Montgomery, AL – The defending Class 4A state champion Handley Tigers will be riding a five-game winning streak heading into the AHSAA’s season-opening Kickoff Classic clash against the 5A Guntersville Wildcats at Cramton Bowl on Thursday, August 19. Class 7A Dothan will square off against Bob Jones in game two of the 16th annual Classic, Friday night.
Both games will kick off at 7 p.m. and will be televised live by the AHSAA TV Network and live-streamed over the NFHS Network with AHSAA partner WOTM TV producing both contests. Both games will also be broadcast live over the AHSAA Radio Network.
Brandon Dean, Director of the Alabama High School Athletic Directors & Coaches Association (AHSADCA) said there will be much excitement centered on these two football games, which are set to officially open the 2021 season.
“We are grateful to these strong programs for committing to this year’s AHSAA Kickoff Classic,” said Dean. “Each of these communities have very strong traditions. We look forward to seeing these two games kick off our season and look forward to watching all of our teams in the AHSAA compete this fall as we prepare to return to normal. We also thank City of Montgomery and Mayor Steven Reed for hosting this annual event. In addition, we are appreciative of WOTM, the NFHS Network, and the AHSAA Radio Network for giving us a platform to showcase our student-athletes to the rest of the state and nation.”
Handley, who is coming off a 12-1 2020 campaign capped by a 35-20 win over Gordo in the Class 4A state championship game last December, is led by senior running back Tae Alexander, who ran for 2,183 yards and 33 touchdowns in 2020. He logged 38 carries for 264 yards and four TDs in the Super 7 finals at Bryant-Denny Stadium to earn 4A MVP honors.
The state title was the third for Handley since 2011 and the second for current head coach Larry Strain, who is 47-25 in six seasons with the Tigers and 149-111 overall in 22 seasons. He also coached the Roanoke school to the 2016 state title and guided Woodland to the Class 2A state finals in 2004 and 2006. Handley’s only blemish in 2020 was a 15-14 loss to Class 5A power Central of Clay County. The storied Handley program has compiled s 547-447-28 record in 100 seasons, which includes 11 years with 10 or more wins.
Guntersville finished 10-1 last season falling to Class 5A state runner-up Pleasant Grove in the second round of the state playoffs. Head coach Lance Reese’s Wildcats set a school record for points scored (542) in 2020, surpassing the previous record of 540 set in 2006 when Guntersville finished 14-1 enroute to the Class 5A state crown. Last year’s team scored 50 or more points six times and 40 or more nine times.
Junior quarterback Cole McCarty and senior running back Logan Pate each earned All-State honors for the Cats in 2020. The storied Marshall County program has compiled a 617-406-21 record in 105 seasons with 74 of those years resulting in winning records. The 1955 team, coached by Joe Chorba, finished 10-0 and was declared state champs by the media.
Reese (89-35), who is beginning his 12th season as head coach, ranks second all-time to Chorba (100-23-6) in wins at Guntersville. He has guided the Wildcats to 10 or more wins four times since 2013.
Dothan (2-7), which opened in 2019 after Dothan City Schools merged Northview and Dothan High into one mega school, finished 8-3 that first year but struggled with COVID 19 difficulties resulting in a season-opening forfeit loss in 2020. The Wolves lost their first five games before regrouping and closing out the second half of the season with a 2-2 record.
Coach Smitty Grider, who has compiled a 121-59 career record with head-coaching stops at Central Coosa (5-5), Beauregard (64-28), Park Crossing (38-9), Hazel Green (4-7) and Dothan (10-10), has proven to be a program builder over his career. The Wolves showed plenty of promise in 2019 and closed last season averaging 30.3 points over the last four contests. He guided Park Crossing to a 13-1 season in 2018.
Bob Jones (3-7), coached by former Dothan Tigers coach Kelvis White (67-72), opened strong with two wins in the Patriots’ first three games. However, COVID 19 complications led to a pair of mid-season forfeits and the Tennessee Valley program never fully recovered.
White, who spent eight seasons (39-45) as head coach at Dothan’s previous high school, was a key assistant coach in Homewood’s domination in Class 5A in the early 2000s. The former University of Alabama standout lineman and son of Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame coach Louis White, also spent four seasons at Mae Jemison (25-20) before moving to Class 7A Bob Jones last year.
Pike Road roared from a 34-22 second-half deficit to beat Montgomery Catholic 63-34 and Prattville downed Wetumpka 40-10 in last year’s Kickoff Classic contests.
AHSAA Kickoff Classic History
Pike Road 63, Montgomery Catholic 34
Prattville 40, Wetumpka 10
Hoover 17, Central-Phenix City 14
Carver-Montgomery 18, Jeff Davis 13
Clarke County 20, Sweet Water 14
Thompson 38, James Clemens 7
Hewitt-Trussville 49, Pell City 10
Maplesville 20, Fyffe 7
Andalusia 34, Brooks 13
Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa 42, Demopolis 7
Hoover 23, Central-Phenix City 7
Bob Jones 37, Carver-Montgomery 30
Gordo 28, Glencoe 21
Madison Academy 19, Leeds 14
Spanish Fort 42, Stanhope Elmore 14
Opelika 20, Carver-Montgomery 16
Dadeville 14, Piedmont 8
Benjamin Russell 28, Walker 14
Straughn 35, Walter Wellborn 26
Bob Jones 23, Enterprise 20
Spanish Fort 33, Muscle Shoals 22
Central of Clay County 25, Beauregard 13
McGill-Toolen 27, Northridge 0
Hueytown 36, Thomasville 27
Hamilton 38, Sweet Water 35
Daphne 24, Clay-Chalkville 21
Opelika 34, Greenville 6
Auburn 30, Spain Park 3
Jackson 30, Trinity 8
Prattville 37, Carver-Montgomery 0
T.R. Miller 27, Leeds 7
Hoover 32, Oxford 27
Prattville vs. Oxford, canceled due to inclement weather
Prattville 36, North Gwinnett, Ga. 3
Hoover 38, UMS-Wright 0
Clay-County 41, Addison 6