AHSAA Champions Challenge set for 2016
Six teams have been selected for the 11th annual AHSAA Champions Challenge Football Classic set for Aug. 18-20 at Cramton Bowl.
The 2016 Champions Challenge, which will kick off the 2016 prep football season, will feature one game at 7 p.m., over three nights with Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa taking on Demopolis in the Thursday night game, according to Alvin Briggs, Director of the Alabama High School Athletic Directors & Coaches Association (AHSADCA) that hosts the event each year.
Friday’s game will pit 2014 Class 7A semifinalists Hoover and Central-Phenix City, then Saturday’s game will close out the series with Andalusia against Brooks.
“We are very excited about the three games we have lined up,” Briggs said. “Each of them has storied histories and strong communities that love high school football. We thank the City of Montgomery for helping us make these games possible each year.”
Five of the six teams will be making their first appearance - Central-Phenix City, Andalusia, Brooks, Demopolis and Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa.
Hoover will be making its third appearance in the Classic, having also played in 2009 and 2006.
Hillcrest (8-4), coached by Sam Adams, reached the second round of the Class 6A state playoffs last year. The Patriots have high expectations with the return of talented running back Brian Robinson, wh0 set a new Class 6A single-game rushing record last season with 447 yards against powerful Clay-Chalkville. He is considered one of the top running back prospects in the nation in the Class of 2017. Adams, 17-8 in two seasons at Hillcrest, has compiled a 10-2 region record during that span.
Demopolis (10-3) reached the Class 5A quarterfinals in 2015 before falling to eventual state champion St. Paul’s. The Aggies are coached by Stacy Luker, who coached Sweet Water High School to five Class 1A state titles over a seven-year period from 2004-2010. Luker has a 187-74 career record. His 71.6 winning percentage is among the best in the state.
Hoover (10-3) and Central-Phenix City (9-4) each reached the 7A semifinals last year. The schools’ programs are among the most storied in Alabama prep circles and the two coaches are among the most successful.
The Bucs of Coach Josh Niblett have reached the state finals every year under his tutelage except 2015 when they reached the semifinals. Niblett, 106-11 in eight seasons at Hoover and 171-43 overall, guided Hoover to 6A state championships in 2009, 2012 and 2013 and the first AHSAA 7A title in 2014.
His teams also finished as state runner-up in 2008, 2010 and 2011. He also guided Oneonta to the state 3A title in 2004 and has coached his teams to 11 or more wins in 16 years as a head coach.
DuBose, 90-35, had head-coaching stops at Susan Moore, Prattville and Florence before taking over Central in 2014. The Red Devils are 19-6 in two seasons. DuBose served as offensive coordinator at Prattville’s 6A state championship teams in 2006 and 2007 and served as head coach for the title runs in 2008 and 2011. The Lions were runner-up in 2009.
Andalusia (11-2) and Brooks (11-2) both reached the Class 4A quarterfinals last season. Andalusia’s storied past includes 58 regular-season wins from 1973-68 with non-losing streak of 35 games, including the playoffs, during that stretch. The streak included a 7-7 tie with Athens in the 1976 Class 3A state finals with Athens.
Coach Trent Taylor moved back to his alma mater in 2015 from Straughn where he had coached for 25 seasons and compiled a 175-107 record. Taylor is 194-123, including a head-coaching stop at Kinston in 1988 and 1989. Taylor’s teams have won 76 games in the last nine seasons.
Brooks, coached by Brad Black, averaged 34.8 points per game en route to a 7-0 region record in 2015 and the Region 8 title. The Lions have gone 41-17 this decade and won nine or more games nine times since 2000.
In last year’s Champions Challenge, Madison Academy beat Leeds 19-14, Gordo downed Glencoe 28-21 and Bob Jones defeated G.W. Carver 37-33.
2016 Champions Challenge
All games scheduled for 7 p.m. at Cramton Bowl
Aug. 18 (Thur): Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa (8-4) vs. Demopolis (11-2)
Aug. 19 (Fri): Hoover (10-3) vs. Central-Phenix City (9-4)
Aug. 20 (Sat): Andalusia (11-2) vs. Brooks (11-2)