RB of the future

Malik Pope rushed for 389 yards and four touchdowns in the last two weeks of the season in 2018. 

Sylacauga High School’s busy spring sports season didn’t prevent the Aggies football squad from holding its spring camp and competing in a controlled scrimmage against Briarwood Christian on Friday.

Aggies head coach Matt Griffith said he was happy with the spring overall, and the successes of other in-season sports didn’t hamper the team’s progress.

“The one thing about spring, you get 10 days (to practice),” he said. “We got about eight in because a lot of it had to do with our spring sports going really far with soccer going to the quarterfinals and then baseball going to the semifinals. We had golf going all the way to the state finals. ... We were very pleased with the eight days that we got.

“On the whole, we’re very pleased with where we’re at right now. Our running back situation, we’ve got a lot of good speed there. We’re a little bit bigger up front than we have been in the past. We’ve had some kids who may have left our program that have come back out and been very dedicated. They really did a good job in the spring.”

Griffith said no score was kept during the scrimmage, and both teams focused more on getting live game reps in specific scenarios.

“You’re working different situations,” he said. “You start at (your own) 30-yard line. You get 10 plays. Then, you swap back-and-forth with Briarwood. Then, you might get eight plays from (their) 45.

“It’s a whole scenario script that you run until both teams get in a good 80-90 play scrimmage. Briarwood and Sylacauga have been doing this for about four or five years. We’ve developed a good relationship on how to do spring training.”

He added he chose to go with this format for a scrimmage because it’s difficult to get a team ready for a full-game scenario with a limited practice window in spring.

“I just really like to hone in on what we needed to work on instead of trying to get ready to win a ballgame,” Griffith said. “Everybody has got a different philosophy there, but it’s worked well for us.”

The practice and scrimmage gave Griffith a chance to see how rising senior quarterback JD DeLoach would handle the task of replacing his predecessor, Daylon Keith.

“JD had a tremendous spring,” Griffith said. “He’s been in the offense since he was in seventh grade. He’s very good manager of the game. He throws a good ball. He reads coverages very well. He knows the option well. We’re very pleased with where JD is right now.”

Rising senior Jordan Ridgeway and rising sophomore Malik Pope give the Aggies continuity in the ground game.

“Jordan may have not had but maybe two or three practices because baseball went so long, but he played really well in our scrimmage,” Griffith said. “Pope came on late last season at running back, and he played strong safety. Both of them in the backfield gives us a very good inside/outside game. We’re very pleased with both of them.”

Griffith said it was impossible to name everyone who excelled in their spring opportunities, but he highlighted several who made the most of the workouts and scrimmage.

“I’m very pleased with our fronts,” Griffith said. “I think Darrian McElrath and Taylor Strickland, they both had tremendous springs. Journey Stockdale at outside linebacker and Chase Ivy at inside linebacker -- we’ve got a lot of good guys coming back on both sides of the football. I’m pleased with Tyler Culpepper at center. I thought he had a good spring (as well as) Kolton Hardiman at tight end.

“There’s just a lot of people to mention, but all-in-all it’s been one of our better spring trainings. It led to a lot of excitement after the game, and there was a lot of excitement now, just breaking for the summer, to (go) back to work on June 4.” 

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