s “capstone” university in Tuscaloosa. (Football matters … as Alabama learned when it lucked out and got Nick Saban as its coach - and saw campus enrollment rocket past Auburn’s).

The Rice family was always big fans of Pat Dye since my Dad and mother knew him very well and because Coach Dye was so important to the dynasty Coach Bryant built in Tuscaloosa in the 1960s and 1970s.

… And then the son of a gun goes to …. Auburn … and starts routinely beating “our” team!

“Leadership matters” and one man flipped the whole state. (The most important person in our state is not the governor - it’s the head coach of the Alabama or Auburn football teams).

Coach Dye didn’t stay at Auburn forever but by the time he left, Auburn knew it could compete with Alabama … because Coach Dye proved this.

Coach Bryant preached that his players and the team’s fans should “always show your class.”

Since the Rice’s of course did what Coach Bryant said, we had to take our defeats with class and give Auburn and Coach Dye their due. But that didn’t mean we had to like it.

My Dad never talked about it, but it must have occurred to him that he was the man who made it possible for Auburn to “turn the tide” in our football-obsessed state.

Anyway, If Dad doesn’t hurt his knee in that 1962 Senior Bowl … Pat Dye probably never becomes the head football coach at Auburn in 1980. Many of the precious, unforgettable victories my Auburn friends savor probably wouldn’t have happened.

Now you know the “rest of the story.” You’ve got Bill Rice, Sr. - the biggest Alabama man of them all - to thank.

The Catch 2023 51
“Compassionate car e for all of God’s creatures”
Steve Barron DVM
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