Summer football work ended for the Ranburne Bulldogs Tuesday evening on a high note. After the Bulldogs completed their two days of maximum weight lifts, head football coach Stephen Bailey created a slip-and-slide on the hill leading to the practice field and rounded up watermelons for everybody. It was a reward for what Bailey called “a really, really good summer.”

Another highlight came at Piedmont on Saturday in Piedmont’s tenth annual 7-on-7 tournament. Ranburne won its pool then in the single-elimination championship bracket defeated Class 6A Southside of Gadsden 13-12 in the first round and defending Class 4A state champion Handley 19-12 in the quarterfinal round. In the semifinals, the Bulldogs lost to eventual tournament winner St. Clair County 19-13.     

Bailey said while he might not have expected the wins over larger schools, the effort the Bulldogs displayed in gaining those wins was no surprise.

“I thought from snap one we competed really hard. That’s what I’ve been looking for all summer and they’ve been giving it to me all summer to tell you the truth,” Bailey said. “It was just a continuation of what’s been going on everywhere we’ve gone. Regardless of execution, regardless of successful plays or unsuccessful plays, we’ve been competing hard every single snap.”    

 Bailey stayed for the pool play games then left to coordinate Ranburne’s annual fundraiser at Foxwoods outside of Tallapoosa (Ga.). He said the text messages he received about his team’s progress in their bracket games produced two reactions at the same time. He was excited for them and upset that he wasn’t there with them.

In Bailey’s absence, assistant coach Ryan Meadows handled play calling on offense. Bailey said he had confidence in Meadows and that the results showed that confidence was more than warranted.   

 “He’s going to prepare every day to do what he needs to do,” Bailey said of Meadows.

The meal at Foxwoods had already been completed when the players who took part in the 7-on-7 tournament arrived in their jerseys but their appearance gave Bailey an opportunity to interrupt what was happening and brag on them publicly for a few minutes.   

Junior Josh Ralston showed the hot hand at quarterback in Saturday’s first pool game and took all the snaps thereafter. Bailey said Ralston threw with accuracy and also made good decisions on timing and when to throw the ball away.

 “He wasn’t reckless with the ball at all,” Bailey said.

Jake Burson “had a heck of a day” as a receiver. Tye Bailey, who plays receiver when Ralston is at quarterback, had catches for scores. At tight end, Hayden Simmons caught Bailey’s eye.  

“I saw him be aggressive Saturday and that was big for him.”       

Bailey was pleased with the work defensive coordinator Dustin Smith’s unit did, too.

 “Defensively, we’ve gotten so much better. We’ve gotten kids in spots they’re comfortable in. They’ve done it a little more now. They’re just progressing and getting better and better and better,” Bailey said

 “Tye played really good defensively,” Bailey noted. “(Landon Woodard) played really well on defense.”

 Ralston had two interceptions on defense. Jacob Cofield may have made the biggest advance on the depth chart Saturday.

“He really came on Saturday and maybe won a starting spot at corner,” Bailey said. “We’ll see when we get the pads on and tell him go to tackling. Effort wise and being where he was supposed to be, he had a really good day.”

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