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Premier matchups selected for 17th annual AHSAA Kickoff-Classic

Montgomery, AL – Auburn, Hoover, Chelsea and Helena high schools have been selected to participate in the 2022 AHSAA Kickoff Classic hosted by the Alabama High School Athletic Directors & Coaches Association (AHSADCA).

Shelby County rivals Chelsea and Helena, will face-off in opening game of the Kickoff Classic Thursday night, August 18, at Cramton Bowl to officially open the 2022 AHSAA football season. Hoover and Auburn meet on Friday, August 19. Both games will begin at 7 p.m. and will be televised over the AHSAA TV Network and live-streamed over the NFHS Network. AHSAA TV partner WOTM TV will produce the game for the NFHS Network / AHSAA TV Network. The AHSAA Radio Network will also broadcast both contests over its statewide radio network.

“We are elated to have two games of this magnitude lined up for the 2022 Kickoff Classic,” said AHSADCA Director Brandon Dean. “We are grateful to these four schools from such strong high school sports communities for committing to this year’s event. We are looking forward to seeing these teams usher in a new season of high school athletics. “We also thank the 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 highlight our student-athletes to the rest of the state and nation.”

Helena (9-2) finished region play at 6-0 to win the Class 6A, Region 3 title in 2021. Head coach Richie Busby’s Huskies opened the season 9-0 before losing to UMS-Wright in a non-region game in week 10 and fell to Baldwin County in a 32-29 nail-biter in the first game of the Class 6A postseason.  Helena will be competing again in Class 6A in 2022.

Chelsea (4-7) also reached the Class 6A playoffs last season under the direction of fourth year head coach Dustin Goodwin. The Hornets move into Class 7A, Region 3 in 2022 in what will likely be the school’s most challenging season in program history with the likes of defending 7A state champion Thompson, Hoover, Oak Mountain, Hewitt-Trussville, Vestavia Hills, Spain Park and Tuscaloosa County as region opponents. Goodwin’s team lost four tough games to start the 2021 season – including close losses to Briarwood Christian (42-35) and Homewood (37-35) before rallying to clinch a berth in the Class 6A state playoffs with four straight region wins. The Hornets fell in the first round to Oxford 30-20.

Goodwin and Busby are both starting their  fifth seasons at their respective schools. Goodwin owns a 36-39 career coaching record with three seasons at Plainview (21-12) and four seasons at Chelsea (15-27). Busby is 69-32 overall.  He is the second head coach in Helena’s eight-year history, the Huskies are 29-15 in his tenure. He previously lead the Fultondale Wildcats (40-17) for five seasons.

Hoover (12-1), will be coached for the first time by new head coach Wade Waldrop who has been selected to replace former Bucs coach Josh Niblett who resigned after the 2021 season to take over the Gainesville (GA) High School program. The Bucs rolled to a 171-26 record, six  state titles (2009, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017) and four state runner-up finishes (2008, 2010, 2011)  in perhaps  the most dominant 14-year stretch in AHSAA history. His  teams were 92-8 in region play and 49-8

Hoover will be playing in the Kickoff Classic for the fifth time. The Bucs are 4-0 in the previous contests winning 17-14 over Central-Phenix City in 2019 and 23-7 in 2016; 32-27 over Oxford in 2009; and downing UMS-Wright 38-0 in the first Kickoff Classic series in 2006.

Auburn (12-1) reached the Class 7A semifinals in 2021. Veteran coach Keith Etheredge who is 160-54 in 16 seasons as a head coach with stops at Leeds, Pell City, T.R. Miller, Oxford and Auburn, is making his fourth appearance in the Kickoff Classic and Auburn is making its second. The Tigers beat Spain Park 30-3 in the 2010 Kickoff Classic with current Fairhope head coach Tim Carter at the helm of the Tigers’ program.

Etheredge coached Leeds in a 27-7 loss to T.R. Miller in the 2009 Kickoff Classic, and in a 17-14 loss to Madison Academy in the 2015 Classic. He also coached Pell City in the 2017 contest in a 47-10 loss to Hewitt-Trussville. Etheredge has coached five state championship teams, four at Leeds (2008, 2010, 2014, 2015) and one at Oxford (2019). His teams have played in the state playoffs all 16 seasons – compiling a 42-12 playoff record and 78-26 slate in region matchups.

Auburn’s program has thrived over the last 14 seasons under three different head coaches (Carter, Etheredge and current Tuscaloosa County head coach Adam Winegarden). During that span, the Tigers have gone 135-37 overall, 73-15 in region play and 22-14 in 14 playoff appearances. Auburn lost to Thompson 29-28 in the 7A finals in 2020 and 20-3 to Hoover in the 6A finals in 2013. During that span, Auburn has also reached the semifinals (2021, 201, 2009) three times, compiled a 73-15 region record and 22-14 playoff slate.

Handley beat Guntersville 55-21 and Dothan topped Bob Jones 42-32 in last year’s Kickoff Classic games. A total of 59 different high schools have participated in the Kickoff Classic since its inception in 2006. That list includes one out-of-state school (North Gwinnett, GA) in 2007. On Kickoff Classic (2008) was canceled due to inclement weather.

AHSAA Kickoff Classic History

Handley 55, Guntersville 21
Dothan 42, Bob Jones 32

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