A season of change

Published 2:44 pm Monday, January 3, 2022

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The 2021 high school football season ended the same way as the 2020 season did, with the Pike Liberal Arts Patriots hosting the AISA 3A state championship trophy.

The 2021 season was a season of change in the Pike County area as two schools welcomed in a new coach, and a third said goodbye to their long-tenured head coach.

The Pike Liberal Arts Patriots entered the season as popular favorites to win their second consecutive title after winning their first championship since 2009 last season. 

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It was anything but easy at times for the Patriots during the year. The team faced losses of love ones and had to endure a change of leadership when former head coach Mario White was dismissed just hours prior to the Patriots’ semifinal game, leaving the coaching duties to Rush Hixon.

After losing their opener to highly ranked Escambia Academy the Patriots rattled off 11-straight wins culminating with a 41-21 win over Tuscaloosa Academy in the finals.

We had multiple things go on throughout the year,” Hixon said. “We just kept coming back to each other. We made it about us and every time we met, no matter what somebody was going through, whether that be someone having a family issue or something else off the field, we kept putting the guys and the team first. It was truly a family atmosphere the whole year.”

The Patriots had six players named either all-state or honorable mention following the conclusion of the year including: Keith Williams, Cason Eubanks, Kam Baker, Ian Foster, Zakevin Pennington and Frankie Jefcoat.

2021 was also the beginning of new eras for a pair of schools in Pike County. Both Charles Henderson High School and Goshen High School welcomed in new coaches prior to the start of the season.

Charles Henderson welcomed in Carver High School defensive coordinator Quinn Hambrite to take over the program that was once led by Brad McCoy. 

The Trojans opened the Hambrite era with a 2-8 record. After dropping six-straight to open the year, Hambrite and the Trojans finished the season winners of two out of their last four games.

The first half of Charles Henderson’s schedule included Catholic-Montgomery, Greenville, Early County (Ga.), Andalusia and Williamson. After playing eventual 5A champion Pike Road, the Trojans picked up their first win of the year over Rehboth. They picked up their second win against Headland.

Despite the overall record, Hambrite was pleased with leadership of the team, especially by the senior class.

As a group, they did the best they could with what they could,” said Coach Hambrite. “That’s what I am extremely proud of them about. There are some fighters in that group, and there are some guys in that group that I surely wish I could coach for the next four years. I am going to miss them. They had great leadership, and the qualities they tried to instill in some of our young guys. They will always be my first group of seniors, and you never forget your first.”

Trojan kicker Nik Peerson was named as an All-State Honorable Mention.

The Goshen Eagles said goodbye to long time head coach Bart Snyder following the conclusion of the 2020 football season. Snyder, who coached the Eagles for 12 seasons, retired after last season, giving way to new head coach Don Moore. Moore returned to Goshen after being head coach at Dale County. Moore served as a defensive line coach at Goshen in 2010 before transitioning to the defensive coordinator in 2011.

The young Eagles finished the 2021 campaign with a 1-9 overall record. Their win of the season came against county rival Pike County in early October.

It was an end of era at Pike County High School. Following an 0-9 season, long-time head coach Fred Holland resigned as head coach of the Bulldogs. Holland, a former player for the Bulldogs, spent the past 26 years at Pike County.

The Zion Chapel Rebels finished the 2021 season 1-9. Their win came against Pleasant Home in the season finale.

Following the conclusion of the season the Alabama High School announced what realignment will look like heading into next season. Goshen will make the biggest move by heading back down to Class 2A after spending the last two season in 3A.