Face off in Troy

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 24, 2001

No. 7 Bulldogs come calling on Trojans tonight


Sports Editor

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Both Charles Henderson High School head coach Hugh Fountain and Pike County head coach Wayne Grant agree that their two football teams are finally ready to play a football game.

Ready or not, the season starts tonight for both schools. Come 7:30 p.m. in Troy’s Memorial Stadium, the Bulldogs and Trojans will renew their old rivalry and go head-to-head in a preseason jamboree contest.

The official start of the season for Alabama High School Athletic Association teams isn’t until next Friday night, but due to regional realignment last year Fountain and Grant were forced to move the usual regular season match-up to the top of their respective schedules.

CHHS won last year’s game in Brundidge, 20-14.

After posting an 8-5 record in 2000 and a third round appearance in the Class 3A playoffs, the Bulldogs will come into Memorial Stadium as the No. 7 team in state. Grant fielded a quality football team last year, but with usually just over 20 players dressed to play on any given Friday night, Pike County suffered in the depth department.

This season the Bulldogs have a roster of over 35 players, many of them large enough to back up Grant’s five returning starters on the offensive and defensive line. Last year the third-year head coach had just six down linemen at his disposal.

"I’ve got a little more depth this year," said Grant. "That’s going to allow us to rest some people in certain situations which should help us."

"If we have an advantage (against CHHS) then our line will be it," Grant said. "Our line played last year and they’re pretty good – they’re strong and they’re big. Hopefully, we can control the line of scrimmage. If we can then we’ll have a chance to win. Having an inexperienced backfield like we do, it’s better to have an experienced line in front of them."

Grant won’t be the only trying to find the right combination in the offensive backfield. CHHS sophomore Pete Van Horn will start for the first time at quarterback, with junior Jarvis Woods looking to become the Trojans’ main threat running the football.

Grant will counter with another sophomore quarterback, Chris Nickson, along with Terrill Gray, Craig Flowers and Shaun Foster at the tailback slot. Joe Copes will take over the fullback position vacated by Sam Diggs.

"We won’t have the speed we had last season, but we have some people that we feel are durable," said Grant. "We can go about three-deep in our backfield."

Nickson also has an advantage over Van Horn as far as playing time goes. He saw significant action toward the end of last season and also started at quarterback for the Bulldogs in all three playoff games.

"Chris has some experience, but he’s going to have to be a robot," said Grant. "We can’t afford for him to get injured."

Having that much depth at running back and an offensive line that’s large and experienced is mainly what concerns Fountain. The Trojans enter the game tonight with still a lot of questions left to be answered. CHHS returns just one starter on the offensive side of the ball and much of the defense has also had to be rebuilt.

"I think their (PCHS) overall size will be the biggest problem for us in the ballgame," said Fountain. "Our defensive and offensive lines are going to have to play hard in order for us to stay in the game. Hopefully, we can use the speed that we have to our advantage, because obviously we’re not going to be as big as they are up front."

Traditionally, under Fountain, the Trojans have thrown a five-man front at opposing offenses, which is a trend that should continue tonight against Pike County.

"We like to base everything on having five down linemen," said Fountain. "But we’re just going to have to do everything we can to stop them from running the football. Of course, I think they have the ability to throw the football and the Nickson kid is going to be a good passer before it’s all over. But I believe running is going to be their thing with that big offensive line."

While Fountain frets about the Bulldogs’ size, Grant sees CHHS’s speed as his team’s main concern.

"They (CHHS) have a few guys that are able to run. We’re going to have to keep the ball out of their hands and corral them up when they do get the ball. I don’t know how much they’re going to throw the ball either and I don’t know how well we can defend the pass. Our secondary wasn’t great last season and this year we won’t have a good secondary. But I hope we have some boys out there that are willing to learn and by the time we hit midseason, maybe we’ll be playing good in that area."