Donoho football

Donoho head football coach Mark Sanders during Donoho High football practice. Photo by Stephen Gross / The Anniston Star

—Mark Sanders enters his third season as Donoho’s head coach, coming off a highly successful second season. After going 2-8 in 2017, the Falcons flipped to 8-2 in the 2018 regular season and finished 9-3 overall, reaching the second round of the Class 1A playoffs. The second-year turnaround was similar to what he did at Victory Christian, which improved from 4-6 to 8-3 from his first to his second season there, in 2014 and 2015.

—With seven victories this season, Sanders would have 18 through his first three seasons at Donoho. That would surpass 17 through the first three seasons under Shannon Felder, who went on to win 67, the most of any coach at Donoho. Felder coached 11 years at Donoho. Robert Green, who won 65 games in 11 seasons at Donoho, won 16 in his first three years.

—Donoho scored 410 points last season, marking the third time in program history the Falcons surpassed 400 points in a single season, according to records available at the Alabama High School Football Historical Society’s website. The Falcons scored a school-record 493 points while going 11-1 in 2014 and 484 during a 12-1 run in 2006.

—Donoho lost 10 seniors but returns key talent, including running back/safety Rod Elston, slot receiver/cornerback Amari Smedley and offensive lineman/defensive lineman Payne Golden, who followed Sanders from Victory Christian. Elston was first-team 1A-3A All-Calhoun County pick after last season, with 1,420 rushing yards, 24 touchdowns, six catches for 125 yards and 35 tackles with one interception. Smedley was a second-team all-county pick. Honorable-mention picks returning include tight end/linebacker Reid Williamon and linemen Edwin Connell and Jase Alderman.

—Sophomore Ridge Hopkins steps in at quarterback for departed senior Hall Billings and brings a passing dimension. Sanders said Hopkins has the strongest arm he’s seen for a quarterback at this stage of his career, capable of throwing 60 yards. Sanders also said Smedley could take snaps at quarterback as Donoho moves the talented athlete around, from wide receiver to slot receiver. Smedley also returns kicks.

Sports Writer Joe Medley: 256-235-3576. On Twitter: @jmedley_star.