By Lee Davis
Whenever Spain Park fans gather to share their favorite football memories, the 2015 season will be a popular conversation topic.
The Jaguars, coming off a 5-6 record in 2014, turned in perhaps the most memorable year in the program’s comparatively short history. Spain Park posted a 12-2 worksheet, defeated arch-rival Hoover twice and went all the way to the Class 7A finals before losing to McGill-Toolen of Mobile.
With such a dominating effort, it’s no surprise that the Jaguars are well represented on the 2015 All-Over the Mountain football team.
No less than 12 Spain Park players were chosen for the team by the exclusive Over the Mountain Journal poll of the eight area head football coaches. Additionally, Jaguar linebacker Perry Young was chosen as the 2015 Over the Mountain Player of the Year and Spain Park coach Shawn Raney was named 2015 Coach of the Year.
“This is a real honor and very reflective of what our young men accomplished this past season,” Raney said. “It’s also meaningful because this all-star team is chosen by the coaches. There’s no question that the best high school football in Alabama is played right here in this area.”
Raney took the reins at Spain Park in 2013, following a three-year stint as defensive coordinator at Hoover. Before that, he served as defensive coordinator at Oak Mountain in 2009. He coached defensive backs at Iowa State under Coach Gene Chizik from 2007 to 2008. Raney also coached defensive backs at UAB from 2004 to 2006.
A native of Erick, Oklahoma, Raney played football at Northwestern Oklahoma State and earned a degree in math education from the school in 1991.
Young was the leader of one of the state’s best defensive units. The Jaguar defenders gave up an average of only 10 points a game and posted four shutouts. In games that were settled in regulation play, Spain Park yielded only an average of six points per contest. In their two wins over Hoover, the Jags gave up only a pair of field goals.
“Our defense was a big part of our success and Perry was one of the reasons for it,” Raney said. “His leadership both on and off the field was consistent all year. And when we needed a big play, Perry would always come up with it.”
Young – who also qualified for last year’s All-Over the Mountain team – credited his teammates for his success.
“Football is a team game,” he said. “Any award or honor that I receive really belongs to all my teammates. We made up our minds to have the best defensive team possible and, because of the hard work that we and our coaches put into it, we were successful.”
On offense, two quarterbacks qualified for the team. Oak Mountain’s Warren Shader, who compiled more than 1,400 yards of total offense despite missing several games with an injury, is a repeater on the unit and is joined by Homewood’s Carson Griffis.
Behind the quarterbacks is an outstanding foursome of running backs. Spain Park’s dynamic combination of Wade Streeter and Larry Wooden qualified, as did Homewood’s explosive Derrick Underwood and Vestavia Hills’ hard-running Walker Minor.
No backfield can be successful without a strong offensive front, and the 2015 All-Over the Mountain team features one of its best. The blockers upfront are Vestavia’s duo of Alex Robin and Clayton Farris, Hoover’s Nick Eldridge, Spain Park’s Grey Best and Oak Mountain’s Justice Hammond.
The Jags’ Parker Kelley is the tight end. Earning spots at wide receiver are Spain Park’s Bridge Suber and Vestavia’s Remington Patterson.
When the Jags were in a tight situation, placekicker Crosby Gray got the call for a field goal. His consistency earned him a spot on the All-Over the Mountain team.
Over the Mountain area football teams have been known for playing great defense, and this year’s unit is an example of why that reputation is still very much intact. This year’s defensive line offers the type of depth many college teams would envy. Qualifying for the team was Spain Park’s Markell Clark and Jonah Tibbs, Oak Mountain’s Armond Lloyd and Avery Holsomback, Vestavia’s Sam Lawson and Dillon Campbell, and Homewood’s Griffin Gentry.
Five linebackers were chosen for the team, including Hoover’s Jeremiah Moon and Christian Taylor, Spain Park’s Houston Hollis and Player of the Year Perry Young, and Mountain Brook’s Joe Donald.
Producing a great secondary is another long-time Over the Mountain tradition. This season’s grouping includes Vestavia’s Nolan Turner and Levi Wiggins, Hoover’s P.J. Hall, Oak Mountain’s Payton Youngblood and Spain Park’s Chase Young.
The Jaguars’ Tyler Sumper was the coaches’ choice as team punter.
“This was a season where hopefully we built Spain Park football into one of the state’s best programs,” Raney said. “That’s our goal every season. Now we have to sustain it.”
If this year’s All-Over the Mountain team is any indication, the Jaguars have accomplished that feat.