VERNON, Ala. — Ken Adams was excited to see his entire Lamar County High School football team in action Friday night.
The Bulldogs have been battling a mononucleosis epidemic that caused the Bulldogs to do some major shuffling of their depth chart.
However, all of the players have returned and Lamar County is ready to make its mark in Alabama High School Athletic Association Class 3A play.
Lamar County will begin Class 3A, Region 4 play at 7 Friday night when it plays host to American Christian Academy at George Bell Stadium.
“It’s good to have the whole team,” said Adams, Lamar County’s veteran coach. “Cullin Carter our starting quarterback missed the season opener, so we had to do a lot of things differently. It was like having another preseason game to start the year right there.”
Lamar County still managed a victory in its opener — a 14-7 win at South Lamar. The Bulldogs had a much better go of it last week, winning 46-20 at Brilliant.
“It is hard to believe, but I thought we played with a lot more passion in the second game,” Adams said. “Playing South Lamar is always emotional because it’s a big rivalry game. But I thought we played with more passion (against Brilliant). That is what I am most pleased with, the intensity and passion in which we played with. We did a lot of things well in all areas, but it starts coming out with that mind-set.”
Junior Bryce Myles was pressed into duty at quarterback in the season opener. Adams said Myles “played a tremendous game in adverse circumstances.” Myles shifted back to his running back position in week two, when he ran for 42 yards and two touchdowns against Brilliant. Senior back Alex Wheeler led the ground game with eight rushes for 92 yards.
As a team, Lamar County ran 26 times for 370 yards. In two games, Lamar County has rushed for 647 yards.
“We know it is our job to open holes,” Lamar County senior offensive lineman Braxton Hollis said. “We have some new guys carrying the ball this year, so whatever we can do to make their job easier. We feel like we can take over a game if everybody is executing their assignments.”
Adams said a backfield of Carter, Wheeler, Myles, Dyshun Williams, and Austin Spann gives the Bulldogs more options than last season. However, the talented backs benefit from strong line play.
“It really starts for us on the offensive line,” Adams said. “That is where all of the experience is. On both sides of the ball, our front four are the difference-makers. It just all flowed in the second game. There was more cohesion because we were able to move everybody back to their original spots. I thought we made a whole lot of strides from the season opener to the second game. We just feel good about winning them both.”
Fellow senior lineman Christian Clay said the Bulldogs have high expectations. After adjusting to the rigors of Class 3A play, this year’s squad is ready to make a deep run in the postseason.
“Since this is my last year, this is a big season,” Clay said. “As a line, we have been working hard during the offseason. We know we have a team capable of winning on both sides of the ball. We just have to keep practicing hard and playing hard like the coaches always tell us to do.”
Lamar County finished 10-2 last season. The Bulldogs were eliminated in the second round of the playoffs. To return to the playoffs, Adams knew the Lamar County defense would have to play more consistently.
“Depth up front is the key there, too,” Adams said. “The defensive front has done an excellent job of closing gaps. That has allowed us to play some younger guys at linebacker. It is much better for those guys to play behind an experienced line like that. They have done a good job this year.”
Junior Temijah Lang leads the defense with 18 tackles. Freshman Joseph White and Spann are next with 13 stops apiece. The Bulldogs are still working on the takeaway game, as White has the only fumble recovery.
American Christian Academy is a new region foe. The Patriots are 1-1 after last week’s 26-25 victory against Sipsey Valley.
“Even though you play six region games, you really don’t want to be fighting uphill,” Adams said. “That is why I think the first one is so huge. It is critical for us to get off to a good start in region play, especially with this being our first home game of the season.”
Next week, longtime rival Aliceville is the opponent. Aliceville defeated Lamar County 56-33 last season.
“This one is really big,” Adams said. “Then it really gets even bigger than that. We really need to be clicking right away to have a chance.”