What a difference a year makes.
In 2017, Lincoln managed only one win, but things turned around for the Golden Bears in 2018.
Lincoln finished 7-4 and won the Class 4A, Region 4 title. The Golden Bears fell to Alabama Christian in the first round of the AHSAA playoffs.
“Dropping down to 4A helped, but we knew that we had a good football team,” Lincoln head coach Matt Zedaker said. “We just didn’t know that how good we could be. I think starting off and winning that first game solidified everything that we did in the offseason, in the summer program and in summer workouts. That snowballed into a fantastic year.”
Lincoln’s success didn’t go unnoticed as the Golden Bears had 10 players selected to the 1A-3A All-Talladega County football team. Lincoln had the Co-Player of the Year and Coach of the Year.
Javion Surles was selected as the 4A-5A Co-Player of the Year. The junior quarterback threw for 900 yards and nine touchdowns. He also made big plays with his legs as he rushed for 607 yards and 12 TDs.
“I said it all year, our offense went how he went,” Zedaker said. “I didn’t have to say anything when he got nominated; every coach in the county recognized him as the best player in the county He also got Player of the Year on our (all)-region team. He is just a special athlete.
“The things that he can do when things break down are unbelievable. He had a really good year throwing the ball. He is an unbelievable athlete and he is very hard to bring down. He was a nightmare for most defenses this year.
“I am excited about getting him back for his senior year and seeing how much he can improve. I think it is a very deserving title and I am very proud of him.”
Lincoln’s Dalton Gowers was selected first-team all-county as an offensive lineman, while teammate Brian Garrett earned first-team honors as a receiver.
On defense, Cam Reynolds was selected first-team all-county as an athlete. Reynolds recorded six interceptions, including a pick-six. He also had 37 tackles, 15 assists and five tackles for a loss. He was a first-team all-state pick as a defensive back.
Reynolds had two punt returns for touchdowns. He also made an impact on offense as he rushed for 728 yards and seven TDs on 98 carries. He had a 98-yard touchdown on a hook and ladder play against rival Munford to win the game.
Nick Pope earned first-team honors as a specialist. Pope went 34 of 36 on extra-points and 10 of 15 on field goals, with a long of 47 yards.
Pope averaged 37 yards per punt, which included a long of 60, and he recorded 43 touchbacks on kickoffs. He tallied 64 points this year and has 219 career points, which is 10th all-time in the state. Pope was selected second-team all-state as a kicker.
Lincoln’s Steven White made first-team all-county as a defensive lineman. Linebackers Jarrod McBurnett and Tre Garrett also earned first-team honors, while Anthony Gallimore made the first team as a defensive back.
Isaac Britt and Keyshon Townsend were selected honorable mention.
Zedaker was selected as 4A-5A Coach of the Year.
“I am very humbled that coaches in the county thought that,” Zedaker said. “I think it goes without saying being Coach of the Year is all tied into the players and coaching staff. I don’t look at it as an individual award; I look at it as a team award.
“I am very humbled and proud to be honored, nominated and selected for that.”
Talladega had another solid season under the leadership of Ted Darby. The Tigers finished 5-6 and fell in heartbreaking fashion to Headland 13-12 in the first round of the 4A playoffs.
This was the first time since 1994-95 that Talladega made the postseason in consecutive years.
Talladega had eight players make the all-county team, including the Co-Player of the Year.
Tristan Wells was selected as the 4A-5A Co-Player of the Year. The senior linebacker recorded 107 tackles, 13 tackles for a loss, 7.5 sacks, four forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and three interceptions.
“He is a hard-working kid, he always did what we asked,” Darby said. “He was never in trouble with me over anything. He never missed anything. He is going to go far in life. He is a worker, he is not lazy and he is goal-oriented.
“He does everything at 110 percent. He is a great young man, but he is also a very good football player. In the recruiting process, somebody is going to get a jewel.
“There is a lot of interest in him now. He hasn’t even hit the tip of the iceberg. The sky is his limit in football.”
On offense, Talladega’s JQ Wilson earned first-team honors. The senior speedster recorded 41 catches for 982 yards and 14 touchdowns. He was selected second-team all-state as a receiver. On defense, he had three interceptions and a blocked punt.
Offensive lineman Quinn Lawson, running back Jer’Montez Cunningham and quarterback Nigel Scales were selected first-team all-county for the Tigers.
Re’Derius Montgomery, Michael McGregor, D’Corian Wilson and Justin Barclay were chosen honorable mention.
Sylacauga lived up its standard again in 2018. The Aggies finished 7-4 and fell to Jasper 34-20 in the first round of the 5A playoffs
This was the seventh season in a row Sylacauga won seven or more games. It was also the seventh season in a row the Aggies clinched a playoff berth.
Sylacauga had 10 players make the all-county team.
Daylon Keith earned a first-team nod as an athlete, while Austin Allen was selected first-team as an offensive lineman.
On the defensive side, linemen Taylor Strickland and Zan Smith were selected first-team all-county.
Linebacker Chase Ivey and defensive back Malik Pope were selected first-team all-county. Pope recorded 60 tackles and five interceptions, three of which were returned for touchdowns. He had two punt returns for touchdowns.
Pope also proved he is dangerous on offense in the last two weeks of the season as he rushed for 389 yards and four touchdowns.
Jordan Ridgeway, Darren McElrath, Kam Cook and Brady Davis were selected honorable mention.
Munford went through a rebuilding year in 2018. The Lions (3-7) battled adversity but still gave themselves a chance to make the postseason. Munford lost to Sylacauga 34-28 in a winner-take-all game for the final playoff seed in 5A, Region 5.
Munford had 12 players make the all-county team.
Offensive lineman Kobe Threatt, running back Justin Sistrunk and receivers Ethan Swinford and LJ Flint were selected first team all-county.
On defense, Pernell Mitchell was selected first-team all-county as a linebacker. Mitchell had a monster season as he recorded 117 tackles, 24.5 for a loss, five sacks, 11 hurries and five forced fumbles. Mitchell was named honorable mention all-state. He also made an impact on offense, rushing for 429 yards and three touchdowns on 54 carries.
Childersburg finished 3-7. The Tigers had seven players make the all-county team.
Offensive lineman Kishon Reynolds and athlete Terry Thomas received first-team nods. Andrew Chatman earned first-team honors as a defensive lineman.
Christian Guerrero, Zay Youngblood, Cameron Thrash, and Kishawn McKinney were selected honorable mention.
The all-county team was selected by Talladega County coaches.