By Rubin E. Grant
Coming off consecutive 4-6 seasons, Spain Park coach Shawn Raney described the outlook for the Jaguars’ 2020 football season as “very encouraging.”
“We’ve got some big kids for a change and our offense has the most skilled players we’ve ever had,” Raney said. “I hope we get to play the whole season because I think it could be special.
“Harrison Barker, our quarterback, is gone, but we have Bennett Meredith, who already has an offer from Troy, and we’ve got our whole line back.”
Spain Park once again will compete in rugged Class 7A, Region 3 with defending Class 7A champion Thompson as well as Hoover, Vestavia Hills, Oak Mountain, Hewitt-Trussville, Gadsden City and Tuscaloosa.
The Jags start the season on the road against non-region competitors Huntsville and Briarwood at home.
“I’ve always wanted to play Briarwood,” Raney said. “That’ll be a good rivalry.”
Here’s a position-by-position breakdown of the Jaguars.
Meredith is a 6-foot-2 junior.
“He’s athletic, he throws really well, and he understands the game,” Raney said. “He knows where to go with the football.”
Sophomore Evan Smallwood will serve as Meredith’s backup.
The Jags will rely on two small but shifty running backs, 5-foot-7, 155-pound junior Justin Pegues and 5-foot-10, 150-pound sophomore Zamir Farris. T’Nazj Means, a 5-foot-9, 170-pound senior, also will get playing time in the backfield.
“They’re small, but they’re fast and they can all catch the football,” Raney said.
The Jags have a bevy of talented wide receivers led by senior Cooper Kelley and junior Jaylen Ward, who already has received multiple NCAA Division I offers. Junior David Moultry is another Division 1 prospect.
Juniors Kerec Hill and Landon Miller, a deep threat, round out the Jags’ explosive group.
Caldwell Bussey, a 6-foot-3 sophomore, and senior James Broderick will play tight end. Broderick also will slide into the backfield to play fullback from time-to-time.
Senior tackle Stephen Olsen, a three-year starter, returns to anchor the offensive line. Jayson Webb, a 6-foot-5, 280-pound senior, will start at the other tackle.
“He’s a basketball player who decided to come out and play,” Raney said. “He has really worked hard to turn himself into a good football player.”
Junior Jackson Boler and sophomore Morgan Bowden will be the guards and junior Connor May will play center.
Versatile sophomore Rayshod Burts will serve as backup at each position.
“We’ve got six kids who will all be in there, but we’re trying to establish some depth,” Raney said.
Senior Samuel Garibay will anchor the interior. “He’s a good football player,” Raney said.
Senior Dillon Heatherly and juniors Jamal Scott, Micah Ford, and A.J. Hazel also will play on the interior.
“We’ve got some bigger kids, but they just hadn’t played a lot,” Raney said.
Senior Gage Hughes and sophomore Mason Bowden, the twin brother of Morgan Bowden, will play defensive end with Bussey and sophomore Brian Alston serving as reserves.
According to Raney, the Jags’ linebacking corps is a lot more athletic and has a lot more size than it has had recently, but little experience.
Senior Jayst Dorion and sophomore Jonas Harrelson figure to be in the middle with junior Jack Baylor and sophomore Caleb Ward on the outside. Junior Ethan Gutowski and sophomore T.J. Metcalf will play nickel, a hybrid linebacker/defensive back position.
Raney believes the Jags’ secondary will be much improved. Senior Braden Brock and junior Tyler Hunter will start at cornerback with Alex Smith and Michael Benson in reserve. Seniors Michael Ogletree and Jackson Major, juniors Pierson Cole and Tucker Steed and sophomore Jack Kendrick will rotate in the safety positions.
Senior Drake Tabor returns for his third season as the Jags’ place-kicker.
“We feel good about him,” Raney said.
Although Tabor can also punt, Raney said the punting duties are “up in the air.” Junior Braxton Sumpter could do some of the punting.