Editor’s note: The 13th in a series previewing area high school football teams.
ALEXANDRIA — Alexandria players have been waiting a long time to get back on the football field.
Last fall served up a dismal season for the Valley Cubs, as they didn’t make the state playoffs for the first time in 11 years. The season ended Nov. 1 with a 44-17 loss to eventual Class 3A state runner-up Leeds, and since then, Alexandria has been focused on 2014.
“Every since the last game last year, from the weight room to field, everywhere we go there’s been energy,” senior Alex Campbell said. “We have a lot of expectations.”
Expectations are always high at Alexandria, nicknamed the School of Champions.
Along with the 10-year streak of playoff berths, Alexandria has also won nine region championships and two state titles since 1995.
Success is all that most of the Valley Cubs have known, and it’s something that senior Derrik Turner said the team is looking to experience once again this season.
“I feel like we’re getting back to how Alexandria is supposed to play football,” he said. “At Alexandria, it’s more than just a sport. We don’t have just fans — we have a whole community that we have to make proud of us. You don’t get that everywhere, just here.”
Valley Cubs head coach Frank Tucker said the team was in the best shape he’s seen heading into preseason practice, adding, “We’re trying to redeem ourselves.”
The road to redemption will have to come with a slightly new look on offense.
“It’s really not a new offense. We’re in between stuff we’ve done in the past and we may do some new stuff,” Tucker said. “The title of ‘new offense’ isn’t really accurate. It’s more that we’re doing what we’ve done in the past, and we’re adding some wrinkles.”
The additions on offense, senior Alton Davis said, will include spreading the ball out along with the Valley Cubs continuing their traditional running game.
Alexandria has a large group of players who are being asked to contribute, including Tyrelle Gay, Davis, Keenan Woodruff, Jamal Tucker and Abdul Khalil’ah in the backfield. Jacob Heathcock and Austin Wells both have spent time at fullback, as well.
“If you look at us as a team, if you sit here and you want me to tell you who the stars are, I don’t know. We’re a team in the true sense of the word,” Tucker said. “The MVP of the offense could be six or seven different players. That can be good, because we’re going to have to count on all 11 players. We have a lot of good kids, but there’s no one you can title as a true stud.”
Alexandria’s defense also features 11 players who will move as a unit. The defensive scheme, however, will not feature new wrinkles. Tucker said he simply wants his team to tackle effectively.
“We can’t sit back and say we have a Jadaveon Clowney that’s going to make all the plays,” he said. “We just have a lot of good Alexandria kids and we’ll have different players step up every week.”
The road to redemption for the Valley Cubs will also come with a new classification and region. Alexandria moved up to Class 5A and will play in Region 5, as the only familiar opponents will be Anniston and Lincoln. The rest of the region includes Hayden, Springville, Mortimer Jordan, St. Clair County and Moody.
“We’re looking forward to the competition,” Davis said, “and are just ready to play.”
Sports Writer Brandon Miller: 256-235-3575. On Twitter @bmiller_star.