AHSAA PLAYOFFS: Wetumpka, Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa looking for first berth in title game
By Graham Dunn
The last and only time the Wetumpka Indians were in the AHSAA semifinals, John Maddaloni was roaming the sidelines as the head coach. The likes of Jamie Winborn, Reid Tankersley and Tim Castro were suiting up.
Bill Clinton was president. The Internet was alive and well but not necessarily on your cell phone.
And current coach Tim Perry was at Alabama Christian Academy.
That was 1995. The Indians finished 13-1 with a loss to Blount at home in the Class 5A semis.
“It’s an understatement to say the folks of Wetumpka are hungry for something like this,” Perry said. “They’ve waited a long time.”
Ironically, it’s been even longer for their Class 6A semifinal opponent. Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa has suffered through a long drought and few attempts to reach the championships. The Patriots lost to Elba in the 1985 semis.
That means Friday’s matchup in the 6A semifinals (7 p.m. at Hohenburg Stadium) will give one of these two teams a chance to play for the school’s first state championship.
“I’ve coached for a championship (as an assistant at both Hoover and Spain Park) but these guys are learning about all of this and hopefully enjoying every minute of it,” Hillcrest coach Sam Adams said. “Win or lose, it’s a special time and I know they will always have a story to tell about this team and this run.”
The Indians have been an unstoppable force on offense with a quarterback – Jadarious “JD” Martin - that has a combined 3,000-plus yards of total offense. They have a running back, Kavosiey Smoke, who has more than 25 offers from Division I schools thanks mostly to his 1,299 yards and 27 touchdowns.
But that means nothing tonight. Hillcrest started the season slow at 0-2 but has reeled off impressive wins in the playoffs including against Saraland and Opelika, last year’s runner up in 6A. Defense has been the key but Adams is well aware of the task at hand for the Patriots.
“Watching them on film is scary,” Adams said of Wetumpka. “We can’t match their speed at quarterback (Jadarious Martin). Smoke is an incredible athlete. They’ve all got size and they don’t throw it much, which is what we’d rather they do.”
Hillcrest opened the season having to replace 18 starters including all-state performer Brian Robinson, who is at Alabama. Colby Smelley took over at quarterback, having taken few snaps, although Adams found out right before the opener at Oxford just how few he had taken.
“I asked him before the game if he was nervous and he said, ‘Coach, I’ve never started a game at quarterback,’” Adams said. “So we had to work through that but he has shown a lot of improvement and has played well in the playoffs.”
Wetumpka continues to score in bunches against everybody, including an impressive 69 points against almighty Spanish Fort last week. The Indians scored four touchdowns either directly or set up by the defense.
“It was a complete effort, but I’d never seen one quite like that,” Perry said. “Our guys really had a great night on defense.”
It added to the lore of the team, which is averaging 43 points per game and has scored 50 or more points four times this season.
The winner faces either Clay-Chalkville or Pinson Valley next Friday in the Class 6A championship in Tuscaloosa.